Michael's Blog

8 January 2019

Last Saturday's Coffee concert was a happy success. About 150 people turned out to hear music for viola da Gamba and harpsichord, and they were very appreciative and attentive throughout. Their generous donations will help finance future events. It was good too that the Cole family was brought together again before university commitments take Lois and Henry away. Warwick and Rachel were mingling and chatting, Grannie Annie welcomed everyone at the door, and her husband was busy in the kitchen making pots of tea and washing up. When a page turner was needed 'young' Sophie was happy, as ever, to oblige. She's nearly sixteen now!

But amidst all this happiness we heard some terrible news. Our friend Alan Crumpler had a disastrous fire at his home in Lemster [shown on maps as Leominster]. His is a very old house in the centre of the town, and here when everyone slept on Christmas night an electric fire had been left on. The first they knew of it was in the early hours when the bedrooms were filled with acrid smoke. Everyone escaped, but dressed only in their pyjamas. Fire appliances arrived as promptly as possible, and the flames were confined to the music room - but only by pumping in a cascade of water. In the end, when the smoke subsided, all that was left of Alan's pipe organ was a pile of charred timber and a pool of molten lead. His harpsichord, which he used for concerts in the Lion Ballroom has been totally destroyed, as has a rare eighteenth-century bassoon, and about 30 other instruments. On this website on the Zumpe page you can see the nameboard of a modest little piano with three pedals by Schoene & Co., dated 1785. It has been severely burned and is unlikely ever to play again. Then, of course, there is Alan's lifetime collection of music – all gone. What the flames did not consume a torrent of water ruined. A disastrous Christmas. Sadly, of such events is history made.

3 January 2019

Highlights of 2018 as recorded in this Blog must include the dispersal sale of the Colt Collection, and the eagerness shown by bidders hoping to acquire one (or more) of the harpsichords and pianos on display in Bethersden. Some will continue to be thrilled with their purchases; some disappointed that, in the heat of the battle, they were unable to afford their cherished instrument. Still others may wonder if they made a wise investment. But it was all very interesting, and good to see some of the best instruments had been returned from long-term loans and at least for a time relocated with the rest of Mr. Colt's collection. Following so soon after the sale of Christopher Hogwood's instruments, and the dispersal of Richard Burnett's collection at Finchcock's, the Colt sale seemed to signify the end of an era, a double bar with no da capo.

2019 however, holds promise of many interesting events. In August at George Washington's home, Mount Vernon, there will be an international gathering in which the English harpsichord owned by his grand-daughter Eleanor will be brought back to life in the form of a replica made by John Watson. At this gathering I have agreed to give a lecture which is intended to reflect on the lady's harpsichord and her American square piano into their cultural and musical context. In Oxford two weeks later I propose to speak at the conference at the Faculty of Music on the less-than- helpful activities of some earlier twentieth century collectors, particularly the dubious legacy of Paul de Wit, one time owner of the now discredited Shudi harpsichord of 1729 – and why this is so damaging.

Maybe – fingers crossed – 2019 will also see the publication in Barcelona of the long-delayed Zumpe book. Let's hope. But most of all we look forward to as yet unsuspected musical pleasures, beginning this Saturday when the Cole family in Cheltenham will all be together again for the opening Coffee Concert of the year at Holy Apostles.

 

 

Earlier entries

View Blog for 2018

View Blog for July-Dec 2017 here

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