63 notes, FF-g3, non-transposing. This instrument was
designed and built to be pitched at a' = 440 Hz.
Lower manual: 1 x 4', 2 x 8', 1 x 16'; Upper manual: 1 x 8';
pedal activated registers, separate buff stop on each 8',
7 pedals, plastic jacks, leather plectra. By the simple
device of having 3 ranks of 8' jacks, the manual coupler (along
with its weight and complexity when associated with pedals)
is avoided. The instrument has only four choirs of
strings: 1 x 4', 2 x 8', 1 x 16'. N.B., the very wide gap necessary to accommodate so many jacks makes the use of music wire imperative. The load-bearing structure is so over-built that there should be no worry about continuing to pitch the instrument at a' = 440 Hz.
The walnut-veneered case is finished in clear lacquer.
The lid and flaps, also veneered in walnut, are carried on
handsome tapered and pierced strap and butterfly hinges.
The metal soundboard is coated with a gold-colored finish and sports
a decorative 'rosette'. The keyboard is covered in the reverse color scheme. The black naturals and boxwood accidentals are heavily lacquered, presumably to reproduce the slipperiness of a piano keyboard. The instrument stands on a
walnut trestle stand, which is fitted with heavy-duty casters
for easy movement around a flat floor.
97" length, 41" width
Challis was the most important American harpsichord maker
at the middle of the 20th century. His approach to
the instrument was idiosyncratic and unashamedly modernistic.
He attempted nothing less than to reinvent the harpsichord
as a product of 20th-century materials. It must have
seemed like a good idea at the time - it certainly made the
seminal work of Hubbard and Dowd harder and less certain of
acceptance. In any case, whether or not it really was
a good idea, this type still possesses exactly the sort of
sound and resources that many of the best 20th-century pieces
for harpsichord require for their most authentic realization.
Through his apprentice, William Dowd (!), John Challis'
influence on the subsequent development of harpsichord making
instrument represents the ideal to which John Challis strived.
Everything is beautifully made and precisely executed.
The soundboard and bridges are of metal, the jacks
are milled plastic and most of the wood has no function other
than to conjure the illusion that this is a 'normal' harpsichord.
This instrument saw
heavy use as a working studio and rental item but, having
fallen out of service some time ago, morphed into a back-wall
wraith. It has encountered more than its share of door jambs,
instrument cases, chair backs and music stands, but is most
in need of a complete action restoration. It would
be perfect if returned to a studio or stage environment where
its compromised cosmetics wouldn't matter. A complete
or partial cosmetic restoration would of course be possible,
as well, but we choose to defer in this matter to the eventual
owner. It must be said that, although the details may here and there be ragged and at close range it may look a
bit of a wreck outside, it is structurally no different than
new and, failing catastrophe, should continue as such well
into the future; it should be ethically restorable in the
The offering price includes the cost
of the necessary action renewal. Please inquire for
information regarding cosmetic restoration.