In an emotional address to Kemble, Yamaha and Bösendorfer dealers from the UK at Lords last week, Brian Kemble talked through the history of his company, the present state of the new, Indonesian-made Kemble pianos and a view into the future of the brand.
Starting with thanks to the assembled guests and Yamaha dignitaries, as well as a word for Colin Holdsworth for the inspired organisation of the British Piano fair at Lords cricket ground, Kemble ran through a brief history of Kemble pianos since its inception in 1911, with charming anecdotes and the sort of personability that those that know him have become used to.
The history effectively ended with the closure of the factory in 1981 before a sizable order from Bach and the investment of Yamaha in the manufacturing operation allowed the company to continue to the present day.
Kemble then related how he had been to Indonesia and Yamaha's factory there, where the new Kemble pianos will be made.
"I was very impressed,m not only with the quality of the pianos, but at how they took on board everything I said," he said. "I can confirm that the sound is Kemble's. I found some problems with the cabinets and with the colours. The walnut satin was too dull, for example. All of this was taken on board. I am delighted with the UK mahogany, which is light and thoroughly unlike the darker Asian mahogany finishes.
"As this was an opportunity to improve the piano, I insisted upon a new hammer and one embellishment proffered by Yamaha I rejected. Everything I suggested has been taken on board. I am very pleased with the pianos – and I am delighted with the sound. Because of the economies of scale, Yamaha can spend much longer on the voicing of the pianos than we could have here in the UK for the price – they have bettered what we could do in the UK.
"Yamaha understands about the importance of sound as we know from the Kemble grand, which Yamaha has always made. It's essentially a Yamaha, but it has a different sound. The new Kembles sound slightly different again – but they sound really good. It is the unmistakable, mellow Kemble sound."
Clearly moved to presenting what was effectively his farewell speech to the trade, Kemble spent the last few minutes of his address speaking directly to his dealers.
"This is my last opportunity to say exactly what I think of my dealers. I am overwhelmed by you. It is not an easy job, I know, so I want to say a big thank you to you all, whatever you sell. I shall now 'slip away' – not unlike Bilbo Baggins."