What is really behind a finely-tuned performance?

01 October 2018

Easley does it

Piano Technician, Glenn Easley
Piano Technician, Glenn Easley

You are probably already familiar with the names Schubert, Beethoven and Mozart, recognising them as some of the greatest composers and pianists to date. But do Gerhartz, Mohr or Easley ring any bells, tap any keys?

Universally considered among the finest piano technicians around, these names belong to the unsung heroes of the world’s concert halls. Hard to come by, and in steep demand, the University of Auckland’s School of Music is privileged to have one of the best of a limited bunch to hand.

Paramount to any top-drawer piano performance is a perfectly tuned piano. The painstaking responsibility of a highly-polished, behind-the-scenes professional at the University’s School of Music, comes in the shape of Yorkshire-born Glenn Easley. With Glenn on board, the perfect playing condition of the School’s fine collection of pianos is safeguarded at all times.

Growing up in northeastern Thatcherite Britain was a crushing concept for most career aspirations. However, this only served to provide Glenn with the impetus to think outside of the box in terms of how he was going to make a living. He eventually resolved upon a training course in piano technology at the City of London Polytechnic, more glamorously known today as London Guildhall University. Significant successive training at Steinway Hall in London, under the supervision of Bob Glazebrook, saw the unfolding of a remarkable career in this highly specialised field. Starting out as a concert tuner in London for clients including EMI Abbey Road Studios, The BBC Proms, and all London orchestras, led Glenn to his appointment as Steinway’s Technical Representative for the North of England, Wales and Scotland. Here he worked with fantastic institutions and events such as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Leeds International Piano Competition, and at several BBC venues.

 

Fine tuning a stately Steinway
Fine tuning a stately Steinway

Off the back of his niche, Glenn was able to travel across three continents, servicing pianos along the way. Upon his return to the UK he settled in Manchester, setting up and maintaining piano stocks at the Bridgewater Hall, home of the Hallé Orchestra. In addition, he took charge of BBC Philharmonic and the Royal Northern College of Music pianos concurrently, as Steinway and Sons’ ‘Institutional Consultant’.

In search of a quieter life and a break from an intensely busy schedule brought Glenn to New Zealand in 2003. However, the devoted tuner in him soon became restless. Before too long Global Piano Services (GPS) was born, uniting, ‘a unique team comprising some of the world’s most experienced independent concert piano tuners and technicians.’

The team of five service some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls across the UK, Europe, The Americas, Asia and Australasia. Such is their international appeal that GPS is often mistaken as a central London-based operation. In reality of course, headquarters can be found in Dairy Flat, a rural town 30 kilometres north of Auckland!

Part-owner of the Auckland Used Piano Centre, Glenn sources first-class pianos from around the world. Such acquisitions provide New Zealand clients with quality instruments they can purchase with confidence. Furthermore, his current portfolio extends to Piano Technician, not only at the University of Auckland, but also for the Auckland Town Hall, Auckland Philharmonia and the University of Canterbury. Additionally, Glenn is advisor to both the Queensland Orchestra in Australia, and the Sao Paolo Orchestra in Brazil. So much for a quiet life!

Many major cities across the world boast some incredible concert halls, yet remain bereft of their own professional piano technicians. Nevertheless, as we now know, a perfectly tuned piano is foremost for a faultless performance. With this in mind, we can appreciate just how fortunate New Zealand is, to be home to a specialist at the very top of his game.

Although often found blending into the background, piano tuners across the world deserve a massive shout out for their pivotal roles in prolific performances and studio recordings. We reserve a special mention of course for the leader of the pack, Glenn Easley. Not bad at all for a non-piano-playing Yorkshire lad: a unique vocation, but it would seem he chose rather well.

 

 

Kate Sumner