While each donation to the Surrey Museum is special, some simply sing. A Landsdowne player piano, circa 1904, was recently donated and will now become part of the history gallery for visitors to enjoy. With sheet music for any song from Amazing Grace to the Batman theme, museum staff are excited about the addition.
“It’s a special piece,” explains curator Lana Panko. “Player pianos were once an important entertainment device for families. From 1890 to about 1920, they were the equivalent to Netflix today.”
Piano making became a major Canadian industry at the time. Skilled craftsman working in small shops produced just one to two instruments a month, increasing the demand dramatically. However, with the introduction of radio and sound films in the 1920s, the player piano craze faded. Extra pocket money was put toward new appliances like washing machines and vacuum cleaners instead.
For some families though, the player piano remained a priority. Peter Chittim, who donated his to the Surrey Museum, purchased his as an antique in 1967. The family did not want to let the piece go, but did not have space for it anymore.
This family heirloom will live on at the Surrey Museum. A specialist is scheduled to tune the piano and staff are being trained to play it.
“The cool thing about player pianos is if you don’t play them, they stop working,” explains Panko. “It’s like any tradition, you need to keep it going to keep it alive. We’re grateful to be part of keeping this family tradition alive.”
See it yourself at the Surrey Museum, 17710 56A Avenue. Hours of operation are Tuesdays to Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays and Statutory Holidays. Admission is sponsored by the Friends of the Surrey Museum Society. For more information, call 604-592-6956 or visit www.surrey.ca/heritage.