The 1929 Story & Clark 'REPROTONE' Player-Piano

ARTCRAFT Music Rolls' "Travelling Pianola"


Loading the 'REPROTONE' Player-Piano on Lee Street, in Wiscasset, Maine (USA)

Being an Arranger-Pianolist requires a bit of dexterity, since this means arriving at the Concert Hall with one's own Player-Piano! Here, using the elevating ramp and remote control electric winch, Mr. Henderson guides the 1929 upright along the metal tracks, which engage the steel 'piano tray' that supports the vintage piano. The instrument rolls on rubber wheels equipped with brakes, and the trailer features an on-board battery for the winch, electric dome lights and a ventilating fan. Both the 'attached' ramp and the piano are secured to the walls of the 5x8 Haulmark trailer by means of specially-designed straps and brackets. Piano moving is never a pleasant operation, but this customized piano-and-trailer combination for ARTCRAFT Music Rolls certainly simplifies the physical efforts involved in the process.

The Story & Clark 'REPROTONE' was a late and elusive development in the Player-Piano field. It was part of a short-lived series of small uprights which Story & Clark called 'Miniature Player Pianos' being "only four feet, two inches high", to quote the original late 'Twenties advertising. ("Fifty inches high" would have sounded much larger, by comparison!) These not-so-miniature pianos were available as standard 88-Note pedal-operated instruments, as pedal-electric 'reproducing' pianos called the "Repro-Phraso" (playing QRS-Recordo expression rolls) and as the "Reprotone" illustrated here. The latter instrument plays full-scale 88-Note rolls in 5 keys ... and via a built-in cutout system will play any brand of the so-called 'reproducing' rolls (Duo-Art, Ampico, etc.) in 3 adjacent keys a handy combination for concert purposes, when any type of roll and pitch might be required for a performance situation! The 'REPROTONE' was not an inexpensive Player-Piano, in spite of its somewhat diminutive size, for it sold for over $800.00 f.o.b. the Chicago factory ... considerably more than Ford automobiles of that day, and for about 1/4 more than many standard-sized upright player instruments.

Part of the cost was due to the quality of the piano by Story & Clark, which featured a voluminous tone and a bass resonance that was comparable to a good grand piano. The other portion of the price had to be the unusual design of this late Story & Clark player action, which allowed for valve regulation, the cleaning of the bleeds and the adjustment of the striking pneumatics while the upper stack remained inside the piano! In other words, this particular player could be regulated, to a great extent, without ever removing the mechanism from the piano. So efficient is the Story & Clark player action that the 'REPROTONE' can hold its vacuum at the end of a roll from 45 seconds to 2 minutes' time ... depending upon the atmospheric conditions and the 'tightness' of the pneumatic system.

Few instruments were ever built, and all 3 models known (at this time) were discovered by piano technician Robin Pratt in his Sandusky, Ohio area. Robin Pratt located this particular 'REPROTONE' player for ARTCRAFT Music Rolls and subsequently restored both the pianoforte and the unique player action. The restored piano made its public début at the annual 'Moxie Festival' in Lisbon Falls, Maine ... and its concert hall première took place at a prestigious college campus in Bangor, Maine shortly thereafter.

The 'REPROTONE' has appeared in musical events and concerts with many keyboard virtuoso pianists and composers, among them Masanobu Ikemiya, Matthew Davidson, Glenn Jenks, Jeff Barnhart, Mark Lutton, Galen Wilkes and William Albright to name a few. It has done much in the 'Nineties to present Interpretive Arrangements to both the general public and the musical community, showing the potential inherent in the Pianola if it is used in connection with the IMPROVED music rolls of today! Interpretive Arrangements have attracted the attention of any number of composers, some of whom have written for the Player-Piano ... and the presentation of ARTCRAFT Music Rolls (only) on the 'REPROTONE' has, in a large measure, contributed to the Pianola Renaissance going on in our own time.

The ARTCRAFT Studio is located in the 1837 Federal style residence, which can be seen behind the piano loading operation. Inside are 2 superb Steinway player grand pianos: a 7' "AR" Duo-Art electric model and a 6'6" pedal "O" instrument. All 3 Player-Pianos are part of the creation and presentation of ARTCRAFT Music Rolls, and collectively they present Interpretive Arrangements to a world that previously held stereotypical opinions about the musical potential of the pneumatic player action. When ARTCRAFT takes its virtuoso music rolls on-the-road, the 'REPROTONE' has been a reliable workhorse of an instrument. The piano's fullness of tone and 'singing' treble sonority contribute to the performance success of superlative music roll arrangements.

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ARTCRAFT Music Rolls, PO Box 295 (Lee St.), Wiscasset, Maine 04578 Telephone: (207) 882-7420