People are always asking me how we move our grand piano, and more specifically, how we get it through a door. More often than not, there is an assumption that the door itself is somehow manipulated. Comments are made or questions posed about removing the door or door frame, but the question usually stops when the idea arises of actually making a larger hole in the wall. At that point, the question has gone full circle and we are back to “How do you move a grand piano?” Piano moving is a simple thing really, and like anything, if you know what you are doing, is very “easy.” All it takes is at least four very strong backs to keep it all moving. Or five, depending on how many stairs stand between you and your destination. And, I might add, a sunny day is always welcome as well!
Grand pianos are heavy, and our Hamburg Steinway concert grand weighs in at right about 1,000 pounds. So, to move a piano, it is wrapped in heavy blankets and turned on its side and placed on a 9-foot board specially designed and built for the job. With the legs and pedal lyre removed, it is tightly belted to the board. It is then lifted and placed on a small square piano dolly, which is really nothing more than a padded, square box on wheels, and off you go. The piano is rolled on and off trucks, loading docks, down hallways, onto stages, through doors and so on. But every now and then one must deal with stairs, and at MBF the most notorious location in all of Winona is getting up the long flight of steps of Somsen Hall at Winona State University. This is where the five strong backs come in. The dolly is removed, and the piano is literally pushed/pulled/heaved/dragged up the stairs. Two flights outside and one flight inside, all in a row. With any luck, it is a beautiful sunny day, but we have certainly done it in the rain which makes for slippery steps and a banged knee or two. Once past the steps, it is back on the dolly and within moments the piano is on stage. Mishaps are rare, but are certainly a possibility, which is why our moves are scheduled a year in advance with a professional piano-moving crew that drives all the way down from Minneapolis just to move our piano across town. Many years ago (not at MBF, and not even in Winona thank heaven!) I once saw a piano crew move a grand piano too close to the edge of a stage, only to lose control and have it roll off and crash dramatically onto the first row of seats before anyone could catch it. So, it can happen and thus we are ever vigilant to protect our beloved Hamburg!
To see more piano-moving photos, please visit Festival Archives on our website.
– Ned Kirk, Artistic & Managing Director