Two pianos arrive at Smith Hokanson
Memorial Hall.

The mahogany piano is on the left, the ebony in the center; one of them will soon replace the old piano on
the right.

Frederick Moyer at the ebony piano, ultimately chosen
by Fox Islands Concerts.

Celebrating the decision: (l-r) Mark Dierauf, Bill Faller, Rona Hokanson, Norah Warren (theater manager), Bill Moyer (Fred's father), Fred Moyer, April Moyer (Fred's wife).

How My Steinway Came to Vinalhaven
by Mark Dierauf
In March of 2007, I heard that concert pianist Fred Moyer, on behalf of Fox Islands Concerts on the island of Vinalhaven, ME, was looking for a restored Steinway B or D for their summer concert series. I had tuned for Fred a couple of years back and happened to have two re-manufactured B's more or less ready to go, so I emailed him and we made arrangements to have him stop in for a look. He had already looked at several pianos, and was planning on seeing two more in my area that same day. My most recently completed Steinway B was a 1906 ebony with a really sweet sound and an action to die for.
    Fred sat down and was immediately in heaven, saying that there was just no point in looking any further. The piano just "played itself." He returned a couple of weeks later with Rona Hokanson, in whose husband Leonard's honor the new hall on Vinalhaven is named. Rona also loved the piano, but we all had some concerns about its ability to project and fill a large hall, considering that we were hearing it in a tiny, acoustically dead room with very low acoustic tile ceilings and wall-to-wall carpet. So they began to look more closely at my other Steinway, a 1910 in a mahogany case, with a much more powerful tone. It also had a very nice action.  At one point Rona asked what I'd be willing to do if they bought one of the pianos and moved it out to the island, only to find that as good as it sounded in my house, it just wouldn't cut it in a 350-seat hall. Without really thinking, I blurted out that we'd be willing to move both pianos up to Maine, tune and voice them for the hall, and let Fred and Rona make their selection on site. If they decided that neither was suitable, then they would be responsible for the cost of the move, otherwise it would be on me. At that point, their jaws just dropped. "You'd be willing to do that?" they asked. I figured that I had nothing to lose.
    So on a Friday in June we packed up the pianos in a U-haul and drove 200 miles up the coast of Maine to Rockland to catch the ferry. Since we were unable to reserve a place on board, the islanders had arranged to have a local firewood supplier wait in line in his truck all morning to hold our place. We arrived at Vinalhaven in the late afternoon, set up and tuned the pianos and got our first hearing. The ebony piano was even more beautiful, but definitely lacking in projection in the large hall, whereas the mahogany needed to be voiced back somewhat. After some discussion with my longtime moving and sometime shop partner Bill Faller, who is also a great technician and friend, we decided against doing anything dramatic until after Fred arrived the next day. When he did, and after going back and forth for a few minutes with some Mozart and Rachmaninoff, he still liked the ebony piano but knew it needed more. So with Fred, Rona, and several other Fox Islands Concerts board members as an audience, Bill got out the needles to soften the hammers on the mahogany piano while I broke out the acetone/keytop mix to harden the hammers on the ebony, and we went at it. It took surprisingly little time, and it was like a great performance with our audience listening as they would have at a concert. We took a lunch break while the juice dried on the hammers, and then Fred joined us on stage, where he played a bit, we needled a bit, and the audience asked to hear one piano and then the other. Schubert, Chopin, Gershwin, more Rachmaninoff and Mozart all came and went. Fred joined the audience while I played some Schumann and Chopin. Gradually we brought the two pianos closer and closer, and the choice became more and more difficult, but finally it was decided, and Fred said, "Mark, I'm afraid you've lost your ebony piano!"
    So thanks, Bill, Fred, Rona, Norah and all the other wonderful people of Vinalhaven who made our stay there and the whole experience absolutely magical. Thanks for giving my baby a wonderful new home.

        Mark Dierauf is a piano technician and owner of NH Pianos in Concord, NH.