James R. McCarty
James R. (Jay) McCarty, MD, writes: "Although I am a dermatologist by training, I have been fascinated by keyboards of all kinds as long as I can remember. Realizing early on that I did not have the talent to make a living as a musician, I happily adopted music as an avocation. While I played modern piano and organ when I was young, I have not played anything but the harpsichord for the last 30 years."
My French double harpsichord after the 1730 Nicolas & Francois Etienne Blanchet was made by William Dowd in Cambridge in 1976. The soundboard painting is by Sheridan Germann, after the Nicolas Dumont of 1697 that underwent ravalement by Pascal Taskin in 1789.
The dark blue lacquer was not one of Dowd's standard colors; at my request, he duplicated a color sample generously provided by another expert maker, Richard Kingston. In the late '70s, the instrument was played twice in concert by Gustav Leonhardt. It also has appeared in recitals by Larry Palmer and David Cates.
The original stringing was in steel music wire and phosphor bronze. These were replaced with iron and brass Rose wire by John Bennett. The harpsichord has been revoiced in Delrin by Don Angle. These changes have given its tone considerably more character. It lives at a=392 in quarter-comma meantone. Like most Dowds, it has a very smooth action and remarkable tuning stability.
My virginal after the 1684 Joannes de Perticis was made by Jerome Prager in Los Angeles in 1983. I met Jerry at the first Boston Early Music Festival in 1981, where he created a sensation with his excellent large Italian after Grimaldi. The virginal, although much smaller than the Grimaldi, exhibits the care that Jerry lavished on the construction and decoration of all his instruments. The elaborate rose, the ivory beads, and the painting of the outer case make for a most pleasant appearance.
Voiced in Delrin and strung in brass, the instrument has a typical Italian tone. It lives at a=415 in quarter-comma meantone.