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Recital for rare pedal harpsichord at Christ Episcopal, Tacoma

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on May 28, 2013 at 10:19 am with No Comments »
May 28, 2013 10:28 am
Mark Brombaugh's pedal harpsichord. Photo courtesy Mark Brombaugh.
Mark Brombaugh’s pedal harpsichord. Photo courtesy Mark Brombaugh.

Harpsichord recitals are rare enough in Tacoma, but this Friday Mark Brombaugh offers early music enthusiasts an even rarer opportunity: a recital on a harpsichord with pedals. Playing music by Bach, Vivaldi, Couperin and Buxtehude in the resonant acoustics of Christ Episcopal, where he is the organist, Brombaugh will perform on a pedal harpsichord that he commissioned from Hill and Tyre of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The instrument actually consists of two large harpsichords played by one musician at the same time: a standard double-manual harpsichord at normal height played with the hands, and a second one underneath it at ground level connected to organ-style pedals and played with the feet like an organ.

Says Brombaugh: “While no examples of pedal harpsichords survive from the baroque era, it is believed that organists owned them for practice purposes, since churches were unheated and extra help was needed to work the organ bellows.”

Anyone who’s ever tried to play music in an unheated church in winter – as well as anyone who’s ever pumped bellows by hand for hours –will appreciate this. But the instrument’s also a bonus for listeners, who get to hear a concert harpsichord beefed out with an extra 16-foot (double bass) range, allowing for not just standard harpsichord repertoire but organ music as well.

In Friday’s recital, Brombaugh will play both. An accomplished organist and harpsichordist, he’s led workshops and masterclasses for the American Guild of Organists and national church organizations. He has served as curator of organs at Westminster Choir College, and performs regularly around the region.

The recital is at 7:30 p.m. May 31 at Christ Episcopal, 310 N. K St., Tacoma. 253-383-1569, ccptacoma.org

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