The old Pleyel may soon be playable.
For two years, a rare double-grand piano has been stored in plain sight at the River Music Experience, RME, in Davenport. Originally donated to the Butterworth Center in Moline by the estate of a Bettendorf couple that acquired it many years ago in France, the Pleyel was passed down to the RME in 2011.
Built in 1896 in Paris, the Pleyel is believed to be one of only six in the world.
The keys and internal parts on either end of the piano need work before it can be played, and members of the Federated Music Teachers Association have been raising money for the repairs for two years.
Local piano technician John Duda is being commissioned to make the repairs, which are estimated to cost $15,000. Those in charge of fundraising hoped to raise $25,000, anticipating additional costs in maintenance and future tuning. The group has raised $19,863, and an attorney is drawing up an agreement between the union and RME, regarding its future use, maintenance and other details.
"The primary use of the piano has yet to be determined and will depend on those legitimate artists and music educators who seek to use it for performances and/or recitals," said Ellis Kell, director of programming and community outreach at the RME. "It will obviously not be available for the public to just come in, sit down and start playing without advance approval from RME.
"We consider the Pleyel double-grand a world-class instrument and historical artifact, and we feel very fortunate to have it here at RME. We have every intention of making sure that it’s secure and properly maintained."
Laura Crumbleholme, one of the organizers of the fundraising campaign, said the repairs have been delayed by deaths in the families of the volunteers, which she explained to Kell in an email earlier this month.
"I apologize again that we are moving so slow on this project," the Moline piano teacher wrote. "It is difficult when we are all volunteers, when we meet so infrequently and when we have had to attend so many funerals in the last year."
Despite the delays, Kell said he is happy to see the donors' wishes granted. Joe and Thea Leclair, both deceased, wanted the rare instrument to be playable, he said.
"The historical value of the Pleyel alone made it a very unique musical artifact to have on display at RME," he said. "The fact that it can and will be restored, and played, as per Mrs. Thea Leclair’s wishes, is the icing on the cake."
An exact timeline for the restoration is not yet known, pending the completion of the legal agreement.