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Timothy Murray found these pages on the internet in early 2008, and thought that spending a week in a local harpsichord workshop sounded like a not-too-bad first workplace learning assignment. When he visited for his week in April 2008, Timothy was in year 10 at my old high school, Sydney Technical High School, where he plays clarinet and bassoon.
I think Timothy was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had. Fortunately, there was plenty for him to do.
On our first morning we visited the Sydney Conservatorium to drop off the 1988 Von Nagel Mietke double, which had just been restrung and revoiced in the workshop. And we picked up the old Zuckermann French Double which was long overdue for rejuvenation. It has had a checkered history since it was built in 1975, and was the instrument I had my lessons on with Robert Goode at the Con for four happy years.
The soundboard had been replaced in the past, but no attention had been paid by the restorer at that time to the real problem of the tuning pin angle. The original holes tended to angle slightly forward rather than allow the pins lean away from the pull of the strings. The tapered tuning pins had been smashed down, and when that failed to improve the tuning stability, the holes had been shimmed with thin card which only served to elongate them more.
The only remedy was to strip the instrument down, plug the holes, and start again. Timothy is pictured here having fun removing the wrestplank veneer.
It wasn’t going to be a simple restring and revoice. The keyboards were in diabolical condition. I knew the upper manual key end cloth needed replacement, but to solve the transposition problems the lower keyboard key end cloth needed replacement with cloth the full width of the key. But the coupler dogs were perilous, with inconsistent shape and angles. All the keys had been indiscriminately slugged with two pieces of lead, one of which had been removed, leaving the remaining one to corrode and split each key. These had to be removed, and Timothy then cut and glued basswood plugs to fill the holes. After making and gluing new coupler dogs and nailing the suitable key end cloth, the keys were able to be properly balanced, and this was a perfect opportunity for another How To movie for YouTube.
Timothy Murray demonstrating how to balance a French Double Harpsichord lower manual key.
We didn’t have any scheduled concerts that week, so a week later, Timothy tagged along to a Handel’s Hits performance by Sydney Philharmonia Choirs at the Sydney Opera House, using my Ruckers Double and continuo organ.
Footnote July 2014: Tim finished his final two years of High School at the Sydney Conservatorium, then entered the BMUS course as a bassoon major. He has since performed with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and toured Europe as a member of the Australian Youth Orchestra. One of the 2014 recipients of the coveted Sydney Symphony Orchestra Emerging Artist Fellowships, Tim has just returned from that orchestra’s successful tour of China.
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