City hall leak destroys R1.5m piano

2013-03-11 13:31
The damaged Steinway Concert Grand Model D. (The Witness)

The damaged Steinway Concert Grand Model D. (The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - A pianist has expressed his frustration after having to cancel a solo spot in Saturday’s Last Night of the Proms concert because the Msunduzi municipality’s Steinway concert piano had been severely damaged, possibly beyond repair.

"This is the last straw," said pianist Christopher Duigan, of Music Revival, who was scheduled to play Henry Litolff’s Scherzo.

A sigh of disappointment went up from the audience in a packed city hall when conductor Richard Cock announced it could not be performed due to the state of the piano.

The piano was found to be unplayable on Friday afternoon when piano tuner Ian Webster went to tune it before the concert.


The damage appears to have resulted from rain water dripping on to the piano via a leak in the city hall roof. The piano is stored on the ground floor of the city hall in a garage next to the stage.

Duigan said water had damaged the felt on the hammers that strike the strings and had affected the rest of the string mechanism.

“But far worse, water has leaked on to the sound board where it has pooled and dried. The wood is now rotten and mildewed. The sound board can’t be replaced - once that is destroyed the piano is kaput.

“I’m not a piano technician, but in my estimation it won’t be possible to play the piano again.”

The piano is a Steinway Concert Grand Model D and it is estimated that it will cost at least R1.5m to replace.

The concert, a popular annual event, was presented by Parklane Superspar, in association with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Revival.

It was not possible to get another piano for the concert, said Brad Glasspoole, co-producer with Duigan at Music Revival.

“The only ones available were Christopher’s and there was no way we could get anyone to move one of them on Friday afternoon.”

Duigan spent R2 000 on sheet music for the piano and orchestra parts of the piece he was to play.

City hall problems

He said the incident was the “last straw” when it came to dealing with the city hall. “We have had to replace and remove lights at our own expense because lights have been stolen. We have had to put in toilet seats.”

Glasspoole agreed: “We are constantly having to fix things. On Saturday night I had to move four people from their seats because they were broken. There are three entire rows of seating missing because they are completely trashed.”

The Witness sought comment on the matter from Msunduzi municipal manager Xolisi Nkosi, Madeline Jackson-Plaatjies, manager in the office of the municipal manager, and municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma, but did not receive a response.

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