Giant piano hits the right note with music lovers

DREAM REALISED: Adrian Mann's dream has become a reality with the completion of his giant piano.
DREAM REALISED: Adrian Mann's dream has become a reality with the completion of his giant piano.

Magical, soulful, grunty and growly. And that's just how they described the piano.

The praise for the creator of arguably the largest piano in the world, 20-year-old Adrian Mann, was even greater.

There were even a few damp eyes as Mr Mann's dream became reality on Saturday, and his 5.7 metre-long piano was unveiled in its Pareora shed.

Mr Mann and a trio of invited pianists played everything from Blues to Beethoven on the monstrous instrument. The praise for the piano and its maker just kept on coming from the 100-strong audience of friends, family and supporters, invited to the inaugural recital of the Alexander piano.

And it all began with a couple of waratahs and a piano wire.

The then 15-year-old strung the wire between the waratahs, liked what he heard, and was convinced he could build a giant piano to recreate that deep bass sound made by the waratah and piano wire.

With only a handful of tools, and working initially in a neighbour's garage, Mr Mann began what was a project that would last more than three years.

The knockers said it couldn't be done, but he didn't listen.

When the growing piano became too large for the garage, it was moved to a neighbouring farm's tractor shed.

With no plans available for such a project, Mr Mann found himself having to design many of the piano's components. He hand-made four sets of the 700mm long piano keys before he was satisfied.

When traditional piano-building materials weren't available, he improvised. The spruce used for soundboards wasn't available so Mr Mann cross-cut Canadian Douglas Fir bought from a salvage yard instead. An estimated 85 per cent of the piano is made from recycled materials.

For the past three months, he has worked 12 hours a day to complete the piano, named after the great-great grandfather who brought his family to New Zealand in the 1880s.

Mr Mann's project is a success. The piano produces the sound he was after.

Christchurch pianist Kay Cox described it as "grunty and growly".

"Pianos have souls and hearts. And this has a beautiful heart like its maker." she said.

Compere Tony Bunting suggested the South Canterbury community should feel proud of what Mr Mann has achieved, in part, thanks to the donations and help given to him by so many local organisations, businesses and individuals.

Among those to assist was the AMP scholarship programme, which AMP's general manager of marketing and sponsorship Allan Hopson said assisted "ordinary folk to do extraordinary things".

"And that amply fits what you have done. The judging panel was inspired."

In recognition of the community's help with the project, the piano will be available to the community. Initially, it will stay in the shed to allow Mr Mann time to play it, but longer term, it will be housed at Grantlea Downs school.

And as for the next project?

Mr Mann says there isn't one. He's just relieved his dream is now a reality.

The Timaru Herald