Our campaign - at Saint Agnes Church (1913) in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn is to rebuild the concert grand piano, currently silenced and in disrepair. When this impressive piano is restored, this concert grand will help launch a concert series in the majestic German inspired neo-Gothic style church designed by notable, Brooklyn ecclesiastical architect, Thomas Francis Houghton (1842-1913).
The church’s soaring granite edifice, ornate stained glass windows, vaulted ceilings, and fine ecclesiastical detailing will provide visitors with one of the most spiritually uplifting and aesthetically pleasing venues. This inspirational setting will showcase Brooklyn’s rich and diverse musical talents and deliver a unique aural experience with its heavenly acoustics.
Saint Agnes and the Wissner Piano Company are deeply rooted in 19th Century Brooklyn. Created by immigrants, both the piano and the church reflect European culture, aesthetics and sensibilities.
In 1878, Saint Agnes parish started with a small wood frame structure but the church proved to be too small to accommodate a burgeoning immigrant community. Unfortunately, an enlarged interim church was destroyed by fire in 1901. Design plans for the current structure began almost immediately with construction starting in 1905 and completion in 1913.
In a neighboring Brooklyn community, the German immigrant, Otto Wissner (1853–1932) established the Wissner Piano Company in 1878. His factory was located on Atlantic Avenue and his distinctive pianos were sold nationally, from his “warerooms” on Fulton Street. His celebrated instruments were featured in concert halls including the Brooklyn Academy of Music and used by individual artists in performances at Carnegie Hall.
Considered “a thoroughly skilled piano maker,” Wissner’s concert pianos were the instrument of choice for Anton Seidel (1850-1898) pianist, Rudolf Frimal (1879-1972) pianist, Emil Paur (1855-1932) conductor, Arthur Hochman, pianist and Julie Rive King (1854 -1937), composer and pianist. The latter used Wissner’s concert grand piano on her four year concert tour of the United States.
While the church weathered its centenary best, the Wissner piano has not. Its critical components have dried, cracked or broken rendering this fine instrument, silent. A silence that has lasted for decades! Your financial support will restore this concert grand piano, making it once again, concert worthy and serve as an accompaniment for our future community concert series.
Restoration requires a full replacement of all action parts; full keyboard servicing; re-weighting of hammers and keys; resetting/rebuilding of the pedal lyre; and a full regulation of the action, tuning and voicing.
Brooklyn’s master restorer, Brian Whiton is a registered Piano Technician (RPT). Whiton commenced his study of the art and trade of piano tuning and repair in Minnesota at the Steinway and Sons retail giant, Schmitt Music. Since moving to Brooklyn in 2001, he has worked with several of the finest piano rebuilders and tuners in New York City. His specialty is piano action rebuilding, which is the critical need for the Wissner concert grand.
According to Whiton,“ I enjoy every aspect of this trade….from basic tasks like a crisp tuning or small repair, to larger endeavors such as the giving of an entire new life to an ailing piano.”
As a donor, you will receive periodic email restoration progress reports and via our online “piano-cam,” you’ll be able to watch Whiton as he restores the piano. Your help is the key component in making this piano, grand, once more; assuring it strikes its highest and most melodious notes for all of Brooklyn to enjoy.
Risks and challenges
The Wissner concert grand piano which measures nine feet long has been examined by several piano specialists. Each expert commented on its unique sound, beauty and solid construction. Once restored, the appraised value is estimated to be in the high five figure range. Its soundboard, the internal harp, frame, case, and tuning pins are rated in excellent condition. All of the specialists who examined the instrument state that the Wissner piano’s appraised value far exceeds its restoration cost.
The numerous parts and the expertise to rebuild the action board and keys are all readily available. There is absolutely no concern that this project would not be completed because of the lack of parts or unrepairable internal components.
Once funding is in place, the restoration of the piano will commence immediately. Whiton estimates that the work will be completed in two months. When the Wissner is returned to the church, our community concert series will begin to the delight all of Brooklyn.
- (30 days)