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Music by the ton comes to arts center

Music by the ton comes to arts center

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BLOOMINGTON - Their major components are hard maple and felt, but David Horine sounded like he was talking about people when he spoke about two grand pianos' need to settle into their new home.

"They have souls ? no doubt about it," said Horine, the owner of Horine's Pianos Plus, 1336 E. Empire St., Bloomington, where the pianos were purchased.

A full concert grand, a semi-concert grand and a Boston upright studio piano, all from Steinway & Sons, were moved Wednesday afternoon onto the stage at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts as part of a $14 million renovation.

The building will open Sept. 16.

The city is leasing the pianos for $128,362 through a 10-year plan after which it can buy the pianos for $1 each from Horine, who himself contributed more than $53,000 to reduce the city's cost.

Cultural District Executive Director Bruce Marquis said 90 percent of national touring performers insist on using Steinways.

"Most performers will not play on anything else," Marquis said.

When not in use, the grand pianos will be kept in a special storage unit designed to keep the pianos at 70 degrees and 38 percent humidity.

Marquis said the $10,000 storage unit is far from an extravagance. "This is $169,000 in (grand) pianos," Marquis said. "The better they are stored, the longer they will last."

The typical life of a Steinway is about 150 years, Horine said, but that drops to 30 years in a demanding concert setting.

Steinways are built by hand, so there are slight variations in how the more than 13,000 parts are assembled, Horine said. "That makes everyone they make different," he said.

Horine selected the two grands from 13 he tested at the Steinway studio in New York City in April.

"It's very easy to eliminate two or three right off," Horine said. "After I narrowed it to two of each size, I could have spent days trying to decide which one to pick."

Steinway only gives dealers one day in the studio. Horine had to consider the acoustics and size of the hall and whether the pianos had enough body and color in their tones.

Horine said the best test was to play a variety of music.

"Some pianos are concerto pianos and (they have) got to be a powerhouse to compete with an orchestra," Horine said. "But it has to be capable of playing something soft and delicate. The piano's action also has to be ready for a pianist to be able to move through something quick, like Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue.' And you don't want something that is sharp or harsh. You want the sound embracing the people in the back row."

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