New London – Almost immediately after Guy Fishman played the last note of the prelude to Bach’s Suite No.1 for solo cello, the bell of an Amtrak train passing through New London rang.
This was the small inconvenience of filming a concert at the Custom House Maritime Museum.
The advantage was the background and the natural light of the Lucille M. Showalter Lecture Gallery on the second floor, which is dedicated to the history of the Amistad and whose windows overlook the River Thames.
The Connecticut Early Music Society began filming with the solo cello performance, but the raison d’être of the concert – which will be available to view as a virtual perk for $ 65 – was the 1814 square piano in the middle of the room. .
The piano is not actually square, but has a rectangular housing with a shorter keyboard than that of modern pianos.
It is the fifth and most recent in the Maritime Museum, and the process of finding a permanent home for the piano took a few years.
Aymeric Dupré la Tour, musical director of the museum and pianist, explained how he learned about this very special piano. He got a call from a woman named Mary Keith, who had attended concerts he had given in North Stonington, where the historical society owns two square pianos.
This square piano belonged to Keith’s sister, who commissioned Keith to find the piano at a non-profit house that could use it to raise funds. Dupré la Tour said Keith called several universities seeking to donate the piano and they all refused.
He noted that the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, for example, already has a collection of square pianos in original condition, although this one had been restored. The problem was that “the restoration that had been done was not historically respectful,” he said: Someone had installed modern piano pins and thick strings.
Dupré la Tour said he convinced Keith to donate the money to the estate for a new restoration, “because I was convinced that without it, no one would accept this”. He suggested master piano technician Ken Huebner, with whom he had previously worked.
Huebner has done some research to find suitable strings and he features this piano on his website, huebnerpianoservice.com.
Susan Tamulevich, executive director of the Custom House Maritime Museum, was delighted when Huebner found a handwriting under one of the keys. She posted pictures on the New London Maritime Society Facebook page, facebook.com/nlmaritime, asking the writers’ opinion on what the names say.
Tamulevich said the Connecticut Early Music Society was originally scheduled to host a concert at the museum last June. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been canceled.
But when company officials heard about the piano, “they couldn’t contain themselves with enthusiasm,” Tamulevich said.
Ian Watson, artistic director of the Connecticut Early Music Society, said the group’s goal is to present early music using the instruments of the time, “that if the composer entered the room, he would recognize the instrument and sound “.
“We want music to come to life in this way, to become a living entity, and I think Susan feels the same about the museum, that it needs to be a living and breathing place,” Watson said.
He played the square piano on Saturday, while Renee Hemsing played the viola and Susanna Ogata played the violin. The company brought in three videographers who shot with four cameras.
Those interested in watching the show and a conversation between Watson and Tamulevich can purchase tickets at ctearlymusic.org for $ 65 per household. Profits will be shared between the Connecticut Early Music Society and the New London Maritime Society, which manages the museum.
A link will be provided to ticket holders prior to the virtual event time, which is 3 p.m. on April 18, and the video will be available for viewing until May 10.