UBC School of Music to unveil rare, newly renovated harpsichord at March 21st concert

Dina MacDougall/UBC School of Music

Dina MacDougall/UBC School of Music

On Wednesday, March 21st, the UBC School of Music will unveil one of the jewels of our instrument collection — a newly renovated double-manual harpsichord modeled on an 18th-century German original— at a special concert with renowned Early Music trio Alexander Weimann (harpsichord), Chloe Meyers (violin), and Natalie Mackie (viola da gamba).

The concert will feature works by Bach, Muffat, Buxtehude, and Schmelzer.

“We’re very excited to reintroduce this gorgeous instrument to the world,” says Prof. Alexander Fisher, who helped organize the renovation and the concert. “Alex and his trio have chosen the perfect repertoire, I think, to demonstrate what makes it such an important and beautiful addition to the School.”

Craftsman Craig Tomlinson built the harpsichord by hand in the 1980s, based on the original German design by Christian Zell (1728) that is preserved today in the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg. Celebrated for its rich sound and variety of different tone colours, Tomlinson’s masterful replica had begun to show its age and needed some significant improvements.

A generous donation by Marlene Yemchuk, in honour of her son David Yemchuck (B.Sc. 2010), made the renovation possible.

“It is an incredible gift to have such an important and beautiful instrument at the School. We owe a debt of thanks to Marlene Yemchuk and Craig Tomlinson.”

“In the fall of 2016 Marlene and I began discussing a donation in the memory of David, an alumnus of the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, who was an avid and talented musician in his own right,” Fisher says.

“After consulting with a variety of local performers and experts, we decided that the donation’s greatest impact would be to fully renovate the Zell harpsichord, which over the years had fallen into disrepair.” In addition, the generous donation also made possible some improvements to a second harpsichord by Ken Bakeman that is heavily used by students and faculty.

In his renovation of the Zell harpsichord, Tomlinson kept its original case, its lovely keyboards made of ebony and bone, and its beautifully painted soundboard, but completely restored the harpsichord’s action. He restrung the entire instrument, adjusting its regulation and voicing, rebuilt the stand on which it rests, and painted the entire exterior of the instrument in a deep black with gold bands. The finishing touch was the addition of a small plaque in David’s memory, inscribed with the phrase Musica Lieta Dono Divino (“Joyful Music: The Divine Gift”).

The result is, in Weimann and Fisher’s opinion, perhaps the finest instrument of its kind in Vancouver and the entire region.

“As a musician and devotee of early music, I can say that it an incredible gift to have such an important and beautiful instrument at the School. Thank you to Marlene and Craig,” Weimann says.

You can see Weimann and the Zell harpsichord in action at Roy Barnett Recital Hall on Wednesday, March 21st at 12 p.m. Tickets for The Gift of Music will be available at the door for $5 (cash only). Visit the event page for more information about the concert. 



SLIDESHOW: View images of the fully restored Zell harpsichord