By Ben Goggins/SMN
A grande dame arrived at the Tybee Post Theater on March 18. She is an 1879 Steinway piano, and on March 22, she was being tuned by Talahi Island resident Anne Acker.
“Like you let a fine wine breathe, we had to give her a few days to acclimate from the rigors of her trip,” she said. “When she left our shop in Pennsylvania last week, there was 3 feet of snow on the ground.”
The piano was donated by a generous family in New Jersey and then meticulously restored by Acker, her husband Chris and their colleague Paul Gebhart. Acker, who plays harpsichord with the group Savannah Baroque and with the Savannah Philharmonic, is a historic keyboard specialist.
“This piano is a perfect size for this space, and she was made by the finest craftsmen during the golden age of piano manufacturing,” Acker said. “We restored her as a labor of love.”
New strings came from the Tennessee company, in business since 1850, which made the originals. Her rosewood was carefully refinished. Every bolt, screw and hinge was re-nickel-plated by a Connecticut company. Exact historic decals came from a specialist in Minnesota.
Acker tunes with the same technique as Franz Mohr, tuner for Vladimir Horowitz and former chief concert technician for Steinway.
“This is a really big deal for us. Sound like this is magical,” said Tybee Post Theater executive director Melissa Turner.
Board members Jim Kluttz and Bill Blakey listened as the sound filled the room and as Acker explained the intricacies of tuning, while playing a little Chopin. And the grande dame seemed to feel right at home on Tybee.