Historic French Piano Donated to Music and Worship

This historic French piano arrived at Cedarville University on Aug. 22 and will be restored for performance. Professor John Mortensen, right, inspects the piano shortly after it arrived on campus. Photo credit: Scott L. Huck/Cedarville University

This historic French piano arrived at Cedarville University on August 22 and will be restored for performance. Professor John Mortensen, right, inspects the piano shortly after it arrived on campus. Photo credit: Scott L. Huck/Cedarville University

by Jenni Hodges, Public Relations Writer

August 23, 2013

The strings are rusty and the keys are stained, but John Mortensen said a year’s work will restore a historic French piano recently donated to Cedarville University.

The piano was built in the 1870s by the illustrious Erard company and was previously housed in the home of the anonymous donor in Springfield. Safe Harbor House, a ministry founded by associate professor of educational ministries Joy Fagan, recently acquired the house and donated the piano to the University. Once fully restored, the piano will have a value up to $30,000.

Mortensen, a professor of piano, said the instrument is in surprisingly good condition. “I can’t believe it’s survived,” he said. “Usually there’s significant damage to an instrument of this age.”

But even after a century’s deterioration, the 7-foot grand piano is structurally sound — and incredibly heavy. “It’s built like a tank,” Mortensen said.

Piano technician Doug Atkins will be restoring the instrument, including its ornate woodwork, and assistant professor of music history Sandra Yang plans to trace the piano’s history.

Yang said Erard pianos are especially interesting because the company devised advances that allowed great piano composers to play with power and speed. “It’s an important instrument in the development of piano literature,” Yang said.

However, Mortensen said the instrument offers Cedarville much more than historic interest. “We’re going to play it,” he said. “It’s going to be a performance instrument, not a museum piece.”

Once restored, Mortensen said the piano will have a distinct tone and provide an accurate period instrument for students to play. “It’s totally different from how a modern piano works,” he said.

Next year, Mortensen said the University will host a debut event to unveil the finished instrument.

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University attracts 3,400 undergraduate, graduate and online students to more than 100 areas of study. Inspiring greatness for over 125 years, Cedarville is a Christ-centered learning community recognized nationally for rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. Visit the University online at www.cedarville.edu.