Music enthusiast donates harpsichord to Mount Allison University
Joanna Manning has donated a Flemish harpsichord to Mount Allison, in thanks for the many years of music she and her late husband, Gary, enjoyed at the University.
Manning spent many years working as a music, theatre, and visual arts reviewer and feature writer in Ontario, and worked with music festivals in Britain. When the Mannings moved to New Brunswick, they were delighted to discover the excellent performances available at Mount Allison’s Music Department and the Sackville Festival of Early Music.
“Together with my late husband Gary – an editor, journalist and arts lover – we enjoyed many deeply enriching, exciting, sometimes amusing, evenings in Brunton Auditorium,” says Manning. “Whether we heard international guest performers, faculty members, or talented students, our drive home was always part review and part re-lived enjoyment. In memory of those precious hours together I am very happy to donate this beautiful harpsichord to Mount Allison's Music department. Early music and the classical period have long been my favourites. Bach's six Cello Suites never fail to enchant me, though all classical music touches my heart and soul. As I hope it will for Mount Allison audiences and students this year and for many to come.”
The donated double-manual harpsichord is equipped with three choirs of strings (8', 8', and 4' pitch) — strings are plucked when playing a harpsichord, as opposed to hit with a hammer when playing the piano. The harpsichord is painted in two shades of blue panelling with reverse Flemish paper on the keywell and surrounding the soundboard. The instrument’s turned oak trestle stand and elegant yet robust design means that it will serve well for both solo and chamber concert performances.
“We are so grateful to Joanna for making this donation,” says Dr. Stephen Runge, head of Mount Allison’s Department of Music. “We have long been hoping to acquire a new harpsichord for the Music department. This excellent instrument will provide incredible learning opportunities for our students and will be used by faculty and guest performers in the many concerts of early music that we present each year. The field of early music, and particularly music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, is an area of research and creative activity for several of our faculty members and our new first-rate harpsichord will be invaluable to them, their performances, and their teaching.”
Dr. Linda Pearse is an associate professor in Mount Allison’s Department of Music and the artistic director of the Sackville Festival of Early Music. She researches music prior to 1700 and says that the harpsichord will provide students with both hands-on performance opportunities and a greater understanding of how instruments like the harpsichord are built and their importance in the historical development of the Classical and Baroque repertoires.
“The harpsichord provides a nexus for collaboration and connection for those interested in music and culture both within Europe and beyond,” says Pearse. “Given its broad span of historical performance practices covering over 200 years, the instrument will serve many students and faculty.”
Pearse says the harpsichord will also attract internationally acclaimed performers to Sackville and serve outreach activities within local area schools, nursing homes, and other community organizations.
There is a Latin inscription within the ornately decorated lid on Mount Allison’s new harpsichord. It reads: “Musica Laetitiae Comes Medicina Dolorum” (Music is pleasure’s companion and sorrow’s remedy). Pearse says she sees the inscription as encapsulating Manning’s connection with music, a connection many share.
“As we heal and navigate our restructured environment in the resonance of the pandemic, music is an important balm for many,” says Pearse. “In this spirit, our harpsichord will sound in concert, reminding us of life’s sweet pleasures and the transformative powers of music in our world.”
Manning says music has been an integral part of her life since childhood. “I am not a performer but the sound of a string quartet or a simple folk song has always had the power to move and delight me — it feels like rain on parched ground.”
The harpsichord will appear in its first performance on Sunday, September 25, in Brunton Auditorium in the Marjorie Young Bell Conservatory of Music on the Mount Allison campus. Award-winning harpsichordist Mélisande McNabney and internationally celebrated cellist Elinor Frey, both travelling to Sackville from Montreal, will present “Quill and Bow: A Celebration of the Harpsichord and Cello.” The concert is open to the public and part of the 2022 Sackville Festival of Early Music. For details and tickets, visit sackvilleearlymusic.com or call (506) 878-3786.
While in Sackville, McNabney will also provide Mount Allison students with a workshop, colloquium, and private lessons, and will visit with and perform at local elementary and secondary schools.