Harpsichord Bass

Early Keyboard Ventures

and related speculations by John Watson

Longman, Clementi & Co.
Organized Upright Grand Piano

(London, 1799)  The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation --  Accession no. 2012-150

Overall organized piano 1 Overall organized piano 2

After-treatment photos by Jason Copes, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. All rights reserved

In 2012, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation acquired this organized upright grand piano made by the Longman, Clementi & Co. in 1799 and first owned by the Tucker family of Williamsburg, Virginia. After spending only three years in Williamsburg, the instrument was transfered to Charles Carter of Shirley, a plantation on the James River. By 1807 it was transferred again to the Walker/Rives family of Castle Hill plantation in Albemarle County, Virginia, where the instrument stayed until 1947. After 55 more years, mostly in warehouse storage, the instrument returned to Williamsburg were it received thorough restorative conservation.  Jenna Simpson researched and summarized the instrument's interesting social history.

The restoration took place in the Instruments Conservation Lab at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (CWF). Under the direction of conservator John Watson, the project implemented principles of restorative conservation as defined in Watson's book Artifacts in Use: The Paradox of Restoration and the Conservation of Organs (Organ Historical Society and CWF, 2010) The Tucker organized upright grand piano is now fully playable, probably for the first time since the early 19th century, and is on exhibit in the Museums of Williamsburg where it is used regularly for demonstrations.
First Demo
Colonial Williamsburg musician Daniel Corneliussen with vocalists in first public demonstration of the organized piano.

Thomas Marshall recorded the following music on the instrument for the audio component of the exhibit. Video: Andrew Willis performing on the organized piano on October 22, 2016.
  (begins with piano alone; then organ alone at 6'30", then piano and organ together at 8'30")

Photo Albums
Pickup   Picking up the pieces from storage in Richmond, VA (11 photos)
Overall Conservation   First steps in conservation of the casework, organ, and piano (12 photos)
Bellows   Conservation of the bellows and chassis (14 photos)
Conservation of the Chest   Conservation of the wind-chest (30 photos)

 Also, this video shows a new method of measuring gaps within the chest for non-invasive shimming to stop leakage of wind from note to note.
Pipework conservation   Conservation of the pipework (14 photos)
Conservation of the piano  Conservation of the upright grand piano (31 photos)
Reproduction Action  Reproduction piano action (39 photos)

For more information

This preliminary article about the instrument was published in the Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society.

The instrument had been very well preserved, though in a non-playing state for most of its career. The lead-alloy organ pipes, however, had been badly mangled and were straightened out with Lou Dolive playing the most important role. These videos show the method and the results.

Also, the piano action had been discarded very early in the instrument's history, probably due to the complexity of keeping the combination instrument in regulation. A reproduction action had to be made (see action model video). The design of the reproduction action was based on 1990s drawings by David Law of the 1804 Clementi upright grand piano formerly in the Finchcocks collection. David's drawings were in preparation for John Secker's reproduction action for an 1806 Clementi upright grand piano for collector Kenneth Mobbs.

The trapwork for switching between piano and organ was mostly missing. This video shows the reconstructed trapwork before and after engaging with the organ. To play the piano and organ together, a handstop for switching between them  is moved to the piano position, then the organ is added by means of the pedal. This video shows the action of that pedal.

Installation day at the museum is partly captured in video 1 and video 2. This article in the Virginia Gazette tells more about the organized piano and its context in the Changing Keys exhibit.

A blog describes some of the early stages in the restorative conservation of the organized upright grand piano.

Conservation of the Tucker organized piano was made possible by a gift in memory of N. Beverley Tucker, Jr. and the work of the following dedicated conservators and specialists: