An Old Piano

Piano Tuning Story – Bernardo

I stopped at Bernardo’s house in St Albans on my way home yesterday. I had just finished tuning for a customer in the neighbouring suburb of Albion. Bernardo, a week earlier, had told me over speakerphone, in heavily accented English, and at a distance of 2 metres from his dining table where the phone lay, that his 18 mo old grandchild had broken his piano key. “You gotta fix it! When you gonna come!?” he shouts. I said, “Would you like it tuned as well?” “No!” he calls “Not necessary because no one play it!.. but I wannit fixed! How much it’s gonna cost!?”

It’s very hot when I arrive and it seems no one is about. An early ‘90s Mercedes sedan is parked in the carport of the house; the driver’s door stands open like a fire truck at the Fire Station; ready for anything. As I climb the front steps, Bernardo calls from behind the security door, “I’m a coming!” Inside, I put my tool case down and remove my shoes at the door. Anita, Bernardo’s wife, offers coffee, “Good Italian coffee!” says Bernardo, still shouting. “Anita, bring panettone!” I’m directed to sit at the table underneath a string of tiny paper red flowers encircling and dangling from the large decorated ceiling rose in the dining area. I then get 2 cups of excellent coffee and Bernardo’s loud and funny history of 50 years in Australia. The afternoon is getting on and asking for the toilet seems the right way to move things along and get to work. I’m shown the way to where Marylyn Monroe pouts from her poster on the outside of the toilet door; within, a watercoloured Linda Ronstadt looks on and the gold anodized picture frame epoxied to the wall around the toilet roll holder shows a nice touch. At the laundry trough to wash my hands, I very nearly call for help as I stare at the baffling arrangement of hand crafted plumbing in the sink outside the toilet.


Bernardo smiles and gives the thumbs up to his water works modification then leads me through and down the hallway towards the back of the house. We walk through what I can only describe as a ‘contemporary baroque’ interior; Frida Kahlo reds and blues shout from the walls and ceiling, Op Shop figurines and pictures in ornate frames cover most all of the wall space.
I fix the piano key on Bernardo’s 100+ y.o. overdamper with beautiful walnut veneer. It requires 20 minutes and some glue. The piano is gorgeous but beyond redemption on the inside. I gingerly clean up a few unisons on the piano to show Bernardo what his piano might have sounded like when it was able to be tuned. “No, it’s not so important, anyway, nobody can play! I like it fixed though!” he shouts, “It’s beautiful! I saw it in the Op Shop… I said “How much!? He say $300… but for you…$200!” We laugh. “ I like it” he shouts,” it’s so beautiful!”