Idle piano: No one's tickling the ivories on the TSS Earnslaw any more


Who hasn’t sung You Are My Sunshine or My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean on Queenstown’s Earnslaw steamer on sailings back from Walter Peak?

Despite its popularity over scores of years, however, the Earnslaw singalong’s become yet another Covid-19 victim, along with, it’s understood, its three pianists.

That saddens former Arrowtowner Bill Purvis, who played the piano from 1994 till he retired in 2008.

Now based in Auckland, the 90-year-old says ‘‘so many people used to say to me, ‘oh, this has been the highlight of our trip’’’.

He recalls You Are My Sunshine was probably the most popular request, while if Asian visitors asked for a song, it was invariably Amazing Grace.

‘‘I know it’s been harder and harder to get pianists that can play those old songs — you see, the young people don’t know all those old songs.’’

Sounded out about the issue, Real Journeys general manager Paul Norris says: ‘‘Our pianists have made a long-standing contribution to the TSS Earnslaw’s rich history
and have been particularly popular with many of our overseas guests.

‘‘We have a very different market mix at the moment and have been looking at entertainment options that will resonate with the domestic market.

‘‘The piano may return over time.’’