Harvey Chronicles: Church in the Wildwood
Actually, not in the wildwood, but certainly off the beaten path, as many in my client list have been.
My gauges for off the beaten path include: 1) getting lost both ways, coming and going [aka – you can’t get there from here]; and 2) if one wants a snack or other amenities, better pack ’em in, since there’s not even a country store for miles around.
On the initial phone call from the pastor, the description of the problem went something like this:
“… everyone, including the pianist, is complaining that when the organ and the singing stops, the piano keeps going!”
After scheduling the call, I pondered over the possible causes, and figured I had the problem nailed. I was wrong.
On arrival, my liaison was also the pastor, who escorted me to a relatively new Yamaha studio, and repeated his earlier description. I played a chord without using any pedals, and sure enough, when I released the keys, the piano kept on ringing. At this point, I still felt my earlier phone-based diagnostic was correct — one that involved a fast and easy fix. I then opened the top of the piano.
The damper heads were in place, but there were no damper felts attached to them! Having experienced this phenomenon at least a few times before, I turned to present my “diagnosis” to the pastor, when suddenly my peripheral vision caught movement where there should be none.
I quickly closed the piano top and fallboard, then turned to announce my new diagnosis: “You have had a vermin attack, and the perpetrator is still living inside”.
The pastor pondered this for a moment, then said, “I wonder if this might also be the cause of our kitchen pantry being raided?”.
I advised that I could do any required cleanup, to the piano if not the pantry, and (a rather large) repair to restore the instrument to factory condition. But, rodent elimination was out of my area of expertise. I also mentioned that I would return when told the time was right, to reassess the situation and prepare an estimate and timeline for repairs.
Ultimately, the call came, wherein they believed the “cause of the the problem” was resolved by an exterminator. So, I returned and did the job.
As the photo shows, this was another case of doing outside work. There are times when it’s neither prudent nor professional to work at, on, or in the piano. Sometimes, this requires that the entire piano be returned to the shop, where all the necessary tools and supplies are at hand. Most other times, just the action is all that’s needed, and for the same reasons. However, to make the turn-around time shorter and to have the piano available for upcoming church services, the repairs were accomplished on site. Since I would have run the risk of creating a mess in the church sanctuary or other rooms, I opted to move the repair outside to a “workbench” in the church picnic pavillion.
Optional not-so-technical background information
Everyone has heard expressions like “poor as a church mouse”, or “quiet as a church mouse”. The following has little to do with either. Regardless, there is enough evidence to support the following thoughts, using this particular event as example (there are worse stories)
- NO brand, size, age or style of piano is exempt as a potential habitat
- Rodents enjoy the dark, enclosed spaces inside pianos, especially vertical pianos
- Church (or other infrequently used) pianos provide an ideal … sanctuary
- They will gnaw, tear, or shred most any cloth or felt that is within reach
- How they destroy materials that are not easily accessible remains a mystery
- They seem to prefer softer materials (the hammers were untouched), because…
- They are using the materials for nesting purposes
- Often, examples show that home dining may happen, but its on a “take-out” or “to-go” basis from other sources. There are, however, instances of “chewed” wooden piano keys
- Piano techs are accustomed to finding artifacts of the rodent’s residence. It’s not often we find them still at home.
- Since being informed of the potential for Hantavirus exposure, informed technicians will take extra precautions in their clothing, cleaning equipment and materials. As a result, they may resemble HAZMAT specialists.