Adapting to a new instrument is a little like having a new family member forming part of your house. For the first time in my life I inherited something. After the recent passing of my mentor and friend prof. Japie Human from Bloemfontein I was lucky to inherit his Feurich grand piano. He was a lecturer at the University of the Free State for many years. At this conservatory he had a studio with a Steinway and Feurich grand piano always spoke about the latter being his favourite. With his retirement he decided to buy new Feurich and this piano remained his trusted instrument of choice until the very end. Over the past 20 years I have come to play on this instrument for lessons and I frequently had the honour of hearing him play on this piano.
I do not like the idea of inheriting something because it has often been the cause of trouble between family members and friends. In this instance it was a real honour and a surprise and I see it as a sign of encouragement and trust from him to continue his legacy.
The Feurich arrived about two months ago and it was exactly as I remembered it. At the same time my trusted Steinway was due for some repairs and it was sent off to the piano “hospital”. As pianists we are used to the fact that we have to adapt to a new instrument every time we travel or perform in a new venue. But at my house this felt really awkward at first having new instrument that I could call “mine”. I guess it has to do with an element of trust and of course being able to express deep vulnerabilities and have the courage to experiment with sound and colours and new techniques in a safe space.
Technically this instrument was in a fairly good shape until last week. My trusted colleague and piano magician/technician Ian Burgess-Simpson spent three days working almost non-stop on this instrument. He reshaped the hammers and voice them as well as spend hours fixing the action to be as good as it was the day it left the factory. After multiple tunings and refined work only known to some experts in this field I was left with a brand spanking new piano. I cannot express my joy in words. This has really been a game changer for me having such a young instrument of this quality to work on every day. I thought it was a good instrument when it got here but now it is in a league of its own.
Servicing pianos should be compulsory – like seeing a therapist.
Thank you Ian Burgess-Simpson.
But the real thanks goes to Prof Japie for giving me lifetime of joy and the wonderful responsibility that goes with it.
We will never forget you.