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Piano donation to theatre a grand gesture

Playbill pianist’s gift comes at a time when it’s needed the most
Bernadette Brown is very familiar with this Baldwin grand piano she donated to the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)

It can only be called a grand gesture.

The Chemainus Theatre has been working diligently on rolling out its season tickets and show lineup for 2022. In the midst of that, managing director Randy Huber received a nice surprise from Bernadette Brown, who recently retired as a Playbill Dining Room pianist.

Brown donated a beautiful nine-foot Baldwin concert grand piano to the theatre.

“It’s an amazing gift because the theatre’s old piano had long been on its last legs, and we haven’t been in a financial position to replace it – especially after two lost years to the pandemic,” noted Huber.

Brown was born and raised in Trail and also lived and worked in Edmonton and Calgary before her husband retired and they’ve resided in Saltair since 1998. She became involved at the theatre as a volunteer and pianist.

“I played in the dining room for almost 20 years,” Brown said. “COVID hit before the 20 years.

“The work atmosphere, the clientele, it was a great experience.”

The Baldwin piano that’s U.S. built had been in her house in Calgary and here.

Brown was initially recruited to play at the theatre by previous artistic director Jeremy Tow.

“I was interested in doing it,” she added.

That turned into a long tenure, alternating with Dwight Siemens.

Brown also taught piano within a home studio for beginners to advanced. She decided it would be appropriate to make the Baldwin piano a gift to the theatre so it can still be enjoyed by so many in the dining room.

“With the piano we had in this space, it wasn’t on the front burner but it was in need of being replaced,” acknowledged Huber. “It was a real godsend for us.”

It was quite another process to move the 1,200 pound piano into the Playbill Dining Room space.

“It was 20 minutes I would say getting it up the stairs,” said Huber.

James Movers of Victoria did the heavy lifting and it required six people to get the job done with a lot of sweat. Pulleys were employed as a significant part of the lifting technique.

“They earned their money,” laughed Huber.

“It is never moving from here. This is its last and final resting place for the rest of its useful life.”

Bernadette Brown with Chemainus Theatre managing director Randy Huber at the Baldwin grand piano she donated. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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