ANU School of Music Welcomes a New Harpsichord

On the left the new Carey Beebe harpsichord, along with other instruments in the Keyboard Institute collection. Image: Adam Spence
Wednesday 7 October 2020

The ANU School of Music is delighted to welcome the arrival of a new harpsichord built by leading Australian maker, Mr Carey Beebe. For some years, the School has been without a harpsichord of very high quality, a situation which led to the commission of a new instrument late in 2019.

The instrument is modelled on harpsichords built by the Ruckers family, who were based in Antwerp from the 17th century. Many scholars and musicians regard Ruckers as the finest harpsichord makers in Europe from the period.

Dr Erin Helyard, a former staff member of the ANU School of Music and a leading expert on early keyboard instruments says “The Australian Capital Territory has long lacked a permanent professionally-built harpsichord, and the recent commission by the ANU School of Music of a Ruckers-style double-manual instrument by renowned Australian builder Carey Beebe shows great vision and foresight.”

Dr Helyard goes on to note that the new instrument “is without question one of the best in Australia”, and he congratulates the School of Music for its acquisition.

The new instrument features no concessions to the modern age, relying completely on parts used in the 17th century. For instance, the jacks feature springs made from boar bristle and the quills are made from the feathers of the Canadian goose.

The instrument features hand-painted decoration in exquisite detail by artist Diana Ford, and in the centre of the wrest plank can be seen the ACT floral emblem, Wahlenbergia gloriosa. The interior of the instrument case is papered in the Flemish tradition and the mouldings are gilded with 23K gold.

Mr Beebe has written “I was pleased to receive the commission from ANU School of Music in late 2019 to build their new harpsichord. It marks a resurgence in interest in the instrument, as it is the first harpsichord ordered from a local maker by an Australian tertiary institution in more than fifteen years. I’m sure my 2020 Ruckers Double will add much to the musical life of Canberra as it takes its place as the city’s premier concert harpsichord.”

The ANU School of Music looks forward to formally welcoming the new instrument in concerts and other activities post the COVID-19 pandemic. In the interim, students will gain much pleasure and knowledge through their access to it.

For further information or other enquiries, please contact Emily Allen or Dr Scott Davie.

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Updated:  8 October 2020/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications