Welcome to

Friends of Square Pianos!

This is a sort of on-line club for anyone who owns, or would like to own, a square piano, or possibly a spinet. Or anyone who is just interested, possibly to learn a little more.

 

Please get in touch with me, David, on friends.sp@btinternet.com with questions, comments, or just to say 'Hello'.  This is a site for everyone, especially those new to the world of Square Pianos.  And of course, we very much appreciate the support of those with more experience.

 

Update 8th December

 

Broadwood 1842/3 For Sale

 

Broadwood 1842 For Sale

 

Finchcocks: The House - News Update

 

 

Two Interesting Pianos at Gardiner Houlgate, Friday December 15th

 

Piano Auctions Sale and

Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos December 13th

 

 

Broadwood 1842/3 For Sale

Please see the Sale Page for details.

Broadwood 1842 For Sale

This handsome piano has just been re-listed at a new price of just £400.  Please see tbe Sale Page for details.

Finchcocks: The House - News Update

  We have many fond memories of our parties at Finchcocks, but it was of course built as a private house, and it is now the home of Neil Nichols and his family.  The musical interest continues, however, and residential (modern!) piano courses are now held occasionally in the refurbished cellars, with accommodation available in the former stables and other outbuildings.  

  Full details of these, and an update on the history of the house, may be seen on the new website www.finchcocks.com

 

  Please note that the Finchcocks Charity continues, now run from Dick and Katrina's home in Tunbridge Wells.  The new music room will be ready next year.

  The website for the charity is still www.finchcocks.co.uk  

Let's hope this doesn't cause too much confusion! 

Two Interesting Pianos at Gardiner Houlgate, Friday December 15th

Please see the Auction Page for details.

Piano Auctions Sale and

Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos December 13th

No square pianos at Conway Hall this time, but there will be an interesting 8' 5" 'French' harpsichord (with Flemish papers!) in the sale, with an estimate of £1,000 - £1,500.  This is a lot of harpsichord, by a well-known maker, at a very modest estimate.

Picture by courtesy of Piano Auctions Ltd

 

  As usual, we will be meeting for an informal chat on the Wednesday viewing day, December 13th.  Several of us will be there for sure; I will arrive at about 11.00.  As well as having a general gossip and drinking several cups of tea, we hope to have a chat with Séan of Piano Auctions for the latest news on the ivory situation.  Which reminds me - have we all sent in our views via the consultation document?  (See article below).  The proposals in the draft legislation, with exemptions for old musical instruments, seem very reasonable to me, and if we want to be able to buy and sell our historic pianos and spinets, it is important that we make our voices heard.

 

  We always make new Friends welcome at these meetings, so if you are within reach of Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn, do please come along.  We are very likely to be in the café in Red Lion Square Gardens (if the weather is reasonable) or in the Dolphin pub for luch at about 1.00.  

Broadwood 1802 For Sale

These early Broadwoods are perhaps my favourite pianos, and a good-looking example is now on the Instruments for Sale Page.

An Exceptional Clementi

It is always a pleasant surprise to see a square piano that is a bit special.  This Clementi is number 7716 (stamped) which dates it to 1810.  Internally it is completely standard; it is the case which is exceptional.

The picture above shows the back of the piano.  Very unusually for the period, the back is veneered so that it could stand elegantly in the middle of a room.  Not only that, but there are brass ornaments.  This aspect was designed to be seen and to impress!

The sabre-legs are also very unusual and impressive.  Similar legs are seen on two Clementi grands c.1812/13 (one formerly in the Finchcocks Collection) but this is the first time I have seen them on an English square, or any piano this early.  We see elegant brasswork and lion's-paw feet. 

The quality of the veneer is exceptional, in particular the beautifully-figured satinwood inlay.

 

This lovely piano has been with the same family for a very long time. and happily there are plans for some professional restoration, and to pass it on to the next generation of the family.

 

Making Spinets in the Traditional Way

 

 It was a pleasure to meet Alexandra Cade when she visited the UK recently.  She is currently studying for a PhD at Winterthur, Delaware, on the topic of amateur piano makers in America, c. 1790 - 1810.  There were few, if any such makers in London, but the spirit of self-sufficiency was strong in the new United States of America, and these amateur makers were an important part of the development of the piano in in the new country. Their surviving instruments show remarkable diversity and ingenuity, but more of this another time.

 

  During Alexandra's studies for the degrees of B Mus and BA in American history at Rochester, she spent two summers as an intern at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and after graduating, she returned as apprentice harpsichord maker, making English spinets using the materials and methods of the original makers.  

Holding a partially-completed register...

 

...Tuning the first notes...

 

...and with Ed Wright, using a frame-saw to prepare a piece of timber.

The 'Shop' Page

This has now been redesigned, with sections offering strings made to order, tuning-hammers, jacks and wrestpins for spinets, and other items. 

  How about a nicely-made set of jacks - enough for one register.  Possibly most useful if shortened for a spinet or virginal.

 

  Go to the Shop Page

 

 

UK Plans to extend Ivory Ban to Antiques - 

More Information

  What with Brexit, party conferences, and other concerns, it is perhaps surprising that the governent has found time to consider the future of ivory sales inthe UK, especially as the issue was dropped from the 2017 manifesto.  However, an announcement about progress on the proposed ban appeared in the Daily Telegraph (and doubtless elsewhere) on October 6th.  

  In summary, the proposal seeks to extend the ban to the sale of all worked ivory, regardless of date. The good news is that the exceptions are proposed for sales to and between museums, to musical instruments, items containing only small amounts of ivory, and items of  significant historical, cultural, or artistic value.  These last two categories are obviously subject to judgement (what about a Chiparus Art Deco figure?)  but the musical instruments bit is clear enough.  So if the proposal is adopted into law, our historic pianos and harpsichords would be safe.  

  There is, however, a vocal lobby in favour of a total ban, with no exemptions.  If you wish to make a comment in favour of the proposals, there is an open website consultation until 29th December 

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/banning-uk-sales-of-ivory

Or, of course, you could write to your MP or to Michael Gove, the minister resonsible.

The Colt Clavier Collection

Announced recently...

More details will be published as soon as they are available.

Chelveston 2018

We all enjoyed our Spinet Day at Chelveston earlier this year, and I am happy to confirm that we can look forward to another party in April 2018; we are organising this together with the British Clavichord Society.

 

  We are particularly pleased to announce that Derek Adlam has agreed to be our Guest of Honour and principal speaker.

  For fifty years and more, Derek has been a major figure in the early keyboard instruments world, as a maker and player.  We look forward to tales from his early years, his time at the Colt Collection, the Adlam-Burnett partnership at Finchcocks, and now at Welbeck, where he has been specialising in clavichords.

  In 2017 we assembled a remarkable collection of spinets, but for 2018 the scope will be wider.  As well as at least three spinets, there will be clavichords and (I hope) at least one square piano.  We are supposed to be Friends of Square Pianos, after all!

 The programme is in its early stages, but Derek's presentation will be split into about four conversational sections, with music in between.  We are also hoping that one of these interludes will be a recital on a newly-restored John Player spinet.

  As before, there will be a substantial buffet lunch, as well as refreshments throughout the day.  The fee for the day is likely to be about £25.  Booking will open formally in the New Year, but by all means make a provisional reservation now by email to David on 

friends.sp@btinternet.com

Carolina Music Museum to open in Greenville, SC, Spring 2018

 Recent years have seen some sad changes in the musical collections in the UK.  Richard and Katrina Burnett decided that the time had come for them to 'downsize', and consequently Finchcocks closed, and much of the collection has been sold.  Barbara Lore Colt died, some of the Colt Collection has been sold, and its future seems uncertain.  Musical instruments no longer have a place in the plans of the V&A, and although some of the instruments have gone to the Horniman Museum, many are in indefinite storage.  Additionally, the private collection of Christopher Hogwood has been dispersed following his death.  All this is against a background of declining musical education in state schools, which makes it more difficult for most young people to become actively involved.

 

  So it is very refreshing to announce a splendid new Initiative in the United States, the founding of the Carolina Music Museum in Greenville, SC, due to open in  the Spring of 2018.  

This owes much to the efforts and enthusiasm of our Friends Tom and Debra Strange; Tom is seen in the above picture on a recent visit to the UK, inspecting (with a feline advisor) the action of a rare 1774 square piano by Weber.  

Tom Strange has had a life-long interest in early keyboards beginning in the 1970s and including building and playing harpsichords and restoring early pianos. That interest built enormously with the advent of the internet and the ability to connect with people all over the world. The first antique instrument entered his collection over twenty years ago, and was followed by others over the years.

 Ultimately the collection grew into something that seemed appropriate to share with the public. With continuing visits to his house by students and professionals from all over the world, it suggested that a more permanent home for the collection might make sense. A splendid use of the collection for the 2017 HKSNA conference last May made it clear that having it in a dedicated, climate controlled space would be a requirement for the instrumentsto be used with an eye toward conservation and limited disruption.

  After a three year search and several dead ends, the museum now has a lease on an ideal building in Greenville SC, set on the campus of Heritage Green, and home to the Upcountry History Museum, Greenville County Museum of Art, The Children’s Museum, and others, with state of the art climate control, security, and ADA compliant facilities. There will be an office, performance and display space in the roughly 8000 square foot facility set on a campus-like green space, with ready access to parking and within easy walking distance of all the museums as well as downtown Greenville.

  The first show will be titled ‘Facing South: Keyboard Instruments in the Early Carolinas’ with a projected opening date of late March, 2018. The show will highlight twenty-seven selected instruments that have been associated with music in the Carolinas from 1700 to 1860, either by repute or using instruments that have been here since they were new. However the museum must be more than early keyboards, and while the opening show is being mounted and begins running, work continues in the background on additional projects to bring other instruments and important southern ethnomusicology interests to the Carolina Music Museum.

  The core of the museum will always be the early keyboard collection, with a mission to help emerging musicians and seasoned professionals understand the critical ability of the historic keyboard to bring forward the actual intent of the composers who knew them and composed from them. 

There is now a permanent new page 'Carolina Music Museum' on the website, where updates and details of the collection will be posted as they become available.

Making a Spinet

  Some of you may have been following the construction - starting from a pile of wood - of this replica of a remarkable and important instrument.  The spinet is now complete and playing well, and has gone to its new home in Scotland.    

 Please see the Spinet Page for the story.

The Spinet Page

  We all love those beautiful English Spinets, and now they have a Page of their own, where I hope to encourage interest, ownership, and amateur makers.

Square Piano Tech

Please take time to visit our sister website www.squarepianotech.com  This is run by our Friend Tom Strange in America, and is rapidly growing into a treasure-store of permanent wisdom.  

About the 'Webmaster' (David Hackett)

My only claim to respectability is that Carl Dolmetsch once offered to take me on as an apprentice.  This was in 1962, when I had just shown him my first clavichord, and been his guest at Haslemere.  However, he also advised me that it would be better to go to University, and I accepted his advice.  Early Keyboard Instruments have therefore remained a hobby, and now happily retired, I am able to spend a bit more time enjoying them - and encouraging others, I hope..

My real work now is with cats, though.  It is my privilege to be co-ordinator of my local branch of Cats Protection; we rescue and findhomes for about 300 cats a year.  Our band of volunteers give freely of their love and time, but our vets' bills are truly frightening.  If you would like to help, please use the 'Donate' button below.  Thank you.

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© David Hackett