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A Piano Orchestra.

Philadelphia has been the subject of many quips on account of alleged somnolence. A recent event would seem to show that, if she is still asleep, it is not for lack of effort to waken her.

Ex-Postmaster-General Wanamaker, known as the proprietor of the largest department-store system in the world, celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of his entrance into business by engaging fifteen prominent pianists and organists for a simultaneous performance on as many pianos. They were, moreover, assisted by a pipe-organ, on which daily recitals were given during the month, a hymnolia, and two bass trumpets. The program, which was given morning and afternoon, attracted thousands, who thronged every nook of the immense store. The selections comprised national airs and ended with Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” The effect is described as novel and overpowering. Certainly, if Philadelphia were asleep, such an harmonic onslaught ought to have awakened her effectually.

In his musical forces Mr. Wanamaker was more fortunate than was Gottschalk on a similar occasion. In the latter’s “Reminiscences of a Pianist” he tells of directing the March from “Tannhäuser” played on fourteen pianos at a concert in San Francisco. It was so successful that it was arranged to repeat it in another concert.

At the last moment one of the players fell ill. His place was supplied by an amateur, who, on rehearsal, proved utterly incompetent. Gottschalk felt painfully embarrassed. He dared not imperil the success of the concert by allowing him to play, while he did not wish to offend the young man and his family, who were rich and influential, by requesting him to yield his place. His tuner solved the problem by removing the entire action from an upright piano. It was placed in a prominent position on the stage and assigned to the young amateur. Carelessly eyeing the audience, he executed the most difficult passages with consummate ease. Unfortunately, just before acceding to a tumultuous demand for an encore, he attempted to run a chromatic scale on his piano, and was stupefied to find that his touch brought no response. Gottschalk had seen the little comedy and hastily signaled the beginning of the piece. Our young man fell in with the others perforce, and went through the motions of playing with sufficiently ill grace. At the end he complained that his piano had mysteriously broken down just before the encore.

Gottschalk managed to keep his face straight, but the story was too good to keep, and it soon made the rounds, much to the displeasure of the unlucky amateur, who, of course, soon heard it.

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