The Winning Ticket

In the late summer our eagle eyed Gatehouse Music Society (GMS) Chairman, Maria Taylor spotted an advertisement placed by Pollok House Arts Society, which had closed in 2019 read:

Good home sought for 1939 Steinway concert grand piano………..

This was to be the beginning of a rather fabulous story which finally came to a conclusion in Gatehouse, but not before a few bumps along the way!

The Steinway Model D Grand Piano Number 292377 was quickly to become the subject of much interest from music societies across Scotland as it was, indeed is, a magnificent beast of an instrument. It is over two and a half metres in length, weighs 480 kilogrammes and it boasts 88keys and more than 12,000 individual parts. 

The question arose that if GMS acquired such a piano where could it safely and comfortably reside within Gatehouse? We were fortunate that the Parish Church agreed to provide the piano with a new home, and so we were able to go forward with submitting an application, as did five other Scottish music societies. Our names were put in a hat and the proclaimed winner was Dunfermline.

We were somewhat downhearted, but then on the 5th October, Maria was to receive the following email:

Sadly Dunfermline Music Society is no longer able to provide a home for the Steinway D, so I have taken out my labels again for the five remaining clubs and drawn one out of the hat. This time the first name to appear was that of Gatehouse Music Society.

Dumfermline’s loss was very much Gatehouse’s gain; for us, it would seem that some clouds really do have a silver lining. We could hardly believe we had been gifted one of the greatest makes of concert grand pianos in the world. It was an extraordinary stroke of fate, and one for which the Gatehouse community can feel very grateful to musician and concert organiser, Daisy Henderson and to National Trust Scotland, who own Pollok House,.

Such a stunning piano had of course an interesting history of its own during its sixty year residency at Pollok. It had been played by distinguished and internationally renowned pianists such as John Ogdon, Mitsuoka Uchida, Jorge Bolet, Alfred Brendel, Pascal Roge, as well as two of our recent guest concert performers, Steven Osborne and Martin Roscoe.

Discovering some of the performing history prompted the GMS Committee to find out a little more about the Steinway’s technical history for which we turned to who else but Steinway & Sons themselves. Their knowledge and expertise is unrivalled.

We discovered the piano was made in Hamburg and shipped to London to the Steinway Hall on the 26th of July 1938. This correlated with Theodore Steinway presenting a second Steinway to the American nation in gratitude to its people. In 1942 ours was sold to the BBC, and then ten years later to the Decca Recording Company.

That was then, and this is now, and in general the instrument is in good order, structurally sound,and was effectively restrung about thirty years ago. As time goes on, further work will need to be done to bring it to optimum condition.

We recognise we are in a privileged position to become the owners and guardians of such a fantastic instrument. When President Roosevelt accepted the Steinway piano nearly ninety years ago he dedicated it to:

the advance of music in every city, town and hamlet in the country.

As Maria says :

These are the words to live by, and our hope is that our Grand Piano 292377 continues to build upon its illustrious history and helps in the advancement and enjoyment of music for all in Gatehouse and beyond in the years to come.

And so it was on Thursday December 22nd 2022 that cycle of development started and we welcomed our Steinway D with a short recital by Bill Thompson MA, LRAM  in Gatehouse Parish Church .He treated us to an eclectic programme of Beethoven, Brahms, Mussorgsky and Gershwin, pieces which showed off the magical range, dynamism and power of this beautiful piano. The drama, the melodies, the romance, the virtuosity of Bill’s playing filled us all with the joy of Christmas and the spirit of the coming New Year. Afterwards, as we sipped our warming mulled wine and chattered to one another in the adjoining Church Hall, we pondered on what new excitement 2023 might bring to the Gatehouse Music Society!
Hilary Alcock