After having written the post about the Stanmore Fire Station and it’s subsequent sale to the Mastertouch Piano Roll company I sadly received an email saying the former owner of Mastertouch (and a MHS member), Barclay Wright had passed away peacefully on 25 February, 2013 after a short illness.
|The Sydney Morning Herald – September 7, 1975|
The Mastertouch Piano Roll Company was established in Sydney in 1919 and established a showroom at the Petersham address in 1975. It manufactured and sold piano rolls until its closure on 1 July 2005. It is highly significant both to the state of New South Wales and Australia as a whole as the longest running and only piano roll manufacturer to be operating in the country. It was also only one of two remaining large scale piano roll manufacturers in the world, the other being QRS in the USA and the only one to maintain a traditional method of manufacture giving it international significance.
|Interior of the Mastertouch Piano Roll Company July 2005
Image Source: Powerhouse Museum
The Mastertouch Company is also extremely important for the role it and its owner, Barclay Wright, had in attempting to maintain the history and tradition of this major form of popular entertainment and its place in Australian culture, creating a private museum of these items. Since working in the company since 1957, Wright had not only maintained the machines in perfect working order but had also collected items from other music roll manufacturers in order to preserve some of the history of roll making in Australia. This conscientious attitude also contributed toward the collecting of keyboard instruments to help preserve the history and development of roll played music. In the 1980s when several local and long established box making companies in Sydney closed, boxes for music rolls were still necessary, so Wright bought the old machines and established a box making section in the Mastertouch company which made boxes not only for piano rolls but also for a variety of other products and artefacts.
|Piano Roll Recording Machines, 2002
Image Source: National Library of Australia
Mastertouch also had an important public role in the preservation of roll music recording and manufacture generally and conveying this to the public through visits, tours, lectures and music entertainment nights. Many attempts and negotiations were made to find support and funding from various bodies to allow Mastertouch to operate as a working museum. Although this was not to be Mastertouch played an important role in disseminating and educating the public about piano roll technology. This is an important point to stress as although piano roll technology has been superceded by digital forms, there are very strong links between digital data storage and encoding of music today and data storage and encoding found in piano roll technology.
The Powerhouse Museum now holds a number of artifacts and photos about Mastertouch in their collection.
Barclay contributed an article about the Mastertouch Piano Roll Company in our journal Heritage number 10 (1998). An obituary for Barclay Wright in the March MHS newsletter (2013). Our MHS newsletter is published 11 times a year and is delivered to members as part of their subscription.