Sunday’s adoration at Asbury United Methodist Abbey in Bettendorf was celebrated in added means than one. A afresh restored, attenuate 1904 double-grand piano is at the advanced of the sanctuary.
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“It’s absolutely cutting and exciting,” Moline piano abecedary Laura Crumbleholme said Monday at the 8-foot-long instrument, played for the aboriginal time in accessible Sunday afterwards a eight-month restoration. “It about seems surreal. It’s been a absolutely long, askance road. Now the actuality that it’s done is thrilling. I can’t delay for bodies to comedy it.”
“There were canicule we anticipation this was never activity to happen,” said Marilyn Mitchem of Bettendorf, a retired piano abecedary and abbey member, who has researched the Pleyel history and oversaw its $25,000 awakening by Premier Piano Service of Walker, Iowa.
The company’s buyer is arch tuner for the St. Louis Symphony, and for the Pleyel replaced the absolute atramentous veneer, affability pins, strings, hammers, and cast-iron plate. A new four-wheeled barrow additionally was added underneath, to affluence its transport.
On Sunday, abbey attendees were captivated with its debut, Mitchem said. “People were aloof astonished. The aggregation has been actual supportive.”
The piano’s Paris manufacturer, Pleyel et Cie, was founded by pianist/composer Ignace Pleyel in 1807. His aggregation fabricated 50 bifold admirable pianos from the 1890s to 1920s, with a abounding keyboard at anniversary end and two abstracted sets of strings on a accepted complete board.
Concertos accounting for two keyboards accommodate works by Bach, Mozart, Britten and Poulenc.
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“There’s a assertive accent to anniversary piano, so if you accept a ablaze piano and a added aged piano, this will accept the aforementioned tone,” Crumbleholme said, comparing it to one huge piano, with 176 keys.
“A lot of bodies didn’t get to apprehend orchestras, so a artisan would accomplish a two-piano abridgement of their symphonies,” Mitchem said. “Pleyel invented this because there were a lot of affluent French bodies that capital to accept two grands in their homes, but they didn’t accept the room. Here you accept two grands. It’s a adored and irreplaceable instrument.”
There are aloof seven such Pleyel pianos actual worldwide, and this is the alone one in playable action in the Western Hemisphere, she said.
Its aboriginal owner, Marguerite de Saint-Marceaux, was “the admirable amazon of the Parisian salon movement,” Mitchem said. “She was one of the best acclaimed women in Paris at the time. Her bedmate was a world-famous sculptor.”
Among her acclaimed salon guests and accompany were composers Claude Debussy, Gabriel Faure, Frederick Delius, Giacomo Puccini, Francis Poulenc and Maurice Ravel. Ravel premiered one of his works at her home Jan. 6, 1905.
She died in 1930 and ancestral the piano to Bert Ibms, whose parents were abutting accompany of hers. Thea Leclair and her bedmate Joe busy an accommodation in Paris from Ibms. Joe was an Army abettor colonel, who landed at Normandy during Apple War II and formed in Paris two years afterwards the war. Thea was originally from rural Cambridge, Ill.
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They bought the piano from Ibms, and alien it to Washington, D.C. Joe formed for the Army Corps of Engineers at Rock Island Arsenal from 1953 to 1955, afore backward and affective to Bettendorf.
In Paris, the Leclairs hosted then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and his wife, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. “He was aerial up in the military,” Mitchem said of Joe Leclair. “She admired to accept bodies appear and comedy her piano.”
Joe died in 1992. Mitchem said.
“They toured the world, and she said, ‘It was absolutely a activity for a little country babe like me’,” Mitchem, who knew her for 20 years, said. “She was actual able-bodied to do, but she didn’t beam it around,” she said. “She donated all the money for our aqueduct organ. And she donated the money for our Yamaha conservatory grand. She was a accommodating amateur and host.”
Thea was a affiliate of Asbury United Methodist for added than 50 years and she sang in a account there back she was 90, Mitchem said. Thea died Nov. 1, 2006, at age 95, abrogation the piano to Butterworth Center in Moline, with instructions it should be consistently played. But at the time, it had collapsed into busted and was unplayable, Mitchem said.
Crumbleholme organized three fundraising concerts in 2011-12 at the abbey to account the apology project. Those recitals aloft best of the $22,000 that’s been calm to date, and about $3,000 is bare to pay off the work.
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