She showed up on Monday, wrapped in a royal blue blanket, a peek of her satin finish and golden interior teasing the crowd gathered.
Cameras flashed as six burly men unloaded her off the truck and into the loading bay.
“She must weigh at least 1,000 pounds,” one of them exclaimed.
It had been a long journey from Vancouver along the Coquihalla Highway and to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, her new home.
After she was unwrapped and assembled, she needed a quick tune-up from the gentle hands of Kamloops-based technician Matt Arnott before being tucked away in her very own temperature controlled storage room off stage.
“Because of the satin finish, when her lid is open it reflects the strings, so people can see what’s going on inside her,” said Joan Sasges, who along with the others had been waiting with bated breath for her arrival.
And now, like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, she is ready for her close-up.
A coup for the North Okanagan Community Concert Association (NOCCA), which has been working on replacing its aging piano for more than four years, the new Hamburg Steinway nine-foot concert grand is getting the royal treatment and will be officially unveiled Saturday when celebrated B.C. pianist Ian Parker takes her keys and pedals for a spin.
“This is one of the top five as far as pianos are concerned. It’s a factory select Steinway that Steinway wants to put in concert halls because it wants it to be heard,” said NOCCA president Paul Maynes.
Built in the Hamburg, Germany Steinway factory in 1978 and previously owned by the Kultur Casino Saal in Berne, Switzerland, the piano was brought to Canada by its then owner, concert pianist Thierry Gudel, in 1995.
After testing a number of pianos, the NOCCA purchased the Steinway at a cost of $86,000 from Verhnjak Pianos in White Rock, which included a complete rebuild and refinishing.
Most of the cost was covered by NOCCA’s piano fund – a result of many years savings – as well as a fundraiser, where individual piano keys were sold to patrons.
“The instrument is unique as it was built at the Steinway factory in Germany but re-built outside of Steinway,” said Parker, who test-drove the piano in White Rock. “The soundboard makes it the most unique as it was rebuilt with Sitka spruce, which is native to B.C.”
Parker, who is no stranger to the North Okanagan, having performed with both the Okanagan Symphony and as a solo artist for the NOCCA, says Steinways each have their own personality.
“It’s like the birth of a new person. Some come brighter, some more mellow. A Steinway made in Germany and a Steinway made in the U.S. is like comparing an American-made car to a German-made car. The U.S. one is more beefy with a rich tone, while the German is more tight and refined, clear and bright. You get a different palate with both instruments.”
Parker knows his pianos. Born in Vancouver to a family of pianists, his credentials are extensive.
He began his studies at age three with his father, Edward Parker, and later attended the Juilliard School in New York City, where he attained both bachelor and master degrees, and studied with piano professor Yoheved Kaplinsky.
While at Juilliard, the Canada Council for the Arts awarded Parker the Sylva Gelber Career Grant, which is given annually to the “most talented Canadian artist.”
He has also performed across the U.S., Western Europe, Israel, and throughout Canada on tours with Debut Atlantic and Jeunesses Musicales du Canada.
More recent recital appearances include the Camerata Musica as well as and a collaboration with the Vogler Quartet for Chamber Music Vancouver, and a tour with the Borealis Quartet on Vancouver Island.
In January, Parker visited Vernon to serve as master of ceremonies for the inaugural North Okanagan Youth Showcase of Excellence (NOYSE) concert at the Performing Arts Centre
Parker will not only perform solo on the new piano, the NOCCA’s soon-to-be retired 1887 Hamburg Steinway –– the “warhorse,” as Parker refers to it –– will also be rolled onto the stage one last time so that Parker’s student Jaeden Izik-Dzurko can perform alongside him in a duo.
Last seen in Vernon as part of NOYSE, Izik-Dzurko is a resident of Salmon Arm who won the 46th annual Canadian National Music Festival in Edmonton in August.
“I heard him perform at a competition two years ago. He had this raw talent and I thought I’d like to hear more,” said Parker. “I sent him to the Aspen Fest and my teacher at Juilliard saw him. It got his toe in the door. He’s a dream student and a joy to watch.”