The gift of music

Posted on: 10th December, 2018

Category: Music Box

Contributor: Gary Hannon

Gary plays with the Clonakilty Jazz Collective every Monday night in the Emmet Hotel and once per month on Sunday afternoons in De Barra’s, both in Clonakilty.

Writing a monthly music article it should come as no surprise that I believe that music makes a perfect gift. You could tune up Grannie’s old piano, buy music lessons for a loved one, or buy an instrument for a young relative. Music is the gift that keeps giving. There is a one-stop shop in Bandon which should cater for most musical needs. They have been in the business for so long, that you can be sure that you will get an excellent service. And in these times of global sales, it is good to feel that you are helping businesses that support our local community.

Jonathan Smyth

Jeffers started as a grocers on the Main Street in Bandon in 1904. In 1971, a music department was added, dealing in pianos and organs. It is now a general music shop, specialising in ‘the king of instruments’ the piano, but selling a wide range of instruments from €5 tin whistles up to €10,000 grand pianos. I spoke with the guy who runs the business, Jonathan Smyth. He describes his career, “How it started for me was as a summer job at 75p an hour when I was 15 or 16. I would go down to Jeffers, where they had the shop on the Main Street, where they used to sell TVs and organs. I finished college in 1992, I came back and I’ve been working there ever since. I became a partner in the business, so I’m a shareholder and a director of it now. Alex Jeffers is the ‘silent partner’, concentrating on being a pilot.”

What are the trends in instruments over the years? “When the recession hit, piano sales—because they are expensive—dropped by 60 per cent, but the shop grew organically. People didn’t have the money to buy an expensive piano, but they’d buy a guitar for €99 and put their money into guitar lessons. So we had to stock guitar strings, plectrums, capos, tuners, and all the accessories; and the same for violins. We provide a repair service for all instruments as well. The manager, Leo Guedan, is very talented at repairs. He’s also the conductor of the Bandon Brass Band. Now people are back making reasonably big purchases and buying quality instruments.”

What is the perfect Christmas gift for the music lover in your life? “To me the guitar is a perfect gift. You can play it anywhere. You can carry it around. If you go to someone’s house, there’s a guitar, you can pick it up. It’s easy to learn how to play a chord on it [without reading music]. And if people are looking for something — anything they want — we’ll try to find it.

“Trad is huge in West Cork! We do a rental scheme on trad instruments, which can give someone an introduction to an instrument. So say if someone wanted to try a concertina, they could come in and rent a concertina for six months. And then if they wanted to stick to it they could buy it, or they could hand it back. If they buy it they get half the rental back against the retail price. Or they can give it back and get a better instrument, and the money comes off the cost. That goes for pianos and a lot of instruments too.”

“It’s like renting a Ferrari!”

Their vans can be seen all around the county. Jonathan explains, “A huge part of our business is piano rental. The Steinway Concert Grand is worth €180,000—it’s like renting a Ferrari! We are piano movers and tuners too. Piano tuning is my qualification. Standard piano tuning is about €100 to €150 depending on the area.

Or instead of buying or renting an instrument, music lessons are taught there. “We rent out two Music Rooms, with teachers for piano, accordion, flute, etc. There must be 100 students a week coming in and out of our place.”

Are online sales a threat to your business? “It’s very difficult for a general music shop to make a living. Online sales are a huge threat! The difference between buying local versus buying off the internet: if you buy a digital piano, for instance, they come in a massive box, and you’ve got to set it up. But also in some of the small print from some of the websites, it says under your warranty you have to keep the original packaging to send it back in; and if you don’t send it back in the original packaging… Whereas if anyone buys if off us, they get it delivered, set up, at no charge. We also introduce them to the instrument, show them how to turn it on and off, etc. And if anyone has a problem, we will fix it onsite, or pick it up and bring it in, and you don’t get charged for it.”

You can’t ask for much more than that.

Full details are on piano.ie

My gigs of the month are: Jessie Kennedy and Justin Grounds: We Are the Dark Night Ocean – Record Launch Show: De Barra’s, Sunday, December 16 at 8pm. Tickets are €12. Full details are at: debarra.ie

Also: Talos in Connolly’s of Leap on December 26 (the December 30 show is sold out.) Tickets are €15. Details at connollysofleap.com

If you have any comments or events, you can contact me by email gary@westcorkpeople.ie

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