Work Experience

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Zak at the Zuckermann Unfretted Clavichord 383K jpeg
Zak at the restored Zuckermann Unfretted Clavichord

Xinghan “Zak” Zhou was born in Beijing and moved to Australia to live when he was twelve years old. Zak is a very accomplished pianist who often returns to China where he’s been a major prize winner in piano competitions in Beijing and Qingdao.

Zak had been learning harpsichord from Chris Wagstaff at The King’s School since late 2017, and we first met in early 2019. I was able to arrange for Zak to babysit a 1986 Mars McMillan French Double harpsichord while its owner who recently returned to Australia was waiting to move from his temporary apartment into a house.

A frequent contributor on various Chinese early music WeChat groups, Zak also has a collection of videos of his own harpsichord playing on BiliBili. He chose to spend his workplace learning week in the harpsichord workshop in December 2019, when he was near the end of Year 10 at Concord High School.

As always, it was a busy week. Pinchgut Opera was in its final rehearsal period of Vivaldi’s “Farnace”, and had just moved to the stage at City Recital Hall, so we began most days there before heading to the workshop. Erin Helyard was conducting the Orchestra of the Antipodes from my Neapolitan harpsichord. We were able to catch the General Rehearsal on the Wednesday.

There was a early Zuckermann Unfretted Clavichord in the workshop from Melbourne, so that was our special project to work on together. The original Zuckermann kit design had the strings for each note looped around a single hitchpin in modern piano style. When a string breaks, the entire note fails, and it is rather tricky to replace a string neatly. After removing the old strings, we marked, drilled, and inserted a second hitchpin for each note so the restring would have two individual strings making up the pair in proper historic style. The keyboard needed smoothing and polishing, and then we were ready for restringing.

On the Thursday, we visited Zak’s old school to check my 1993 Flemish Double there, and have a preliminary inspection of an 1806 Broadwood square piano requiring restoration.

Our final day together was spent weaving the listing cloth, giving a much more solid touch than the ruffle style of listing pioneered by Dolmetsch, and the instrument was tuned and complete.

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