You don't have to know anything about pianos to see that this one is special.

In fact, only six like it are known to exist.

The Pleyel double-grand piano, which has resided in the Quad-Cities for about 65 of its 114-year life, has a fascinating history. Its modern history is no slouch, either.

About eight years ago, volunteers from the Federated Music Teachers Association of the Quad-Cities formed the Pleyel Project Committee. Their goal was to raise enough money to reverse the effects of aging and get the Pleyel back into playing form.

Recital fundraisers from 2010 to 2012 raised $20,000. Then, at the end of 2012, committee member Rose Oles died as the result of an accident, and progress on the Pleyel slowed to a crawl.

Its original owner was Marguerite de Saint-Marceaux, of Paris. She was known to socialize with famous French painters, sculptors, writers, musicians and politicians, according to research by John Duda, a local piano technician.

Duda also is an important figure in the Pleyel's past.

From Marguerite de Saint-Marceaux, the piano changed hands. It was purchased in 1949 by Joe and Thea LeClair of Bettendorf, who lived in Paris during Joe LeClair's military service — before he went to work at the Rock Island Arsenal.

The couple bequeathed the Pleyel to Butterworth Center in Moline, and volunteers there passed it along to the River Music Experience. But the piano took up considerable space and was virtually unplayable, because it quickly fell out of tune.

When Duda learned the RME was looking to unload the Pleyel, he bought it for $50.

"John slowly released the Pleyel's string tension, estimated at 32,000 pounds of pressure, fearing that even with this precaution, the Pleyel might collapse," Marilyn Mietchem, chairwoman of the Pleyel Committee wrote in a Jan. 13 letter to potential donors. "It did not, so John removed both keyboards and the iron plate. He found a piece of the plate had broken off and saw that both pin blocks and pins needed restoration work."

But Duda would not live to finish restoring the Pleyel. The 65-year-old died in October, leaving instructions that the piano should be sold to the FMTA for $51.

Within a month, the Pleyel Committee had procured two bids for the remaining restoration. They accepted a bid for just under $20,000, Mitchem said, and the Pleyel was crated up and sent to Premier Piano Service in Walker, Iowa. Restoration is expected to conclude in June.

"We're very excited," Mitchem said last week. "We've had some long years. Right now, the keyboards, strings and iron frame are out of it. John had disassembled it over a period of time. You have to do that very slowly."

Though the volunteers have enough money to pay Premier Piano, they'll have additional expenses and now are accepting donations (See: "To donate to Pleyel fund").

"We'll need to buy new benches and a canvas cover to protect it," Mitchem said. "We'll need to add wheels — casters — so it can be safely moved."

As the distinctive double grand gets back on its feet, Pleyel Committee members are planning for its future.

"Right now I'm putting together a list of possible permanent venues," Mitchem said. "We have about five we'd like to talk to, and I'm preparing a presentation.

"We'd like it placed somewhere there's an auditorium, so it can be used. That's a priority for us. We've heard from a number of musicians who would like to play it.

"Safe storage is of high importance."

As you might imagine.

Contact Barb Ickes at 563-383-2316 or bickes@qctimes.com.

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