Robert Brooke started building harpsichords in 1967. Two unfortunate forays into early Zuckermann kits led him to the inescapable conclusion that better work could be done than building kits. In 1972, he started building in historical traditions and has never looked back. He was able to see and measure instruments in both the Yale Collection and the Smithsonian Collection, which led to the creation of plans which have since resulted in fine finished instruments. He was active building on commission in the Washington D.C. area from 1972 until 1983. His instruments have been heard in concert throughout the Washington area and include Franco-Flemish two-manual instruments, single-manual Flemish instruments, single-manual Italian harpsichords and Italian virginals. Then and now, he works alone in a small shop and takes great pride in building each instrument in its entirety, mostly by hand. He is now building in southwestern Florida and specializes in Italian instruments. Having a good supply of Italian cypress, a wood that is increasingly difficult to import into the US, he is in a unique position to be able to offer true inner-outer Italian harpsichords with the cases of the inner instruments made of traditional Italian cypress. His instruments are now being heard as continuo instruments and in solo recitals in the Sarasota and Tampa Bay areas.
Owen Daly has been building harpsichords and clavichords in Salem, Oregon, since the late 1970s. Prior to that he studied graduate-level medieval English and French literature at the University of Oregon, until his then-new love of early keyboard music trumped his dedication to writing book reports for a living. Although he is best known for his advocacy of Italian harpsichords and those German-style instruments strongly influenced by Italian practice, his two personal instruments are two-manual French harpsichords. He tries to balance his responsibilities as an instrument maker with a serious commitment as an active musician, having undertaken to learn figured bass and continuo-playing fairly recently; he is particularly fond of late-17th and early-18th-century French harpsichord music. He grew up with “unconventional” keyboard training on the accordion, only beginning piano study at age 17, when he was obliged to learn the bass clef. This experience has made approaching the “new” clefs of period scores a little less daunting than it might otherwise have been. Distractions from these serious pursuits include his enthusiasm for his two 19th-century English pianos and riding his Triumph motorcycle.
A detailed photo series showing some recent projects is on Flikr at http...@N06/sets/.
Robert Duffy has been building harpsichords since 1976, training in the Hubbard Harpsichord Shop over five years and then working in Eric Herz’s shop. He is a product of the “Boston School” of harpsichord makers. Since moving to Indiana in 1986, he has worked at Goulding and Wood Pipe Organ Company as case designer and head cabinet maker. He has continued making harpsichords in his spare time over the years due to his love for the instrument.
Robert Hicks has been building harpsichords since 1980, specializing in Flemish ravalement and several French eighteenth-century designs. He also builds harpsichords after the 1780 Calisto Portuguese instrument and Grimaldi. On occasion or when invited he will develop other designs; examples are a split-sharp Italian, recently commissioned by Tafelmusik, and a 17th century French double-manual, which is after an anonymous instrument from 1667 in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
An apprentice of Frank Hubbard, Steven has made 65 keyboard instruments in the past 41 years. He has been the recipient of a Craftsman’s Fellowship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. His specialty is lautenwerke, and more recently his acclaimed gut-strung clavicytherium has attracted an international clientele.
David Sutherland is a maker of keyboard instruments in Ann Arbor. After completing graduate work in musicology at the University of Michigan and beginning a teaching career, he became interested in harpsichord making, apprenticed in the shop of Frank Hubbard in Boston, and returned to Ann Arbor to set up shop in 1974. In recent years he has become interested in the works of Bartolomeo Cristofori, inventor of the piano action, and has made copies of pianos by Cristofori and by his followers, Giovanni Ferrini and Gottfried Silbermann, the first German piano maker. He has conducted research on the early piano and is at work on a book to be entitled The First Age of the Piano, 1700-1781.
Knight Vernon has been making harpsichords for over thirty-nine years. He specializes in the harpsichords of the French and Flemish schools based on the work of Ruckers, Taskin, and Blanchet. Vernon works alone in a small shop in Skokie, Illinois, making all parts used in his instruments, including keyboards and wooden jacks. In 1973 Vernon took the grand tour of the Eastern harpsichord-making establishment and met many of the makers that later influenced his work. Among those people that influenced him the most were Frank Hubbard, William Hyman, Christopher Bannister, and William Dowd. Although Chris Bannister was known for building instruments that had little in common with the 18th Century instruments which are the basis of Vernon’s work, he allowed Vernon to copy measurements from dozens of antiques. Another maker whose work influenced Vernon was William Hyman. While on his grand tour, Vernon called him and made an appointment to visit his shop. Hyman showed him instruments in various stages of completion and named the performer for whom they were being made. It was a who’s who of harpsichordists. Currently Vernon has begun making fortepianos based on the work of Andreas Stein.