Happy tunes . . . Bruce Albiston is happy his Bechstein piano is getting good use.

Much like a voice, a Bechstein piano has a very unique sound with different tones and moods.

So it comes as no surprise that Bruce Albiston’s salon grand piano is called just that – grand.

“It’s essentially a large harp,” Mr Albiston said.

Made of mahogany, rose wood, and walnut, the piano, the grand sound of which will be featured in two Waitaki Arts Festival shows, was built in 1898.

It left the C Bechstein piano company factory in Berlin for New Zealand in 1901 after being purchased by John Forrester Reid, who owned Burnside Homestead in Elderslie.

Mr Albiston and his wife, Alison, bought the piano when they bought Burnside Homestead in 1974.

They were the third owners of the piano and hosted about 800 people annually for concerts and recitals at the homestead, he said.

From 1995 to 2017, the couple hosted more concerts with overseas artists than New Zealanders, he said.

This included regular visits from North American and British artists, some of whom offered to purchase the piano.

The only complaint from performers was that the piano was not played enough, so when the Albistons sold Burnside Homestead last year and moved into Oamaru, they had the piano housed in St Luke’s Church where it could get plenty of use and the community could continue to enjoy it.

“A good piano needs to be played,” Mr Albiston said.

The latest shows it would feature in were the Waitaki Arts Festival’s Poetry and Music in the North Otago Landscape and Michael Houstoun with the Rodger Fox Big Band’s performance at the Oamaru Opera House on October 22.

Band leader Rodger Fox said the performance would not have been able to go ahead without the generosity of Mr Albiston, especially under Level 2 restrictions which presented its own challenges.

“The only way to do the concert was to find [a grand piano],” Mr Fox said.

The piano also held a personal significance to pianist Michael Houstoun, as one of his earliest piano teachers was the late Maurice Till, who had played the Albistons’ grand piano previously.

The big band featured 18 different pieces, from saxophone and trombone, to electric keyboard, and the strength of the piano’s sound only added to the overall performance, Mr Fox.

“I am really please the band made the decision to bring the show to the South Island.”

The band would also perform in Queenstown, Invercargill, Christchurch, and Ashburton.