'The old girl': Grand piano survives sands of time

Narrowly avoiding becoming a children’s sand-pit, a rare 137-year-old Ibach grand piano has been rescued and restored.

And this week, the German-built instrument will take pride-of-place on stage at the Dunedin Performing Arts Competition, which starts today.

Alexander Pianos owner and repairer Adrian Mann said "the old girl" had had a hard life.

"The family who owned it found it in an old barn in Pokeno in the Waikato in the late 1950s. It didn’t have any legs and it was up on its side, leaning against a wall.

"Originally, the granddad bought it for £10 because he liked the shape of it and thought it would make a great sand-pit for his kids.

"It wasn’t until he opened it up and saw the brass-bronze Ibach medallion inside it that he realised it was a bit special and he got it restored in the late 1950s."

Alexander Pianos owner and repairer Adrian Mann spent about 800 hours restoring this 137-year-old...
Alexander Pianos owner and repairer Adrian Mann spent about 800 hours restoring this 137-year-old Ibach grand piano. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Ibach pianos are high quality and are used in some of Europe’s top concert halls.

They are also a rarity outside Europe.

Nothing is known about the history of this piano before it was found in the barn.

After it was restored the first time, it was used in a music club on Auckland’s North Shore before being moved to Dunedin.

Mr Mann said it fell into disrepair again and it was given to him by its Dunedin owner, who no longer wanted it.

"It was in a pretty bad state.

"The wood was faded, the mechanisms were shot.

"The only good thing it had was a good sound board. Even the bridge had to be replaced.

"These are things that piano repairers just don’t do any more."

Initially, he aimed to restore it and then sell it, but during the 800 hours he spent working on the piano, he fell in love with it.

"I didn’t realise what potential it had until I got started on it.

"You just don’t spend that kind of time on things unless it’s a labour of love.

"It looks stunning. It’s been French polished. It’s got a stunning sound."

He planned to keep it and hire it to pianists.