When an expert restorer of pianos and harpsichords said there was no point in saving the baby grand that had more or less decorated the living room in the family house in Amagansett for 30, maybe 40, years, the last thing I imagined was that in a week’s time I would buy another piano.
I had gotten a call on Saturday morning to alert me to an estate sale in a long-vacant house on East Hampton’s Main Street. It was lined with books and worth a visit, if only to feed curiosity. Unlike most members of my family, I am not a fiendish yard sale fan, mainly because I’m convinced that we are the ones who need to sell things rather than accumulate more.
(Unfortunately, the sale was shut down a few hours after it got going because someone had neglected to get a village permit. Book lovers will probably have another chance at the sale, though, since only a small dent had been made in them. At some point in its past, the house had surely been occupied by an intellectual with broad, erudite interests.)
I arrived in time. When I walked into the house, I turned directly into the living room. At the far end was a nice-looking upright piano. I was captivated when I saw it was a Steinway — and noted the modest price tag. So I played a few notes, from the top of the keys to the bottom, and made the decision. It didn’t sound terribly out of tune. Would it be a great bargain?
I own a good piano, which was restored a few years ago, so the Steinway wouldn’t be for me. Would my son and daughter-in-law want to replace the decrepit one in Amagansett? Or would my husband’s son and daughter-in-law, who live in Massachusetts, want to replace their more ordinary upright with a Steinway? How would we transport it? Would it turn out that I had wasted my money?
A few days later, I took Jorge Lago, master piano technician, to look at it. Arriving at the house, he warned me that impulsive piano purchases usually were a mistake. “Why did you buy a piano without having someone look at it for you?” he asked in a rather fatherly manner. When he lifted the top and looked inside without gasping, however, I knew it was okay.
The piano needed thorough cleaning and some of the hammers definitely had to be adjusted. But, given the condition of the house, the word he used to describe the piano’s overall condition — no cracks in the sounding board, and pins still tight — was “miraculous.”
It certainly had been a long time since someone played the piano, but judging from the sheet music in the room, it had been played lovingly. It would cost a certain amount of money to move and minimally repair, but my yard-sale find would, at the least, be worth what we put into it.
So the Steinway is to find a good home in Amagansett. One of the grandchildren who lives there is taking piano lessons, and, if all goes as I hope, we will hear her play something on it before long.
In the meantime, I’m hoping I haven’t been bitten too badly by the yard-sale bug.