A Joanna with a past

September 13, 2018

 

This amazing turn of  the century British Broadwood and White upright iron overstrung Piano, which was found upside down and abandoned in a chateau in the South of France by us in 2002. We rescued it, and asked the glamorous Parisian owners of the house , who were in their  mid to late 90s by that time, why it was abandoned.

This incredible story is what they told us.

Many of the owners friends were famous French actors, writers and musicians, and had all  been frequent visitors to the house in the 1950s and 1960s. They held wild parties at the house, but by the mid 1970s, the visits and the parties became less frequent and eventually the piano was abandoned in the cellar. They told us that among others, Serge Gainsbourg  Juliette Greco, and Johnny Halliday were frequent guests, and they would play the piano and everyone would sing along, with accompanying guitars, tambourines, saxophones and whatever else was on hand.

They told us that before the 1950s the Piano had briefly been in their apartment in Paris, and they had acquired it from none other than the Folies Bergere in Paris, due to the Madame having been a principal dancer there. She had begun there in 1920s in its hey-day, and had been working in the chorus line when Josephine Baker first danced there in 1926, outraging society for her erotic dancing, and famously not much of a costume except a banana skirt.

 

 

Madame told us that the Piano was used in all the great revues of the time, but once the pedals and several of the keys had finally worn so thin or broken from the Blues and Jazz that it had blasted out for over 50 years, after the war it had been cast out, and she acquired it. Madame continued to dance at the Folies Bergere for a further 10 years until the mid 1950s when she married and moved to the South of France with her piano.

 

When it was restored by us in 2003, we found a menu from The Folies Bergere from the 1930s, some old sheet music, and several tickets and programmes stuck inside the mechanism. The piano has remained with us since. First in our home in France, and then London, and has now found a special place at Landers House, where it will continue to fill the house with its Honky Tonk sound, and is played by the many musicians who visit the house.

 

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