Cloudy
59°
Cloudy
Hi 59° | Lo 42°

Steinway, Not for Sale: Memories Block Hanover Seller’s Plan

  • In 1928 William Kies gifted a new Steinway living room grand piano to his daughter Margaret Gibb who studied music at Juilliard. The piano was passed down through the family to Gibb's granddaughter Sarah Friedman of Hanover, who had to build a room onto her house to properly house the instrument. Friedman had advertised the Steinway piano for sale, but has decided to keep the instrument after learning more about the piano's history. "Tradition is really big in the family," said Friedman. "Even two generations later we still cal it Grammie's Piano."<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    In 1928 William Kies gifted a new Steinway living room grand piano to his daughter Margaret Gibb who studied music at Juilliard. The piano was passed down through the family to Gibb's granddaughter Sarah Friedman of Hanover, who had to build a room onto her house to properly house the instrument. Friedman had advertised the Steinway piano for sale, but has decided to keep the instrument after learning more about the piano's history. "Tradition is really big in the family," said Friedman. "Even two generations later we still cal it Grammie's Piano."
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Margaret Kies, center, was given this Steinway living room grand piano by her father William Kies in 1928. Kies went on to study music at Juilliard. Sarah Friedman of Hanover is now in possession of the piano and briefly considered selling it. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Margaret Kies, center, was given this Steinway living room grand piano by her father William Kies in 1928. Kies went on to study music at Juilliard. Sarah Friedman of Hanover is now in possession of the piano and briefly considered selling it.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sarah Friedman of Hanover had advertised a Steinway piano for sale, but has decided to keep the instrument after learning more about the family history around her "Grammie's Piano."<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Sarah Friedman of Hanover had advertised a Steinway piano for sale, but has decided to keep the instrument after learning more about the family history around her "Grammie's Piano."
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • In 1928 William Kies gifted a new Steinway living room grand piano to his daughter Margaret Gibb who studied music at Juilliard. The piano was passed down through the family to Gibb's granddaughter Sarah Friedman of Hanover, who had to build a room onto her house to properly house the instrument. Friedman had advertised the Steinway piano for sale, but has decided to keep the instrument after learning more about the piano's history. "Tradition is really big in the family," said Friedman. "Even two generations later we still cal it Grammie's Piano."<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Margaret Kies, center, was given this Steinway living room grand piano by her father William Kies in 1928. Kies went on to study music at Juilliard. Sarah Friedman of Hanover is now in possession of the piano and briefly considered selling it. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Sarah Friedman of Hanover had advertised a Steinway piano for sale, but has decided to keep the instrument after learning more about the family history around her "Grammie's Piano."<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

On Nov. 13, 1928, the big stories on the New York Times front page included the sinking of the steamship Vestris off the Virginia coast with a loss of 140 lives, and the pledge of New York Democratic Gov. Al Smith to support the man who had defeated him for the presidency the week before, Republican Herbert Hoover. A dispatch from Berlin noted that Professor Albert Einstein, discoverer of the theory of relativity, was not yet ready to disclose his new work to the world, saying “I do not want to count unlaid eggs.”

It was also the day that Steinway piano Serial 3, # 295570, a New York Model L weighing 610 pounds, was finally completed. Close readers of this newspaper’s classifieds may have noticed that beginning in January, this ad began running: “1926 STEINWAY LIVING ROOM GRAND PIANO sound board intact, our family is original owner, $10,000.”

The Steinway company, maker of one of the world’s premiere concert pianos, keeps scrupulous records of every piano it makes, which is how Sarah Friedman, the present owner of #295570, knows the origin of the piano that’s been in her family since the 1920s. When she contacted Steinway looking for the history, they sent her a letter with the details of its manufacture, including the correct date of its completion.

The Valley News classifieds are typically an eclectic mix of farm equipment, car parts, old magazines, record collections, dolls, boots, bikes, guns, guinea pigs, skis, underwear (new) and the occasional lurking surprise: a stack of Finnish language magazines from the early 1960s, a chamber pot, a one-year-old engagement ring going begging for $250 OBO.

What was the story behind the piano, though?

Friedman, who lives in Hanover with her husband Harley Friedman and their two daughters, had been given the piano by her father Peter Gibb, who’d inherited it from his mother Margaret Kies Gibb, who’d gotten it as a wedding present from her father William Kies. The piano has moved from relative to relative, place to place, but has never left the family.

“Tradition is very, very big in our family,” Friedman said.

Margaret Kies studied music at Juilliard and taught piano after her marriage when she moved to Washington, D.C., with her husband William Gibb. The New York Model L was a living room grand introduced by Steinway in 1922 with an approximate cost of $1,575; a piano that the upper class could afford, and the middle class could aspire to own.

Friedman never heard her grandmother play the piano because she was in failing health when Friedman was a child, but she does recall that when she was young and lying in bed at night she could hear the sound, drifting up through an air vent, of her father playing downstairs.

Friedman didn’t really want to part with the instrument, which has always been referred to simply as “Grammie’s piano,” but it sat in the living room mostly unused. She doesn’t play, and her daughters played it only occasionally. “It’s a beautiful instrument and it needs to be played,” Friedman said.

The family was also considering moving to a smaller home that might not be able to accommodate the nearly six-foot-wide piano; they’d built an addition on to their house just to make room for it.

There was resistance when she announced it was time for the piano to have another owner. “You can’t sell the piano!” her daughters told her. But most relatives said, “We’re sad to see it go, but we can understand why you have to sell it.”

There were a few calls of interest and one 13-year-old boy came over to play it. Once the realization hit her that Grammie’s piano might, in fact, actually go elsewhere, Friedman said, “I kind of panicked. I just can’t sell this piano.”

She called her father in Massachusetts, who had played the piano for years. And they came up with a solution: Friedman’s niece will take possession of it in a few years, after she finishes graduate school. All in the family.

Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.