Birthday Wish Brings Sweet New Sound to Acworth Congregation
The last time Donna McPherson’s hands touched a fresh set of 88 piano keys at Park Street Baptist Church was during a calendar year that ended in those same double digits — 1988, when she was 17.
But weeks before her 51st birthday on June 24, she received an unexpected gift, one bequeathed by a local piano store owner that granted an early wish and answered many years of prayer.
McPherson and her congregation experienced the surprise of a lifetime with news that their little Acworth chapel was having an immaculately restored Kimball horizontal baby grand piano wholly donated, professionally delivered and perfectly positioned on the pulpit by a local music gallery owner.
“The church sounds and feels amazingly alive again,” said McPherson, a 1989 Etowah High School graduate and former touring gospel musician. “Music brings everything to life, especially since our old upright piano was on its last legs. So I’ve earnestly prayed for years God would someday soon work something out for us.”
In the spring, members of Cartersville’s Center Baptist Church visited Park Street during its annual revival. When Center members heard the woeful sound of Park Street’s old upright piano barely carrying a tune, they banded together to form a Pennies for a Piano fundraising campaign.
After making several calls to area piano stores for pricing, lifelong Center member Bob Bearden of Cartersville asked his master-musician daughter, Julie Bearden Carver, if she knew anyone nearby who could help. She knew exactly who to call — Dan Wilson of World Class Piano Gallery in Woodstock.
“If anyone could help us with our piano project, it most certainly was Dan,” Carver said.
With prices soaring by the day, Wilson didn’t want to wait for the fundraising goal to be met, so he took matters into his own hands and heart and offered one of his showroom trade-ins at no cost to Park Street.
The vintage mid-1970s-era Kimball baby grand, valued at $3,000 retail, was a perfect fit.
“I’ve been very blessed the past several years,” said Wilson, whose store is at 9740 Main St. near Highway 92. “In times like these, we need to count our blessings, and I definitely have plenty to count. There was no better time than now.”
Wilson and his three-man crew even took away Park Street’s old upright, hoping to refurbish it so the congregation could donate it to another chapel in need. Or, if it can’t be restored to his highest standards, Wilson said he’ll pull another trade-in to donate in the old piano’s unsalvageable place.
Deacon Mark Pope of Acworth, a lifelong member of Park Street, was at the church May 24 when Wilson and his World Class Piano crew arrived with the Kimball baby grand.
“Y’all have no idea what this means to our church,” Pope told the crew that day. “We are forever grateful, and we hope this blessing will pass on to others as it has to us.”
Center Baptist’s inspiration to act and Wilson’s generous gesture are just the beginning of this story. On the surface, natural eyes might see only a singular act of benevolence from a local piano store owner, but its symbolism in form and function deserves a deeper look through a spiritual lens.
A sharper focus reveals three intertwined trials by fire spanning many decades and many miles that brought these grand trinity tales of faith, music and worship full circle.
The first trial by fire occurred in the late 1800s, when the W.W. Kimball Piano Co. of Chicago burned to the ground. It was as much of a historical loss to the music culture back then as it was a crushing blow to the fine art of piano manufacturing.
Not long after the fire, Kimball rebuilt its massive factory in the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park, but the Great Depression and two world wars would follow in apocalyptic threes to decimate supply chains for wood, steel and labor force.
The totality of these soul-crushing events would nearly wipe out one of the most-renowned names in American piano manufacturing history, but its heirs merged with Indiana’s Jasper Corp. to form a diversified Kimball International Inc. in 1974.
Five years before the Kimball resurgence, another trial by fire smoldered hundreds of miles away, along the shores of Lake Acworth. Members of Park Street Baptist invested the time and sweat-equity expense to rebuild their sanctuary from the ground up on actual remnants of the former chapel. While manpower was in shorter supply back then, faith was at an all-time high.
But the most dramatically miraculous of these three trials is found in Wilson’s testimony.
After losing his beloved downtown Rome piano stores 21 years ago from financial fallout following Sept. 11, Wilson found his industry financially decimated and himself homeless.
He barely hung on during the years that followed, but he was able to slowly climb his way back into the piano wholesale business, initially working from his Canton home showroom, then moving to his current gallery. It, too, has been built from the ground up by his own hands and an unyieldingly artful passion for piano music and manufacturing.
“I’d find myself asking God, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’” Wilson said about his previous Job-like trials. “But today, when I quietly ask God the same, it’s taken on a whole new and positive meaning.”