Go Fund Me: Help us restore the Chickering Piano!
On one of our field trips to check out potential homes for the BCMS main concert series, we found ourselves in the lobby of the Leo Hotel. We were there to play in the Crystal Ballroom and see what the acoustics would offer. Our hearts skipped a beat when we saw a baby grand piano standing quietly in the lobby as we made our way to the ballroom.
Hoping to find a ‘home’ for a chamber music series was one thing. Discovering a baby grand within rolling distance of the potential concert space? That made us light headed! We continued to the Ballroom and after playing for 30 minutes (well, in all honesty, after about 6 bars) we were sold on the acoustic. We glanced at the piano….what was its story?!
Chickering & Sons pianos was established by Jonas Chickering, a cabinet maker, in 1823 in Boston, Massachusetts. They were the first piano manufacturers in the United States and were known for risk taking in innovation and design, as they strived to build the finest instruments possible. Pianists will understand that the company’s use of a one-piece cast iron plate to support greater string tension was one of their most important contributions in piano technology. During the 19th century, when piano players were something like rock stars, Franz Liszt and Louis Moreau Gottschalk endorsed Chickering pianos claiming them as the only instruments that could hold up under their strenuous performances.
In 1850, the famous opera singer Johanna ‘Jenny’ Lind went on a large tour of the United States, invited by the showman P.T. Barnum. Barnum had Chickering build a custom grand piano for the tour. The German piano maker Henry Steinway was at the tour’s opening night in Boston and was said to be terribly intrigued by this custom built Chickering. Steinway & Sons would open their New York Factory in 1853.
What about our Hotel Leo Chickering piano?
We brought Michelle Stranges, piano technician at Western Washington’s College of Fine and Performing Arts, to the Leo to check out the piano for us. Needless to say, Michelle loves pianos. Her fancy Piano Age Calculator app (really? that’s a thing?) put the piano’s age at 1927-28. This piano might have a story or two to tell!
Has the piano been in the Leo Hotel since the hotel was built?
Did Clark Gable lean on the piano while sipping a cocktail when he stayed at the hotel during filming of Call of the Wild the 1930s?
Did any of your relatives dance to the sounds of the Leo Chickering?
We do know that the piano survived flooding in the hotel during the 1980s when the sprinkler system went off and flooded the hotel with tons of water in short order. Thanks to the quick thinking of the head of hotel maintenance, the piano was emptied of its water and taken apart to dry.
Help us restore the Leo Piano!
We will continue to dig for historical information about the life of this piano, but it has clearly been loved through the decades! No doubt its sound board has resonated throughout the decades with jazz, swing, show tunes, and classical music to accompany all manner of human gatherings and celebrations.
Under Michelle’s expertise and skilled hands we want to bring this piano back to playing condition capable of resonating again with all styles the piano inspires and worthy of all of our local musicians & audiences. Michelle is confident we can get this done!
DONATE HERE! GO FUND ME CHICKERING PIANO