By Gordon Braidwood
At last it was decided! A stage piano was required for ‘When We Are Married’ and the only available solution was to remove the inner workings of the Black piano, currently sitting in the second rehearsal area, to make it practical for transport to the theatre.
So, there I was, one evening, about to undertake this challenge (against my better judgement). I started off by removing the front panel, the keyboard cover, the base plate and found it simple to lift out the hammer mechanism. There stood the denuded piano, shivering in its G strings and panic setting in when it realised that this was to be an attack of note!
The main weight in the piano was the harp shaped cast iron frame which held the strings and the first job was to remove these strings. So I attacked these with tin snips and pliers which produced an interesting cacophony of sound. Perhaps I should have recorded this, it might have made the top ten! After some time I managed to cut all the strings and laboriously unwind them from the metal pegs holding them in place.
Then I was faced with this massive metal frame to remove. I managed to cut through one of the smaller central stanchions with a hacksaw but it was going to be impossible to reach or make further cuts with a hacksaw within the frame of the piano. So off home to hire a power tool for another day.
So, later in the week, I return with a reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade from the HSS hire shop. First, on with the safety equipment, gloves, face mask, goggles and ear plugs. Immediately, because of the proximity of the face mask, the goggles steam up and I cannot see what I am doing! How safe is that? It seems a choice has to be made between seeing and breathing!
Eventually I manage to clear my vision, place the shoe of the saw against the metal and press the button. This triggers a banshee of noise, the ear plugs pop out and fly across the floor. After several long seconds I remove the saw to find that only a tiny nick has been made in the metal. Further attempts to cut were no more successful. I am sure I heard the piano mutter ‘I spit upon your reciprocating saw!’
Back to the hire shop- ‘This reciprocating saw is not showing its mettle!’ – ‘Sorry sir, it will have to be an angle grinder then’
So I scurry back to the premises clutching an angle grinder with two cutting discs. Back on with the safety equipment before attacking the metal frame once again. This time, along with the screaming of tortured metal and flying sparks, the angle grinder does cut through the stanchions and with the help of several heavy blows from a mash hammer I finally succeed in removing the top section of the frame and two stanchions.
However, I have run out of cutting discs and three quarters of the metal frame is still in place. The piano is now on its back and I attempt to pull the frame out under the key board. This is clearly not going to work and it is getting late in the day. With one final desperate effort, I manage to prop the frame at an angle with a wooden block and aim one massive blow to the centre with a heavy hammer. To my enormous relief it shatters into several pieces and I am able to remove all the pieces, return the piano to a standing position and replace all the outer parts.
At last we have a ‘Stage Piano’!! The moral off this story.-If any future stage play requires the removal of the iron frame from a piano- JUST LEAVE IT TO THE CAST!!!