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Interview With Mason & Hamlin Vice-President Tom Lagomarsino: The World’s Definitive Performance Instrument Lands In Vancouver


Sean Pacey with the Mason & Hamlin CC-94 Concert Grand

Distinguished concert artists around the world agree that the Mason & Hamlin CC-94 Concert Grand is, and of its own accord, nothing short of an orchestra. With every sympathetic stroke of the keys, this titan of musical engines sings with a prodigious voice. It was that voice which inspired long-time Vancouver piano purveyor, Sean Pacey of Pacey’s Pianos On Broadway, to bring the most exquisite in piano making to his hometown. Handmade in limited numbers with only one model in Europe on display in Zurich, Switzerland, and a select few exhibited across the USA, Sean Pacey’s highly venerated 9’ 4” Mason & Hamlin Concert Grand is a one of a kind in Canada.

In celebration of its arrival, Pacey’s Pianos On Broadway spoke with Mason & Hamlin Vice-President Tom Lagomarsino about the Ultimate Performance Instrument and the early days of the Boston-based house of Mason & Hamlin Piano Company.

What Can You Tell Us About The Sound & Feel Of The CC-94?

Responses from a survey of concert artists reveal a unanimous reverence for the qualities that the CC-94 displays. “It’s responsive and light to the touch, with excellent breadth of tonality, control, and sensitivity,” acknowledges Tom. Perfect weight in keys, with fast retraction and settlement, fullness, powerful bass, lyrical tenor, bell-like treble tones (enhanced by the upper section tunable aliquots), and tremendous sustainment are features that together define the Mason & Hamlin sound.

What Makes the Mason & Hamlin Distinct From The Rest Of The World?

Mason & Hamlins are known as the heaviest and world's costliest pianos to build. Tom notes, “This is because the design includes the heralded Tension Resonator, very thick first grade maple rims using a two-rim building process, a larger soundboard speaking area, full perimeter plates on each model, and simply contains more hardwood, iron, steel and brass than other pianos.” Indigenous lumber from the North Eastern Adirondacks and Canada is the choicest of hardwood used.

Why Do Words Like ‘Exertion’ And ‘Elegance’ Best Describe Mason & Hamlin?

It begins with the design. Richard W. Gertz is credited with the renowned patent and design of the Tension Resonator first introduced in Mason & Hamlin pianos in the year 1901. This supports the tremendous instrument and unique design, using the two-rim process, an inner and outer rim, which is unprecedented in the piano-building world today.

What Comments Can You Make Regarding All-American Stewardship?

“It’s a great privilege to be associated with such a respected name as Mason & Hamlin, and is now one of only two performance grade American piano manufacturers building pianos by hand. Our stewardship has dramatic challenges like the recent economic times, the dedication and commitment to using the very finest materials using an equally costly quarter-sawn technique for cutting our hardwood.” This insures the strongest cuts of lumber for our rims, pin-blocks, bridges and other components of our instruments.

The Mason & Hamlin Saga – How Has The Engineering Evolved?

Since the late 1800s the brand has continued to be the major player in conservatories, concert halls, teaching rooms and places of high estate. Both Rachmaninoff and Maurice Ravel played on Mason & Hamlins during their first US concert tours. The Burgetts have reinvested a great deal into the renaissance the company has experienced over the last fifteen years, bringing four new models into production with a passionate dedication and commitment second to none.

The work philosophy today is much like when Henry Mason & Emmons Hamlin started the company in 1854. “A rigorous commitment to industry, knowing that creativity, innovation, long hours and dedication are proven models for success which have worked for Mason & Hamlin for over 157 years,” insists Tom. Kirk Burgett and Bruce Clark, who have been with the company since the early 80’s, researched and studied the Mason & Hamlin concert instruments built in earlier eras. They wanted to improve upon all of the enduring family characteristics, features and attributes, everything that has historically contributed to the Mason &Hamlin sound and success into the CC-94 pianos, the first two of which were completed in 2006.