We have received the sad news that our long, mutually beneficial relationship with the Piano Garden is coming to an end. During the Piano Garden’s time at Saint Mary’s we have enjoyed the use of their excellent 9′ grand piano in our own ministries. The Piano Garden’s departure means the piano could depart as well. So what does that mean for us? Here are some thoughts about our needs as a church and a place where community gathers for concerts and recitals, where this departure leaves us, and perhaps some next steps.
As a place of worship, our first priority is that of ministry support. At our two highly attended Sunday morning worship services, our voices are raised in song for gratitude and prayer. The piano plays an important role in supporting, at times accompanying the choir and soloists, the congregation (when the style of a hymn or section of the liturgy calls for it), and as solo accompaniment to communion or offertory.
In our recent renovation, we made significant changes to our sanctuary so the ritual action happening at the altar could been seen by more folks in the nave (main seating area). In doing so, we intentionally designed a space that was attractive to performing arts groups. St. Mary’s has long been a place for chamber music recitals. We have welcomed choral groups lately and have also hosted some theater readings. We have long viewed this type of building use as one of our community ministries. The availability of a high quality piano has been an important factor in realizing this ministry, making the performance space more attractive.
With Piano Garden’s departure, two mediocre upright pianos remain at St. Mary’s. One is in the choir room and the other hangs out in some corner of the sanctuary. Though they may be strong, neither of them are sensitive nor performance caliber. They have their uses but do not fill the gap left by the loss of the 9′ concert grand piano
To properly support our ministries, we should purchase a new, if only to us, grand piano. As we have wrestled with moving our budget back into the black, our vestry prayerfully made decisions to promote building rental as a means for increasing income. Though a 5′ grand may be suitable for our worship ministry needs, a 7′ or 9′ grand piano would be more attractive to outside performing arts groups.
While purchasing a piano this year was not on our radar when we crafted the budget, it is still worth considering urgently. It supports our worship and community outreach ministries in significant ways. Moreover, it is a one-time purchase addressing a specific, unexpected gap in resources. Over the long term it does not add appreciable burdens to the church budget.
Liz’s opening price for the 9′ Baldwin* is $25,000. The number seems daunting at first glance, but there are other things to consider. The price appears to be top of market and may be negotiable downward, especially if she does not have to deal with contract sellers or movers. Even at the full opening price the amount is manageable through several to many smaller contributions or a purchase in partnership with members of the larger musical community.
Thank you for considering this case for a new piano. Yours in Christ’s love and light, Conie and Chuck
* Piano nerdness alert: This 9′ Baldwin concert grand piano is the most responsive 9′ grand I’ve played, so yes, I think we should purchase it. When I was a piano major in college, I had the opportunity to play two 9′ Steinway’s regularly. In those 4 years I never accomplished as much expression out of the Steinways as I could with the Baldwin on the last two Miscellany concerts we’ve held. The action is not as heavy and so more nuance is available to players. -Conie