The History of Our Schimmel Piano

by Diane Maxam

In December 0f 2007, just before Christmas, our piano was scheduled to be tuned for the Christmas Eve service.  This piano had been donated to our Church by a member of the congregation.  At this time, it was diagnosed with serious problems and could not be tuned — ever.

I was serving on the Board of Deacons at that time and the Board’s chairperson appointed me to form a committee to investigate the problem.  The following people agreed to serve on the committee:  Mindy McMahon, Choir Director; David Wold, Organist/Accompanist; Jeff Laporta, Deacon and choir member; Holly Solie, choir member; MaryLou Wollmar, choir member and Ben Clark, Church member and financial consultant.

Two companies, New England Classic Piano Restoration and E.J. Buck & Sons, were brought in to assess the problems and estimate the cost of repair.  We learned our piano was built in 1921 and had been rebuilt at some point in the past.  Estimates for restoration/rebuilding ranged from $13,000.00 to 25,000.00.  It was decided to look into replacing the piano rather than putting that amount of money into the old one.  Used pianos were considered but decided against. If a used piano is reasonably priced, it usually has as many problems as our existing one.  If in top condition, a used piano costs nearly as much as a new one, but carries no warranty or service contract.

The next logical step was to look at and price new pianos.  Some or all of the committee traveled extensively in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont to try out different makes and models.  The list was narrowed to nine pianos, then down to three, then down to one — the Schimmel.  Schimmel is a piano crafted in Germany and is a name as respected as Steinway.  The committee fell in love with the quality, workmanship, elegance and beautiful “voice” in all three ranges of the Schimmel.  The price was $51,800.00, but with a church discount offered by Darrell’s Music Hall, our cost would be $37,000.00 which would include a ten-year warranty, a three-year service contract, free delivery and set up and removal of the old piano.  So far, so good.  Full speed ahead.  And, then reality hit.

The committee met with the Church Finance Committee and learned there was no money available for a piano — not a new one — not a used one — not even the repair of the old piano.  All seemed hopeless.  Then, out of the blue, came a contribution of $4,000.00 designated to be used toward the piano from the Society of the Descendants of the Colonial Clergy, a contact of Becky Philbrick’s.  From that point, unsolicited contributions started coming in.  They ranged from $5.00 to $3,000.00.  By March 1st, $15,591.00 had been raised, leaving $21,409.00 yet to be raised.  Doubts as to whether we could ever raise this money began to surface, doubts about whether we should ever have pursued such an impossible goal.  In addition to the goal of buying the piano, I had a personal secret goal of having the piano in the Church by Easter, March 23rd , a mere 22 days later, a goal I hadn’t shared with anyone.  So, I prayed to God to show us some sort of sign that we were doing the right thing.  The next morning, I got a call from the Church Treasurer at 7:30am.  He had already received two calls that morning.  One from someone who wanted to donate $10,000.00 toward the purchase of the piano.  The other from someone who wanted to donate whatever was needed to pay for the piano in full with one stipulation:  that the piano be in the Church by Easter.

The Schimmel was delivered to Rye Congregational Church on March 14, 2008, nine days before Easter.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

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