- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) - Imagine a wide open road, shimmering with dew, and an F12berlinetta Ferrari with every “rosso corsa” curve glistening and its V12 engine purring with a soft restraint that almost belies the power beneath the hood.

Now imagine easing the gas pedal down, expecting the heart-pounding rev and the 0 to 124 in 8.5 seconds, only to find it’s running on four cylinders and your friend’s Yaris has it beat.

As piano technician Joel Weber said:?”That would be really sad.”

But that’s about what happened when Weber came up from Colorado to do some work on the piano at First Baptist Church - a 1981 concert grand Bechstein producing 50 percent of the tone, clarity and beauty of which it is capable.

Weber said when he got the call from local musician Ron Krikac to come and work on the Bechstein, he was surprised to hear that such a piano had found its way to a small city in Wyoming.

“It’s almost like finding a Ferrari in the middle of nowhere,”?Weber said.

It’s not that Sheridan is nowhere, he added; it’s just that a Bechstein of this size - 9 feet, 6 inches - is rare, making this shiny Ferrari of the piano world one of the best pianos in the state - and region. Weber knows of a few 6- or 7-foot Bechsteins in Colorado and Montana, but a 9-footer is a marvel.

A marvel it may be, but the Bechstein - originally from Vermont - had a hard time with the move to Wyoming last spring.

“It had some mechanical issues that needed to be addressed,” Weber said. “And they were way beyond an oil change.”

There are more moving parts in a grand piano than in a car and fixing all those moving parts requires attention to minute details.

A piece of leather or felt used to temper friction points in the piano can affect the sound when compressed by even a few millimeters. A drop in humidity - Weber recorded the humidity at 15 percent inside the church - can dry the wood and cause the keys to twist. When the keys twist, they may hit only one or two of the three strings struck by each key, muting the piano’s tone.

For four days, Weber has used intricate geometry and layers of felt and paper punchings to adjust the level of each of the 88 keys to optimum height. He has filed down hammers with loose layers of felt that are hampering the sound and tweaked hammers that are bouncing when they shouldn’t.

When he’s all done, Sheridan’s Bechstein concert grand will rev.

Its real ivory and ebony keys will bely the power inside until the “hood” is propped open and all 200-plus strings with 30,000 pounds of linear tension are purring like 12 cylinders of spine-tingling power encased in racing red and blurring out of vision on the wide open road.


Information from: The Sheridan (Wyo.) Press, https://www.thesheridanpress.com/

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