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NG HAN GUAN
|Rare and beautiful…Lecturer Geoffrey Benjamin’s
gets some loving repair work from harpsichord maker Carey Beebe (left).
THERE is no better way to perform and appreciate music that is a few hundred years old than with instruments of its time.
So think the 16 members of the American Bach Soloists. And they should know, having been hailed by critics as “the best American specialists in early music”.
The critically-acclaimed group will perform in Singapore for the first time tomorrow, to help raise funds for the Asian Civilisations Museum being launched in February at the former Tao Nan School in Armenian Street.
The charity gala will be attended by Mrs Goh Chok Tong, with proceeds to be used for acquiring artifacts for the museum.
Using instruments such as the baroque flute, baroque oboe, the lute and the harpsichord, the group will perform early music in the playing and singing styles of Bach’s time.
But for this trip, the group’s artistic and music director, Jeffrey Thomas, had to keep his harpsichord at home because it was difficult to transport.
The instrument, says the tenor and harpsichord player in a phone interview from San Francisco, is as big as a grand piano.
Thomas, who founded the American Bach Soloists in 1989, says much effort and muscle were applied to find a harpsichord that was in tip-top shape for the Singapore concert.
Organisers traced the rare instrument to the home of Associate Professor Geoffrey Benjamin, a National University of Singapore sociology lecturer, and his well-know anthropologist wife, Dr Vivienne Wee.
Prof Benjamin owns and plays other old instruments such as the baroque flute and recorder. He had bought the harpsichord in Britain in 1981.
He thinks it was made in an authentic 18th-century French style as it was discovered in France in the ’70s.
The only original parts are the case work and the Louis XVI stand, he adds.
On Saturday, the instrument had a mini-makeover by well-known harpsichord maker Carey Beebe, who flew in to repair the soundboard.
For the concert, said Prof Benjamin, it was adjusted “to a ‘well-tempered’ but unequal tuning of the kind favoured until the middle of the last century, maintaining the different key colours valued by the earlier composers.”
All this pampering should be a bonus to Dr Wee who, says her husband, is the one who plays the instrument.
The American Bach Soloists will perform at the Victoria Concert Hall tomorrow at 8 pm. Tickets at $30, $60, and $100 are available at Sistic outlets. Call 348-5555 or fax 440-6784.
Article by Rebecca Lim
The Straits Times October 1 1996
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