Pianos are the pride of and joy of their music-lover owners. Nothing beats the exhilaration one feels when a gleaming instrument arrives at the premises, ready to start its life it is destined for and produce countless hours of musical joy for people fortunate enough to enjoy it. This is even more so if the object in question is an expensive grand piano, commonly seen in grand concert halls and hotel lobbies. With the big price tag, one must certainly expect that the beloved instrument is accorded all the care it deserves during transit.
It was a very distressing moment, then, when in April 2007, an Austrian-made Bösendorfer grand piano found its way onto a set of granite steps. The GBP26,000 (SGD78,000 in then’s terms) instrument was being delivered to its new owners at Devon in southwest England, when accident struck.
Workers at G & R Removals, a moving company in Chiswick, West London, had been unloading the machine from the back of their lorry when it tipped over its side. To the men’s horror, it tumbled over a bank and descended onto a set of granite steps 13 feet below, the underside fully exposed. As one would expect, the workers were left red-faced and cluthing their heads.
To make things worse, the piano had been planned as the centrepiece of classical performances at the Two Moors Festival. This festival had started in 2001 in a bid to bring tourism back to the region battered by the hand and mouth disease and had since become an annual feature.
Penny Adie, the festival’s organiser revealed that he and his team had spent two years raising the money to buy the second-hand piano, which would have cost GBP100,000 in the primary market. Understandly, it was, in his own words, a “ghastly moment” for him when the instrument met its fate even before the festival began, as he saw “one’s hopes and dreams being smashed down the stone steps.”
As a result of the fall, the piano suffered a broken lid and jackhammer. While the moving company maintained it would cost only GBP1,000 to rectify the damage, the organiser would have none of it, maintaining that they needed a good machine that would last for a long time.
The man at the centre of the gaffe, Brian Haigh, admitted to the press that he had been totally dumbfounded. Recalling the incident, the piano-moving specialist of 25 years recalled that he could not speak for a full five minutes. He added, “I was really disappointed. I haven’t got words for it. I’ve been doing this job a long, long time. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. As Brian recounted, his pride took a severe beating after the accident.
Sometimes, piano-moving accidents need not be that dramatic. A video shared online showed another accident, one that presumably happened in the United States. An upright piano was being transported on the back of a pickup truck when it met its end. As the instrument had not been strapped to the truck, the centrifual force generated when the vehicle made a turn, together with the high centre of gravity of the tall machine, caused the piano to fall over its side, sending it crashing onto the road.
It is sad that wonderful instruments that give hours of joy to their owners, performers and guests would meet their end in such unpredictable ways. These could have been avoided if movers exercised due diligence when performing their duties. Fortunately, such accidents are rare. More often than not, pianos arrive at their destinations safely, ready to start their brand new lives.