OPAC's new Steinway and Sons piano makes its debut

Aug. 8—OXFORD — Some of the world's great young pianists will musically welcome a superlative new instrument to the stage of the Oxford Performing Arts Center this week.

The Steinway and Sons Concert Grand Model D with Spirio-r is unique in many ways — including being built specifically for OPAC and being the first one sold within the states of Alabama and Tennessee.

Those in the audience for the Rubato International Piano Competition Thursday through Saturday will just know it sounds amazing. Jon McClaran of Steinway and Sons tells The Anniston Star that's due to the piano being custom-tuned for its space.

"The piano will have a procedure performed on it by our technician called 'voicing,'" McClaran said. "Voicing will help to best fit the tone of the piano with the unique acoustics of the space where it lives — in this case, the OPAC concert hall."

The process will, said OPAC executive director John Longshore, "allow each note to carry throughout the center to every person in every seat."

Only a painstaking process of construction creates an instrument worthy of such attention. One of these 9-foot concert grand pianos takes 12 to 14 months to build.

"The raw materials, especially the wood, are usually harvested months, if not years before the piano construction begins," McClaran said. "Steinway pianos are constructed using several species of wood depending on what species are best suited for a particular component."

McClaran said very dense northern hard rock maple is used for the rim of the piano because of its strength and solid Sitka spruce is the wood of choice for the soundboard of the instrument due to its resonating properties in amplifying the sound of the piano.

"In all, over a dozen different species of wood can be used in a Steinway piano," McClaran said.

McClaran said another unique quality of the piano is the Spirio-r technology which has been integrated into the instrument.

"Spirio is an exclusive feature in which, with the touch of an iPad, you can have access to thousands of hours of piano music, perfectly replicated as it was recorded by the great artists of Steinway," McClaran said.

"This piano also faithfully records and plays back performances on the piano with resolution so high that the human ear is incapable of distinguishing the performance from the playback. Any parameter of the performance can be edited, saved and played on any other Spirio."

The "SpirioCast" feature allows for this new piano to give or receive performances from any other Steinway Spirio anywhere in the world live as it happens.

"This technology will connect OPAC with the rest of the world in a way that will bring positive attention to this great venue and to the community at large," McClaran said.

Longshore, of course, is delighted with the attention this piano brings to the second year of Rubato.

"The Rubato International Piano Competition is the perfect event to inaugurate OPAC's new magnificent Steinway Model D grand piano with state-of-the-art Spirio technology. This instrument was provided as a legacy gift to the Oxford Performing Arts Center and will provide both local and visiting artists the opportunity to perform on the highest caliber of pianos," Longshore said.

He added, "We are immensely grateful to donors Jerry and Sybille Goodson for their support of Rubato and our future school for the arts program with this gift."

With the start of the Rubato International Piano Competition and the debut of the new instrument, OPAC is hosting "The Steinway Experience" exhibit in its Martin-Lett Gallery.

The exhibit is open to the public and can be visited without charge during OPAC's normal business hours.

Staff Writer Brian Graves: 256-236-1551.