The entire village turned up the next day to watch the unveiling of the single-piece, cast-iron frame. Father and the head engineer began to conduct many measurements to verify the accuracy of the stress bars, capo d’astro, hitch pins, pin blocks, and web. There was a deafening silence as the measurements and remeasurements took place. After about 15 minutes of waiting, something magical happened. Everyone could see my father’s victorious smile that stretched from one ear to the other. We had done it. Father had managed to successfully build the very first single-piece, cast-iron frame in all of Europe. It was a triumphant day for Denmark.
I was so proud of Father. I gave him a huge hug and declared, “You did it, Father!” Father looked at me with tears in his eyes and spoke softly to me, “My son, I couldn’t have done this without your support—the meals that you brought me every night, the words of encouragement when things weren’t going well. Thank you. I love you so much.”
The joyous occasion was short-lived. We had less than two months to finish the entire piano. The crew worked day and night. Slowly but steadily, it was all coming together; a rectangular piano with 6 ¾ octaves was emerging.
At last, a few days before we had to prepare the piano for shipment, the new piano was ready! A concert pianist was brought in for a performance for the townspeople. It was a starry night with a cool yet comfortable breeze. As the pianist began to play, we could immediately hear the beautiful, melodic music waft from the piano. It was warm, bright, clear, and simply brilliant—nothing short of a masterpiece.
It was the first single-frame piano in all of Europe! I couldn’t believe it. I thought to myself, “Now Father’s going to be famous. He might even be knighted!”
When King Frederik was informed of the wonderful news, he was overjoyed. His Majesty promptly visited our workshop. After seeing and hearing the piano, he declared, “This is indeed a masterpiece. Make Denmark shine at the exhibition!” The Copenhagen newspaper quoted the King praising Father’s accomplishment. I could sense the national pride as the public buzzed about the piano and our prospects at the Great Exhibition.
King Frederik generously made provisions for the piano to be shipped in a big, luxurious ocean liner. In addition to the rectangular single-piece, cast-iron piano, a cabinet piano was also packaged. With great care, a team of movers safely carried and secured the pianos onboard.
Father told me that the journey would be long and he was right. It took us a little over a week to reach London. The trip was bearable with our cozy bunk beds and great accommodations onboard, including the luxurious dessert and breakfast pastries. For lunch and dinner the King made sure we had an elaborate spread as should be for special guests of the King.
After arriving on British soil, the movers transported the pianos to the Crystal Palace. In the meantime, Father and I checked into our hotel, freshened up, and went out for dinner. I was thrilled when I found out that we would get free breakfast and afternoon snacks during our hotel stay.
This was my first time in London and my senses were taking in all the new sights, sounds, and people bustling about the major city. We ate at the oldest restaurant in London called Rules, which specialized in classic British food. It was great to eat something different besides fancy pastries and cruiseline food.
Early next day, we started for the Crystal Palace. As we approached the massive glass building, I was in utter awe. It took up 26 acres in Hyde Park with full-size trees inside! What a sight to behold!
Once on site, we found our designated area and began setting up our pianos. Other exhibitors quickly made their way to our exhibit and inquired about our marvelous pianos. When we showed them the single-piece, cast-iron frame, they were in disbelief. People applauded Father and his team for their engineering feat. I could see Father beaming with pride as the crowd validated his triumphant accomplishment.
Tomorrow was the big day, the first official opening day of the Great Exhibition. We were informed that Queen Victoria herself would be making the rounds tomorrow morning. How exciting! We were about to showcase the very best Denmark offered. I couldn’t wait to see Her Majesty, the Queen’s reaction. Denmark would be respected and admired among nations.
That night neither Father nor I could sleep; we were too excited. We couldn’t wait to see the Queen. If today’s reaction from other exhibitors was any indication, she would be so amazed!
We woke up to a polite knock on the door. A hotel staff brought in our breakfast on a shiny silver platter. After having our fill, we hurried to the Crystal Palace to ensure everything was in perfect order before the doors opened to the public. We anxiously waited for the opening ceremony.
Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition on May 1, 1851. The price of admission was £3 for gentlemen and £2 for ladies. The people came in throngs, in their elegant carriages, leaving them at a separate entrance to be valet parked.
But where was the Queen? We were on the edge of our seats. Then suddenly we heard the announcement of the Queen approaching. Dozens of royal escorts began to fill the exhibition hallway. There was a big commotion as the exhibitors stood up in response. The mood was absolutely electrifying. After a few minutes, the rest of the entourage filled the space. Then finally, the Queen emerged. It was Queen Victoria herself! I felt light-headed. Was this real? We had waited months for this moment. Our hearts were pounding heavily. Father’s face beamed with delight. What would the Queen say?