Our Bösendorfer Piano
The Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s great fortune in being the recipient of the generous gift of the Bösendorfer piano dates back to the 1930’s during the last years of the Great Depression, when Rem Stokes was growing up in Greenville. His mother took in extra knitting at night in order to afford piano lessons for her son, and he studied piano for four years with Mrs. Bass on Toy Street from the age of eight until twelve. But that short amount of study engendered a lifelong love of piano, and Rem has played ever since.
This Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand piano was built in Vienna in 1988. It was acquired by a concert hall in Chicago and was kept, along with a few other concert grand pianos, so that visiting pianists could choose which concert grand piano they wished to use while performing there. Our Bösendorfer has been signed by several artists who performed on it, including Garrick Ohlsson, Janice Larson Razaq, and Cecil Taylor.
After four years in the concert hall, Rem bought the piano for his personal use, and he and his late wife Lee had it in their home in Inverness, Illinois, for twenty-five years. Four years ago, they moved into a retirement community, where the piano wouldn’t fit, so he stored it at their UU church in Palatine, IL. (In case you’re wondering, Rem and Lee had already given a Steinway concert grand piano to their church, so he knew they didn’t need a second large piano.) Rem has visited us when in Greenville to attend Clemson reunions, and somewhere along the line he got the idea that we might like to have this remarkable instrument. So GUUF is the fortunate object of his generosity.
The Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand piano is 9’6” long and weighs 1217 pounds. It has 97 keys, 9 more than the usual 88, with the additional keys being extra bass notes (all black keys so as not to confuse pianists who are used to the traditional 88). It is generally considered to be one of the finest pianos in the world.