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An extraordinary concert!

Following months of work and fundraising by UMCM, St John the Baptist Church and others the day finally came, Saturday June 23rd. Courtney Pianos have done incredible work in restoring the wonderful 1878 Bechstein piano and have brought out its beauty while preserving its antiquity. In the first concert since the restoration we were treated to an astonishing and breathtaking performance by Varvara Maggs of music by Liszt, Haydn, Prokofieff and an encore of short pieces by Tchaikowsky.

The event was attended by many dignitaries and guests including the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Mayor of Coventry, Coventry’s Lady Godiva, local councillors, and guests from Coventry Cathedral and other churches.

Afterwards there were refreshments prepared by church members with German wine generously donated by Phipps.

We would like to thank everyone involved for a very special evening. 

BBC Radio interviews

UMCM’s Martin Griffiths and Lizzie Perring were interviewed on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire on Tuesday for their work in getting the Bechstein piano restored. The BBC were very enthusiastic and we hope they will follow up with the church in future months.

Bechstein comes home!

Our major project to achieve the restoration of the 1878 Bechstein grand piano in St John the Baptist Church, Coventry, has been successfully concluded! Courtney Pianos, Oxford delivered the fully restored instrument to St John’s on Wednesday 9th June. On hand were pianist Varvara Maggs, church staff including Father Dexter Bracey, and UMCM’s Martin Griffiths. Varvara immediately spent some time at the piano. Martin commented afterwards: “I can’t imagine that Bechstein #10855 ever looked so good as it does now when it came out of the factory in Berlin 170 years ago and I can’t believe anyone has ever played it so wonderfully as Varvara this afternoon”.

All that remains is the concert and celebration. The concert is of course on Saturday 23 June, starting at 7.00. Please don’t be late! And if you haven’t got a ticket yet, please click our link to EventBrite below. The concert is followed by various short talks and German wine in the hall, generously donated by Phipps.

We are all so excited for future music at St John the Baptist, and we hope and believe that the piano will be an exciting addition to Coventry’s heritage and culture and be the focus for many performances in this beautiful church, including some City of Culture events.

Bechstein returns soon!

Exciting news – the repaired Bechstein piano is expected back at St John the Baptist this Wednesday, 6th June.

New Bechstein restoration pictures

We have new pictures from Courtney Pianos of the Bechstein piano under restoration. These show the cleaned frame back in the repolished piano body and the “Bechstein Blue” felts which were a Bechstein trademark.

Cleaned frame back in cabinet Cleaned frame back in cabinet, showing strings

Fundraiser by Between Us

The wonderful jazzy folky group Between Us are organising another fundraiser for the June 23 concert.

This is on Friday May 18th at the very cosy café at St John the Baptist Church, Fleet Street, Coventry CV1 3AY.

Please come if you want to raise funds for the amazing June concert featuring the concert pianist Varvara Maggs performing the first recital on the restored 1878 Bechstein grand piano at St John the Baptist Church.

Here’s the Between Us Facebook event and here’s the EventBrite page for the June concert.

Celebration Concert – tickets available!

Tickets for the celebration concert on 23 June are now available on EventBrite.

Reminder: We’re celebrating the return of the fully restored 1878 Bechstein piano to St John the Baptist with a piano recital by Russian concert pianist Varvara Maggs.

Click below to order your tickets to this fantastic event!

Eventbrite - Celebration Concert for Restored 1878 Bechstein Grand Piano

Concert poster

Concert poster
Poster for the concert, designed by Martin and Kevin.

New in – this poster from the concert, designed by Martin and Kevin from an original by Bechstein dated 1920.

This is close to being the finished article for our promotion. Martin is also working hard on the programme and this is looking great too.

We’re now selling tickets on EventBrite.

Favaio Baroque

Favaio Ensemble concert poster

We enjoyed a lovely treat last Sunday with a performance by the wonderful Favaio Baroque, the beautiful sounds of Baroque era music sounding perfect in this sandstone church with its high vaulted ceiling. Not only that but also the concert raised nearly £200 towards the Bechstein piano appeal and celebration concert. Thank you everyone at Favaio for the funds raised and the lovely music.

Concert pianist

We are very excited to have booked a wonderful pianist for our celebratory concert on 23 June.

VARVARA MAGGS is a superb pianist as you can read here (St. Bride’s, where Varvara has given recitals), which says more than we possibly could. This will be an amazing occasion for the whole of Coventry, not just for UMCM and St. John the Baptist.


Inventory of restoration work

The restorers of “our” Bechstein piano, Courtney’s of Oxford, have provided this fascinating breakdown of work. Wow!

Strings, wrestpins, frame and soundboard.

  • Unscrew & remove all existing damper-heads from strings.
  • Destring frame, removing all existing strings, wrestpins and frame feltwork.
  • Uplift, clean and refinish frame in antique gold lacquer.
  • Rub down and polish soundboard, checking for any splits present (none so far) when frame uplifted.
  • Clean & polish all frame bolts; refelt frame & refit to bracings.
  • Drill out wrestpin holes and check wrestplank for splits (none present as far as can be seen).
  • Fully restring & repin piano with EKA polished wire, and new set of EKA spun bass strings to patterns.
  • Pitch-raise, tidy coils, level pins, ready for chip-tunings.

Action/Keyboard/Damper assembly.

  • Send hammers to Abel in Germany to be recovered with new felts.
  • Recentre four rows of flange-centres in action; two rows in damper-lever assembly.
  • Clean Action, Keyboard & Damper assembly.
  • Burnish jacks.
  • Clean & polish ivory keytops N.B.
  • Recover majority of feltwork in action & rebaize keyframe.
  • Recover check leathers as required.
  • Rebush keys as necessary.
  • Recover damper-heads with new stitched and cut & shaped damper-felts.

Miscellaneous finishing work.

  • Pitch-raise all strings, stretch twice and fine tune to a little sharp of A=440 to allow for slight settling in coming months.
  • Carefully regulate the touch and dampers.
  • Overhaul and clean pedal assembly and lyre.

Cabinetwork restoration.

  • Strip off all existing degenerated lacquer from casework.
  • Identify wood-veneer (we now know this is probably rosewood).
  • Major repair to two of the three legs to reinstate the original threads.
  • Rub down, minor repairs to damaged veneer as appropriate, and prepare for repolishing.
  • Seal and lightly stain the wood.
  • Hand refinish the casework in the traditional satin-waxed finish.
  • Clean & polish the brasswork.

Assemble the piano, and final checks before arranging delivery back to Coventry.

Certificate of release

Here’s the certificate from the Bechstein company themselves, indicating when “our” piano left their factory after manufacture in 1878.

Rosewood veneer

We have just heard from the piano restorers that the Bechstein piano has a beautiful and most unusual rosewood veneer underneath the standard black lacquer. The restorers say: “In complete contrast to our expectations to be finding the standard ebonised pearwood – standard for ebonised finishes – instead there is a rich rosewood veneer. It is unusual to say the least to find rosewood underneath a black lacquer, but since Bechstein would never have used a fine veneer like this to be subsequently black (why would they ??), the only realistic conclusion is that this piano, when despatched from Bechstein’s factory, would originally have been rosewood, and that, at some time in its past, someone felt the need to alter (cover-up) its original finish from rosewood with an ebonised lacquer…. [T]he appearance of rosewood is a real bonus, due to the richness of the grain and the wonderful beauty of the woodgrain cabinetwork”.