"JUST THE PIANO TUNER..."
Born in South London into a musical family in 1949, Desmond Gentle first learned to tune pianos at the
age of 14 when his mother, a music teacher, first bought a piano in need of repair as a possible business venture for the family.
A self taught piano tuner is a feat in of itself, but Desmond was a young, inquisitive inventor. A love for
problem solving and his well-trained ear combined meant Desmond was able to quickly excel in his
newly bestowed trade.
Inside the blink-and-you-could-miss-it entrance, overlooking the West Yard Food Markets, sat the
Camden Piano Rescue. The premises functioned not as a showroom but an atelier. Floor to ceiling lined
with sheet music in replacement of wallpaper, shelves stacked with scores and accompaniment
instruments, and often more pianos than one could imagine the workshop was possible of holding. You
would watch time and time again as fledgling and accomplished musicians alike would cross its
threshold, first fascinated by the workshop, and then by the piano tuner himself.
Desmond was a multifaceted man. An inventor, antiquarian, composer, poet, screenwriter,
environmentalist. His polymath mind complimented his gregarious nature and as such Desmond's workshop was a
vibrant hub that he shared with people brought together commonly, but not exclusively, by their creative
Whilst already involved in charitable donations locally and nationally, it was chance encounter that would
bring Desmond to his first international venture which would become the subject of the award winning
feature documentary 'Piano to Zanskar'.
A music teacher told Desmond of a primary school in Lingshed, nestled 14,000 feet above sea level,
where she volunteered. Remarking on the logistic impossibility of the children ever having access to an
instrument such as the piano Desmond was inspired to change this. Another wonderful feature of his
personality was his proclivity not to ask "Why?" but instead to ask "Why not?"
Enter Anna Ray. "Some of the most amazing things that have happened in my life started with someone
just walking into the workshop. Anna was one of them." An environmental scientist who had traveled
extensively in India - including the piano-bound Ladakh region. Anna took up tuning under Desmond's
tutelage in preparation of the challenging delivery.
Desmond made no bones that after the repair of your first 20,000 pianos or so one tends to tire of the
task. However, he never wearied of the range of people he would come to meet through his workshop,
some of whom would eventually form the team that would help plan and execute the various charity work
Desmond conducted, and who continue to work in maintaining his memory and legacy.
SHARE YOUR STORIES
Over the years Desmond encountered numerous people from all walks of life, we would like to hear of your adventures with Desmond. The page will be updated with your input as the years go by.