How the Grinch De-Tuned Christmas

By Carl Radford, RPT
(With a little help from Dr. Seuss)

(Reprinted with permission from the President's Message in the December, 2011 Partial Post, official newsletter of the North Shore Chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild.)


Every kid in Northshoreville liked music a lot...
But the Grinch, who lived north of Northshoreville, Did NOT!
The Grinch hated music! Not a soul knows the reason,
But especially during the Yuletide season!

It could be, perhaps, that his hat was too tight.
It could be one eyelid that drooped to right.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his ears were two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason, his ears or his lids,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, just hating the kids,
Hearing them play with a sour, Grinchy frown, 
On the well tuned pianos below in their town. 

For he knew every kid, each Northshorevillian squirt, 
Was practicing now, for their Christmas concert. 
"And they're singing their carols!" he snarled with a sneer, 
"Tomorrow is Christmas! It's practically here!" 

Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming, 
"I MUST try to stop all this strumming and thrumming!" 
For Tomorrow, he knew, all the girls and boys, 
Would wake bright and early. Then they'd open their toys!

Then they’d go to the Hall and play songs! Oh, the Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
That's one thing he hated! The NOISE! 

And THEN They'd do something He liked least of all! 
Every Northshorevillian, the tall and the small, 
Would stand close together, and sing every last song, 
Of the whole Handel do-it-yourself Sing-along!

And they'd sing! And they'd sing! And they'd SING! 
And the more the Grinch thought of this town Christmas-Sing, 
The more the Grinch thought, "I must stop this whole thing!"

"Why, for fifty-three years I've put up with it now!" 
"I MUST stop the music from coming! But HOW?" 
Then he got an idea! An awful idea! 
"I know just what to do!" Should have thought of it sooner!”
"With a pocket protector, I’d look just like a tooner!"
"What a great Grinchy trick! The Grinch laughed till he split. 
And he made a piano technician’s tool kit. 

The Grinch knew quite well that his ears weren’t precise. 
"I’ll need an electronic detuning device..."
He searched in his tool shed, and he looked all around.
But, since such things are scarce, there was none to be found.

Did that stop the old Grinch? No! The Grinch simply said, 
"If I can’t find a gizmo, I'll make one instead!" 
So he called his dog, Bruce. Then he took some red thread, 
And he tied a big dial to the top of his head, 
So whenever he yanked on the tail of his hound,
As the hound howled the dial would spin wildly around.

THEN out of the garage he rolled, barely alive, 
An old Pinto Wagon and told Bruce, “Get in and drive!” 
Then Bruce punched the gas And the Ford started down,
Toward the homes where the kids lay asnooze in their town.
All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air. 
All the kids were all dreaming sweet dreams without care. 
When they came to the first little house with a spinet, 
He snuck to the door and said, “Back in a minute…”

By the window he saw a viola and bow. 
"These string things," he snipped, "are the first things to go!" 
Then he slithered and slunk, around every dark nook, 
Snatching every carol, score, and sheet music book.

Then on to the next house; with a Steinway this time,
He opened the piano bench and filled it with slime.
Then he pulled on his dog’s tail and got him to howl,
And detuned the grand till every note was afoul.
Then he took out the fallboard and pulled out the guts, 
And he unscrewed the nuts, and the struts and the butts.

He slunk to the tree, and shook it with gravity,
Then with candy canes filled the action cavity.
“Hm, what’s left to do now? Let me see, let me see…”
"Ah HA!" beamed the Grinch, "I will stuff in the tree!"

And the Grinch grabbed the tree, and he started to shove, 
When he heard a small gasp from the stairway above. 
He turned around fast, and saw little Wing Chou Liu,
A small, little tot, who was no more than two.

The Grinch found it more than annoying that HE, 
Should be caught by a mini piano prodigy. 
She'd awoke because she was thirsty as cactus, 
And thought she might as well stay up and practice. 

She stared at the Grinch and said, "Mr. Tuner, Why? 
Why are you deviating our piano from standard concert pitch,
And detuning it to an atonal, stertorous, cacophony? 
And while we’re on the subject, I doubt that this
Voicing procedure is sanctioned by The Piano Technician’s Guild, 
And although I do prefer a sweet sounding instrument, 
Why are you sugarcoating it with candy canes? WHY?”

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick, 
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick! 
"Why, my little Einstein," the fake tooner lied, 
"There's a Dampp-Chaser light that’s out on one side."

"So I'm taking it home to my workshop, my dear." 
"I'll fix it up there. Then I'll bring it back here." 
She was not quite appeased, and the kid shook her head, 
So he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.

And when Wing Chou Liu went off to bed with her gin,
HE went to the piano and stuffed the tree in! 
Then he did the same thing to the other kid’s pianos, 
 And uploaded Yanni to their iPod Nanos.

And for the grand finale on this terrible spree,
He tuned the Concert Hall piano to A-840!
He tuned the white keys black, and then the flat keys sharp,
Then Bruce the Grinch jumped up and down on the harp.

With water to the rim, he topped it off brimming,
With six geese a laying, and seven swans a swimming.
It was a lot of work, but he hoped it was slimming.
It was quarter past dawn... All the kids, still asnored, 
All still asnoozing when he jumped back in his Ford. 
"Too bad for the kids!" he was Grinchishly humming. 
"They're finding out now that no music is coming!" 

"They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!" 
"Their mouths will hang open a minute or two, 
Then the kids in Northshoreville will all cry Boo Hoo!" 

"That's a noise," grinned the Grinch, "That I simply MUST hear!" 
So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear. 
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. 
It started in low. Then it started to grow. 

But the sound was so clear! So lush and in tune! 
It was sweet and so pure that he started to swoon! 
He stared at Northshoreville! The Grinch popped his eyes! 
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise! 

Every kid at the concert, the tall and the small, 
Was performing with glee like nothing happened at all! 
He HADN'T stopped music from coming! IT CAME! 
But what was the reason, and who was to blame?

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
He stood listening in wonder: "How could this be so?"
He puzzled and puzzled and puzzled some more,
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!

And the look on his face was downright satirical,
As he realized in awe, “It’s a Christmas MIRACLE!”
"Maybe music," he thought, "comes from the heart…" 
"Maybe what helps them express it is what they call… ART!" 
What the Grinch didn’t know, and couldn’t possibly see,
Was that little Wing Chou Liu had called PTG.
When the Guild heard the news they send out the alert,
“Quickly! Save Christmas day and rescue the concert!”

Every tuner and tech sprang right into action,
And drained and tuned the grand to their grand satisfaction.
So, what happened then? In Northshoreville they say, 
The Grinch passed all three RPT exams that day! 
And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight, 
He whizzed with his tool kit through the bright morning light,

And he tuned every piano, and he fixed every key!
He even joined the Northshoreville Chapter PTG.
Old Bruce wagged his tail and they were glad to belong, 
As they joined in the do-it-yourself sing-along!

Merry Christmas!