Thursday, August 1, 2013

McCrea's piano moving: a composer's review

I've never reviewed a piano moving before.

This was the first one I've ever watched. Despite having had this piano moved three times since I bought it in 2007, I've managed to avoid being present for any of it until today.

On moving day, I waited for the phone call. And waited. Noticing caffeine jitters at 11:30am, I microwaved meal food and started on a bowl. Then the phone rang. They would be at the starting place in 20 minutes; I covered the bowl, hopped on my bike, and zipped to Rockridge.

My friend, the house owner who has been keeping my piano since I started traveling, had left his affectionate black lab in a harness, but it was easy to entice him into the closed yard. I sat nervously with him moment after moment, getting up to look every time I heard truck engines or doors slam. On the fifth or sixth trip into the house I saw the boldly marked Piano Mover truck in the driveway and awkwardly stepped onto the stoop to greet the movers. I felt small, flimsy, on borrowed property.

Two of the three men worked quickly and with the quiet grace I'm used to seeing in rehearsal. Greg, the maestro, communicated in piano-moving code, single words and brief phrases to coordinate lifts, tilts, and props like dollies and carpeting pieces. In a single breath he noted and dismissed the thickness of the piano. Then, the piano was in the air, resting on a roll of carpet on its smallest edge.

Then it was on a dolly and down the steps in a blink. My breaths were long in wonderment and terror. My body felt exactly as it does during dissections, when I cut and when I witness cutting.

The dog never barked. I thought I heard his steps on the other side of the wooden gate after the piano was already out of the house. I let him back in, bid him farewell, and biked home. I had barely caught my breath and finished my lunch back in the house when Greg knocked.

The front steps were steep. A side entrance had too many narrow turns.

Once they crossed the bottom concrete steps, it was shoulder strength. They used a roller like an upside-down dolly to smooth each lift, step by step. That smallest edge had to land squarely on each step or risked spilling. Every tilt that wobbled sent air rushing into my lungs, my heart clenching. My attention frequently returned to my face: mouth gaping, then smiling, then gritting teeth; eyes wide.

At the top step they popped it onto a dolly and prepared for the easy part. I complimented them for the impact the  performance had on me. My room is immediately adjacent the front door, but there was another series of hiccups fitting the cups under the wheels. If it wasn't perfectly centered it would pop out from under the piano's weight, sometimes shooting some distance from underneath. After many lifts, the mover on his belly popped it under the trouble wheel.

Greg tried a few of the keys while I was recovering from the nerves of the whole experience.

Before today I honestly had paranoid images of the stairs splintering under the weight and even my floor giving way. After they brought up my bench and were on their way I tried the middle movement from Mozart's a-minor sonata K310. I feel solid now.

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