Inside the top of my piano is a 5-year guarantee… from 1923! Although I know nothing about the history of this particular instrument, it has survived a world war, house moves, various spillages and the claws of cats who think it’s a scratching post. The colour of the mahogany wood is a rich, attractive brown, despite the surface having seen better days. It doesn’t quite tune up to ‘concert standard’ and likes to sustain notes for longer than it ought to, but that’s part of its unique charm. I had always assumed that the key tops on so old a piano would be made of ivory and I couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable about that. However, the lack of joins in the keys and the hard plastic feel recently led me to suspect that the material was an ivory substitute. The piano tuner agreed and said it might be Bakelite or similar. With its iron frame, ample height and chunky lines, this upright instrument is quite a character. It was manufactured by Chappell under the Elysian brand. They were a very well-known and highly-regarded maker who eventually focused on music publishing rather than manufacturing; you may have heard of Warner Chappell Music.
It’s interesting to wonder who bought this piano and for what purpose – as a hobby, for a school, or a status symbol? Before the popularity of the wireless and television, was it the cherished centrepiece of many an evening’s entertainment? I also remember reading about people who sheltered beneath pianos during air raids in WW2 – perhaps it even saved someone’s life this way. It’s a well-made, respectable piano which, you never know, may last another 100 years.