Good company, good music, and good food, and lots of tea-breaks. Add an asssemly of ten spinets (eleven if you count the half-built one) - and what more could we ask?
Our first party in Chelveston was undoubtedly a success, and we all had fun. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the day, and to all who came. Even the weather was on our side - it was a glorious spring day.
Alan Cuckston entertained us with his lively wit, and two programmes of music ranging from the English virginalists to François Couperin. I was particularly pleased that he played one of my favourite pieces by him, 'Les Barricades Mystèrieuses'. He also explained the meaning of the title, which has puzzled not only me, but numerous French friends. Please email me if you would like to know the answer.
Something most of us had never heard before was a programme of duets for two spinets. Francis Knights and Dan Tidhar delighted us with this. A pair of Hitchcock spinets ( one an original from 1735, the other a modern replica by Stephen Robinson) were well-matched for the programme of pieces ranging from Giles Farnaby to a modern composition by Alexander Blustin. Inevitably, perhaps, my favourite was a reconstruction by Thurston Dart of a Suite by Handel.
We made sure that there was plenty of time for all of us to try the instruments for ourselves, and for those vital tea-breaks. The 'Café' layout was a help here. But there were a couple of talks: an extra item by request was 'What is a Spinet?' A question that sounds simple, but leads to many by-ways and confusions (think of Ruckers 'spinetts' and 'muselaars', not to mention the 'spinets' beloved of antique-dealers). This led into a review of the Harpsichords and Spinets shown at the 1885 International Inventions Exhibition - some sixty-five instruments, of which a remarkable number have been traced to their current whereabouts. Two of them were in the hall with us!
Images of many of the instruments may be traced through museum websites and other sources, but have beemn removed from this public version of the file for copyright reasons. (There are enough clues in the text to enable the pictures to be found.)
The other presentation was of a new analysis of the numbers, names, and dates of the spinets of the Hitchcock Dynasty, a subject which has confused historians for 150 years at least, and led to false statements in many published works. I hesitate to call this an 'academic paper', but here it is.
Three of the ten spinets on show dated from the eighteenth century, Including the notorious '1664' by Edward Blunt.
Thomas Hitchcock's number 1460, made (as we now know) in 1735).
And the very fine Thomas Haxby.
Contemporary makers were represented by Stephen Robinson ('Hitchcock')
...and Andy Durand (Barton).
I think we all had a good day, and we are tentatively planning for 2018, when the date 7th April has been reserved. We have a few ideas for this, but it will probably include at least one square piano, and even a clavichord or two!