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Carey Beebe at the Goble harpsichord at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts 21K jpeg
RIGHT KEY: Melbourne-born Carey Beebe smiles over
another patient with received his musical ministrations.

Keyboard doc Beebe lends an ear

The next best thing to being a celebrated concert pianist these days, it would appear, is to become a keyboard doctor.

That, exactly, is the calling of Melbourne-born Carey Beebe who ranks among the most travelled and best known Australians with a fine-tuned touch and ear for near flawless and perfect pitch with keyboard instruments.

Watching him tap the quills of the new Goble harpsichord that the Academy for Performing Arts (APA) has acquired from Oxford, one could not help being impressed by Beebe’s sensitive keyboard manner as he coaxed the best out of the instrument with painstaking precision and patience.

We should be seeing a lot more of Beebe in this part of the world, thanks, no doubt, to a newfound interest here in the harpsichord as a concert instrument.

The University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University, Baptist College and the APA all have harpsichord programs with students enrolling for advanced studies.

Beebe, who is on his third trip to Hong Kong, is on call around the world, a global jaunt he does every two years.

The music department of the Hong Kong University, Beebe said, had a large collection of keyboard instruments, including an antique Danish piano where the strings run crosswise.

“Unfortunately,” Beebe said, “this vintage 1830 instrument was water damaged following heavy rains in recent months. It had to be be restored.”

And that was one of the jobs the keyboard doc had to handle on this trip.

Asked to explain his bias for the harpsichord, Beebe said: “It has sparkle, flair, clarity and precision of tone.”

In many ways, these are qualities that best describe Beebe himself.

As a young piano student at the Sydney Conservatorium, Beebe who has a music degree and three performance diplomas, acquired an interest in the harpsichord, particularly its construction.

As a result, he trained at the leading American workshop of D Jacques Way, home of the world-famous Zuckermann harpsichord kits.

In 1982, Beebe was made the youngest ever international agent for Zuckermann Harpsichords Inc.

Thereafter, he has examined original instruments in museums and private collections and maintained or prepared instruments for concerts, broadcasts or recordings on five continents.

In Australia, Beebe’s instruments have been featured in concerts and exhibitions in all states.

Last year, Beebe was keyboard doctor-in-residence at the University of Hong Kong, where he restored five early keyboard instruments to full playing condition.

He also provided an identical service to the Chinese University, Radio Television Hong Kong, City Hall, and an assortment of private owners.

On his present trip, Beebe has made stops in Taipei, Beijing, Xian and Shanghai on similar maintenance assignments. Besides Hong Kong, other destinations include Singapore.

This week, the keyboard doctor will hold masterclasses with harpsichord virtuoso Joyce Lindorff, senior lecturer at Baptist College and the Academy of Performing Arts, to provide user-friendly hints on how best to look after your keyboard instrument.

It is the kind of offer one dare not resist.

Article by Vernon Ram
Hong Kong Standard October 5 1994

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