Buxton couple leave money for new Opera House grand piano

A Buxton couple’s legacy will live on through music after a generous bequest paid for a new grand piano for Buxton Opera House.

Money from the estate of David and Rowena Hammond has paid for the theatre’s new Yamaha grand piano - a gift which the Chairman of High Peak Theatre Trust, Carol Prowse, said they were hugely thankful for.

Pianist Dominic Degavino and Moira and Stan Mifsud surviving relatives of the Hammonds who's bequest purchased the new piano

Pianist Dominic Degavino and Moira and Stan Mifsud surviving relatives of the Hammonds who's bequest purchased the new piano

She said: “We’re so grateful for this very generous gift from Mr and Mrs Hammond.

“We wanted to dedicate the inaugural piano performance in the couple’s memory.

“Having such a high quality instrument will make a huge difference. It means we won’t have to hire pianos in, for many of our concerts in the future.”

The couple, who married in 1972 in Nottingham, moved to Buxton when David got a job as a history teacher at Buxton College, and Rowena initially worked at the Town Hall and then at Marks and Spencer.

The couple bought the old Post Office on Cavendish Circus in 1982. Rowena ran her Penny Post Antiques business selling principally pictures and chinaware. Rowena’s cousin, Catherine, performed with the Present Company - an amateur company - annually in Buxton.

Mrs Hammond died in November 2013 at home and David died in February 2015. Being such a private person, very few people attended his funeral.

The lives of the couple and their generosity was celebrated at a special concert at the Pavilion Arts Centre, hosted by patron Lady Jasmine Cavendish.

Jenny Mather, business development officer at the opera house, said: “This recital is the opportunity for friends and family to celebrate the lives of the couple and their wonderful gift to the town and the arts.”

The inaugural piano recital of the Yamaha C7X took place as part of the Pavilion Arts Centre’s Coffee Concert series.

Entertaining audiences on the keys was rising young musical star Dominic Degavino, who performed a programme of Ludwig Van Beethoven, Sergei Rachmaninov, Toru Takemitsu and Franz Liszt.

The piano also came with a special robot carrier to easily transport the piano safely to the nearby Pavilion Arts Centre and other venues.

Lady Jasmine Cavendish said at the event: “This is a piano that is said to ‘sing’ with a voice of refined grace.

“Unlike most of us, it is capable of producing a ‘clean sound, sparkling tune and transparent harmonies.

“Choosing a piano for the many varied performances that we have here is not at all an easy task.

“They haven’t just given us a piano, they have given all of us the gift of music in all its varieties, from panto, murder mystery, comedy, ice dance, musicals, and of course piano recitals like today.

“Music that will change the mood, fill one with emotion and music that will get our feet tapping.

“They gave us something that will bring artistry to life for years to come.”

The recital was attended by friends of the couple, and the new piano was well received.