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|Lucas at the new AMD Cadet harpsichord|
Lucas Chen had already visited my workshop a few times before he announced he wanted to spend his workplace learning week in August 2022 expanding his harpsichord knowledge. Lucas is a Year 10 student at Sydney’s “Con High”, the selective high school attached to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where he plays clarinet as well as studying Partimento with Pinchgut Opera’s continuo scholar Andrei Hadap.
There was something different to excite Lucas each day as he followed me around. The week began with the final two recording sessions in ABC Ultimo’s Goossens Hall for a new CD of Melissa Farrow on classical flute and Erin Helyard on a Chris Maene Walter & Söhn fortepiano. Lucas not only was able to have a close encounter with fortepiano preparation, but also gained valuable insight into the professional recording process.
Superstar violinist Ray Chen was in town for Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Gala Classical program in the newly refurbished Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. My 1990 Grimaldi was used in Max Richter’s Four Seasons Recomposed. We had tunings for two rehearsals and were able to sit through Friday’s General Rehearsal to experience the Concert Hall with its improved acoustics musicians and audiences alike have been raving about.
The rest of the week disappeared pretty quickly. When my 2003 Ruckers Double was returned from the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, we quickly unpacked the flightcase and Lucas gave it a good tuning—along with a few other instruments in diverse temperaments. Some students get the hang of tuning pretty quickly, and Lucas proved he can do it. We returned the Maene fortepiano to its owner, and also went to inspect and collect an 1804 Muzio Clementi & Company square piano on behalf of its eBay purchaser.
Most of our time in the workshop itself, though, was spent on the latest Cadet from Atelier Marc Ducornet, a special order with a varnished case rather than chosen from one of the five modern colors. This provided a great opportunity for Lucas to really learn how the harpsichord works from the inside out. We went over the keyboard, cut and installed the jacks, voiced the instrument, installed the dampers, and tuned it up to pitch, and installed the buff stop. Before boxing it for express roadfreight to its private purchaser on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, we moved it onto the workshop stage for photographing.
As well as his musical endeavours, Lucas is a keen mountain biker who maintains his own bike. This was certainly evident from his understanding of tools and suggestions of how to use them. It was a pleasure hosting Lucas for the week, and I’m sure he‘ll be back.
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