Booking Now Open
Planning is well in hand for Finchcocks 2015, and we can confirm that the dates will be Saturday and Sunday May 9th - 10th. Additionally, some of us will be at Finchcocks on the afternoon of Friday 8th, and Friends are welcome to join us, to spend some quiet time with the instruments, or even to help with moving the chairs!
The Booking List is open now, so please email me, David, at
to reserve your place. As before, numbers will be limited to about 35 - 40 to preserve the informal atmosphere.
It will of course be an occasion for many of us to meet again, but we particularly encourage new Friends to join the party. There will be a few experts there, but the atmosphere is completely informal. It is the ideal opportunity for those who have just bought their first square piano or spinet, or are considering doing so, or who are just interested, to come along, to meet people, and to chat. Finchcocks is a beautiful and relaxing setting, and we are privileged to be able to enjoy and play the fine instruments in the collection.
At previous Finchcocks weekends, we have been enchanted by the sensitive playing of Martyna Kazmierczak, and we are delighted that this year's event will be the opportunity for her to make her presentation for the Clementi Award. This will take the form of a short lecture on square pianos, with musical interludes. The pianos she will play will of course include one by Clementi, and we are delighted that Christopher Clementi will be able to join the party.
Martyna has also promised to play for us in the evening, so this will be a busy day for her!
An Organized Square Piano
Last year, David Shuker gave a fascinating talk about these marriages between a square piano and a chamber organ. Although we do not know of any music written specifically for the instrument, we know from various records that they were made in considerable numbers. Very few have survived, however, and I do not know of one in playable condition.
As well as having an interest in square pianos, David is an organ builder by profession, and he has risen to the challenge of making a reconstruction. A Broadwood square of appropriate date is providing the piano component; the organ is being built from scratch to an authentic specification.
David has promised to have it ready for May, and we look forward to being able to hear and play it for ourselves. For me, and I think for many others, it will be a new experience.
‘In the Name of God Amen’: Death and the wills of eighteenth-century London piano makers. What can we learn from their bequests?’
Dr Marie Kent is an enthusiastic researcher into the history of the early piano in England, and we are delighted that she will give her lecture on the Wills of a number of the leading makers - there is much to be learned from them.
"When the inventor of the ‘Original Forte Piano’, Americus Backers, died in 1778, his will entrusted the payment of his debts and the ‘education and maintenance’ of his ‘two natural children’ to the master of a local coffee house in the Strand. In these short lines we learn that Backers was a single parent, with debts, and possibly a prolific coffee drinker too. When the ‘large piano forte maker to her Majesty’, Gabriel Buntebart, died 16 years later, he left one hundred pounds and all his wearing apparel – both linen and woollen – to his servant maid. What are we to deduce from this? Such personal details in the wills of these and other eighteenth-century London piano makers provide a lively insight into the conduct of their private lives, and the concerns they held for those they left behind. But their wills also contain valuable information about their professional life and work. This paper discusses what can be learned from the wills of Backers and Buntebart and those of their contemporaries to have died before 1800: namely Lorence Beyer, John Zumpe, Christopher Sievers and Christian Schoene. It examines the last wishes of these early members of the trade, not only with regard to their children, debts and clothing, but with regard to their work and professional associations; their colleagues, tools and investments; and their health, and choice of heir. "
English Spinets are of course really square pianos - apart from the facts that they are neither square nor pianos. Or perhaps it should be the other way round: for about a hundred years from 1680, the elegant wing-shaped spinet was the domestic keyboard instrument.
And in any case, we all love them, so no excuses are necessary for making these lovely instruments another of our themes for the day.
The instrument above is by Edward Blunt, dated 1704, and apparently made (at least in part) by Thomas Hitchcock, and signed by him.
Until this year, this instrument had not been seen in public since the 1885 exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall. Then, the inscription '1664' on the nameboard gave rise to much confusion and false information. Another Blunt spinet (correctly) dated 1703 and signed by Thomas Hitchcock was known at the time, and this led to the statement in Hipkins' 1896 book that "Thomas Hitchcock's written dates found within instruments made by him cover the long period between 1664 and 1703". This was picked up by James (1930) and by Boalch (1956 and 1974). It was not until 'Boalch III' (1995) that Charles Mould indicated a problem with the logic, and Peter Mole (2009) investigated further. But even then, this spinet, the key piece of evidence, was still in hiding. It finally emerged in the spring of 2014, and I am happy to say that a Friend and I are the new owners, It is currently in my care and undergoing a gentle restoration. We hope that it will be restored to playing condition, for the first time in at least a hundred years, and possibly much more, in time for Finchcocks 2015.
Other spinets (originals and replicas) will share the stage, including a presentation by the leading builder and restorer Malcolm Rose (his invaluable range of wires is just a sideline...) And this will be an opportunity to share what we know, and to discuss and play these lovely instruments.
Friday 8th May
Informal session - the Collection will be open from about 1.00 for private study. Help with moving the instruments and chairs, and possibly tuning, might be appreciated.
Friends who are staying locally may wish to form small parties for dinner.
Saturday 9th May
9.30 - Doors Open, registration and coffee.
10.15 - Start of Programme. To include:
- Martyna's presentation for the Clementi Award (with musical illustrations),
- The English Spinet (including the first public performance for perhaps 200 years on the newly-restored 1704 Blunt spinet).
- Talk about spinets by Malcolm Rose.
- Marie Kent: The Wills of the eighteenth-century piano makers, and what they tell us.
- The early Broadwood Books - presentation sent from America
- Technical Miscellany - to include thoughts and advice about glue and gluing, and questions from the floor.
More items to be anounced.
There will be a lunch break, when the cellar restaurant will be open, or picnics may be enjoyed in the beautiful garden, in the spring sunshine (!) and also a short tea-break inthe afternoon)
The programme will end at about 4.30
6.30 - Summer Buffet available inthe Cellar Restaurant (please book)
Sunday 1oth May
10.00 - Informal access to the instruments
11.00 - Finchcocks Open Day
It is not too early to book your place now, so please email me, David, at email@example.com
Payments this year should be made to Friends of Square Pianos, in advance if possible please. The cost is a single rate of £60.00, and this includes quiet time on the Friday afternoon if you wish, the whole of the Saturday programme including the evening music, and private access to Finchcocks before the normal Sunday Open Day. This will start at 11.00, and Friends are welcome to stay for this as well.
To make a payment, there is a PayPal link at the bottom of this page. It accepts most credit cards if you do not have a PayPal account of your own. The button says 'Donate' rather than 'Pay' - but it's the only option that PayPal offers!
Tea and coffee on the Saturday are included, but all meals are extra (payable directly to Finchcocks at the time) . We will, though, be taking bookings for the Summer Buffet on the Saturday evening, for about £18.00 per head, I believe.
More to follow soon!
This PayPal account is linked to the Friends of Square Pianos TSB bank account, from which I will pay fees due to Finchcocks.