Hiring Steinway a 'gift' to community

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 13:00 14/02/2013

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A near-new Steinway grand piano has been shipped to Nelson from Wellington for a classical piano concert, because the Nelson-based organiser could not get his hands on one here.

Claire Rouault will perform at Old St John's in Hardy St tonight, in a concert organised by her partner J F Robert.

Old St John's is owned by Ali and Eelco Boswijk, who bought the former Methodist church last year.

Tonight's concert is its inaugural show as a performance venue, and Mr Robert said hiring the beautiful piano was "a present for Old St John's, for Claire, and for the community".

The former church was "a very special and beloved place in Nelson", and the Steinway concert grand, model D, was "without exaggeration" the dream piano of most pianists.

"I would like to raise funds to buy such a piano for Old St John's. That would be a wonderful challenge."

Mr Robert had to insure the instrument, hired from Positively Wellington Venues, for a value of $255,000. It arrived on a truck, after crossing the Cook Strait on a ferry.

He did not want to say how much it cost to hire the piano.

The writer, musician, and businessman said he was disappointed he couldn't find a grand piano in Nelson to use.

Nelson School of Music manager Frances McElhinney said the school had one, which the Theatre Royal and the Nelson Arts Festival had hired out in the past.

However, it was unavailable this week, as it was being used for the Adam Summer School.

"It's not unusual to hire them [pianos] from Wellington," she said.

Old St John's has a capacity of about 400 seats, and Mr Robert said about 250 tickets had been sold so far.

Tonight's concert would be recorded, and part of it would be broadcast on Radio New Zealand Concert.

Rouault, 25, was selected to study at the National Superior Music Conservatory of Paris, France's top music school, at the age of 15.

Mr Robert, who has been organising concerts in Paris for many years, acts as her agent.

The couple share their time between Nelson and Marahau, and they plan to tour the country later this year.

St John's Methodist Church was owned by the Nelson Methodist community for about 150 years, and the Boswijks are now living there.

The Nelson Arts Festival and Adam Chamber Music Festival have used the venue for performances in the past.

Tonight's concert begins at 7.30pm, and tickets are $15 from La Gourmandise, Hardy St, or TicketDirect. Door sales are available.

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- The Nelson Mail

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