Plenty of work for go-anywhere piano
DIY music man develops a grand idea
It took Roxburgh musician Alastair Monteath six months of evenings and weekends to turn his keyboard into a mobile, selfpowered grand piano. Mr Monteath, a classical, contemporary and jazz musician, who also plays the trumpet and flugel horn and sings, wanted to be able to play at the increasing number of events, particularly weddings, being held in remote places. But every time he got one of these gigs, he had to hire a generator. So last year he began making a transportable, battery-run piano. He had never seen one like it, so had no template to follow. He used 3mm thick custom wood – similar to very fine chip wood flooring – to create the rounded shapes of a grand piano, gluing five layers together to make it strong. Hiding his keyboard in the shell, he used materials such as copper, cotton and brass to create imitation innards of a grand piano, making his creation look authentic. The piano stool hides a 12-volt golf cart battery and an inverter which converts it to the 240-volts needed to run the keyboard and public address sound system. "Necessity is the mother of invention," Mr Monteath said. Most of the $2000 cost of the contraption went on a professional paint job by a Cromwell firm. "But it was worth it, because that’s what make it look like a grand piano." One of Mr Monteath’s musical passions is jazz but he said, these days, the people who traditionally hired five-piece jazz bands - such as restaurant owners and brides and grooms - could no longer afford to. So he plays his various instruments and uses high-quality recorded backing tracks – some of which are of his own music – to create the sound of a fivepiece jazz band, for the price of a soloist. "It gets quite lonely when you do it all on your own, but I’m getting quite a lot of work." Mr Monteath’s day job is teaching music at secondary schools throughout the Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes districts. He returned to his hometown of Roxburgh three years ago, after teaching music at Invercargill’s James Hargest High School for 22 years.
GRAND IDEA: Using a golf cart battery, a keyboard and custom wood, Roxburgh musician Alastair Monteath has built a mobile, self-powered electric grand piano, enabling him to play in remote spots where there is no power.