It is with some trepidation that I send this posting to the list. I invite comments and criticism either "on list" or directly to me by e-mail. The Iowa City Early Keyboard Society publishes its newsletter on a sightly irregular schedule about three times a year. Soon after the current issue went out I received suggestions to post parts or all of it to HPSCHD-L. Some suggested deleting local items or business sponsors of our organization but I have decided to post it in its entirety this time. Please do let me know how you feel about this sort of posting. The print version contained no table of contents so I am including one here for your convenience. President's Message Business Sponsors Article: Philip Belt -- Fortepiano Maker Article: Elaine Funaro to Perform Calendar of Early Music Events ****************************** Iowa City Early Keyboard Society c/o Peter S. O'Donnell 308 Court Street Place Iowa City, Iowa 52245-4655 (319) 351-9133 ****************************** IOWA CITY EARLY KEYBOARD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER -- OCTOBER, 1996 PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE Peter S. O'Donnell Greetings, members and friends of the Iowa City Early Keyboard Society! Anyone who could not attend our first concert of the season missed a delightful performance by the many-talented Vivian Montgomery. The first half of the program spanned music from 1700 to the 1980s and was played entirely on harpsichord. For the second half, Vivan performed music from the 18th and 19th centuries using a copy of the 1784 Johann Andreas Stein fortepiano. The 1996-97 Iowa City Early Keyboard Society concert series will continue with solo harpsichord recitals by Elaine Funaro and Bonnie Choi. Mark your calendar! November 3, 2:00 PM..............Elaine Funaro, harpsichord March 9, 1:30 PM...................Bonnie Choi, harpsichord Thank you to our 1996-97 Business Sponsors: Brandt Heating and Air Conditioning Eble Music First National Bank Hills Bank and Trust Co. International World of Bikes Iowa State Bank and Trust Co. Prairie Lights Books The Soap Opera University of Iowa Community Credit Union West Music Company PHILIP BELT - FORTEPIANO MAKER Peter S. O'Donnell Malcolm Bilson (noted Cornell University scholar, fortepianist and recording artist) once said, "Philip Belt was a pathfinder for today's builders of period instruments... I think you might say that, thanks to Philip Belt, other people realized what could be done here..." Philip Belt is an outspoken fellow who builds the pianos of Mozart and Haydn in an ancient barn in Hagerstown, Indiana. Since I met him at the Midwestern Historical Keyboard Society meeting in April, 1996, I have learned much from and about this man who is at once single-minded, self-effacing, eccentric and feisty. Philip was born in Hagerstown, Indiana in 1927. This town of 2,000 lies 60 miles east of Indianapolis amid fields of corn and beans. Even as a child, he showed the beginnings of the unique mechanical and design skills he would develop as an adult. Like other boys he built model airplanes, but, in time, Philip learned to build his models from scratch. In high school he took four years of metal shop, and even even made a working one-cylinder engine. After graduating from high school in 1945 Philip did not find employment at the piston ring plant in Hagerstown like many of his classmates. Instead he took a job in nearby New Castle repairing band instruments for twenty-five dollars a week. It was during this time that he learned piano tuning from a local tuner and soon he was tuning pianos for money. As Philip says, "When you get into piano work, more often than not they need more than just tuning." More and more he was called on to maintain and repair pianos. It was during this time that he did experiments in his "spare time" with various kinds of wire and soundboard modifications to learn what he could about things that might affect a piano's sound. In 1959 an acquaintance from nearby Cambridge City called for a piano tuning. While there Philip was asked to look at a curiosity in the attic. It proved to be a German square piano (ca 1760) of four and a half octaves. Philip recalls, "It was a disaster; it only had a few strings, and it didn't play." He made drawings, learned what he could about its origin, and decided to build a piano using it as the model: "Something just clicked in my mind--that's what I'd like to do." However, it was not until several years later, while living and working in a cabinet maker's shop in Tennessee, that he completed his first copy of an early piano. Not long after, a curator of the Smithsonian Institution saw Belt's German piano reproduction and invited him to examine and make drawings of a fortepiano there. That instrument was built by Johann Lodewijk Dulcken, but at that time it was thought to have been built by Johann Andreas Stein, due largely to a bogus label on the soundboard. In the mid '60s Belt moved to Boston to apprentice with Frank Hubbard. After two years in the Hubbard shop Philip had commissions of his own and moved to New Hampshire to build fortepianos based on the Smithsonian's Dulcken. Knowledge of Philip's expertise was growing and he was asked to restore the authentic 1784 Stein piano in the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art. This proved to be a fortunate turn indeed; not only was he then able to build faithful reproductions of the instrument, but with Philip's help the Stein was later to serve as the model for kits produced by both Hubbard and Zuckermann. In 1968 Philip invited Malcolm Bilson to examine one of his Dulcken copies. Bilson agreed, kept the instrument for a week and performed a concert on it. In short order he decided to buy one of Philip's fortepianos. This proved to be crucial for Bilson because from this time on he began to perform almost exclusively on the fortepiano as well as to record on Philip's instruments. Demand for Philip's pianos increased and he began to offer kit fortepianos as well as completed instruments. In 1973 he was living and working in Battleground, Indiana, "Close to Lafayette where William Henry Harrison and the Indians fought in 1811," he reminded me. Business was good, he had five commissions and he sold his kit business to Hubbard in 1973. In the autumn he and his fifth wife, Maribel, a musicologist, spent their honeymoon traveling Europe on a 45 day EURAIL pass. They went to Copenhagen, Oslo, Trondheim, and Gothenburg, and then to the continent to Vienna, Zurich, Berlin, Salzburg, Basel and Nurnburg. Philip gained access to instruments in many museums and was able to make some detailed drawings. It was on this trip that he measured and studied the 1770 Stein piano. Philip had wanted to study Mozart's piano, built by Anton Walter, for some time. In the late sixties he had written to the Mozart Museum in Salzburg in hope of gaining access to the instrument. The reply was curt -- only "scientists and specialists" were permitted a close viewing and no measurements were permitted. He sent a second letter and included photos of some of his work. The reply suggested he could examine the Walter but there would be no measuring, and building a replica was absolutely out of the question. So it was that Philip and his wife arranged to see the piano one morning before the museum was open to the public. A curator took them to the piano and, during their conversation, it developed that Maribel had something in common with him. Her brother had worked with Wernher von Braun (noted German and later American rocket scientist) years before and so had the museum official. "Boy, he was just elated to find someone who was associated with Dr. von Braun," Philip says. "He looked around and said, 'I think it would be all right if you want to take a few measurements of the instrument.'" The Walter was to become one of Philip's most popular pianos. In 1974 the recession hit and Philip lost three of five commissions. After finishing the remaining two pianos he moved to Connecticut to join David Way at Zuckermann. It was during this time with Zuckermann (1975-79) that he designed their fortepiano kit. By 1980 Belt had ended his fifth marriage and had six children, but his personal life seemed to be undergoing a change. In 1981 he met and married Merlinda, a Filipina who is nearly as outspoken as Philip. In 1986 they moved to the Philippines and built a home. It was there that Philip began a copy of the 1770 Stein piano he had studied in Gothenburg. A combination of influences prompted them to move back to the United States -- among them, the inability to get good wood for pianos and the somewhat unstable political climate. They now live just outside Hagerstown with their three children, Cherish, Michael and Bobby. Philip Belt is modest about his work but speaks with pride about how some of his instruments have been used. He recalls a visit to the University of Illinois. "I stopped there cold turkey one time with one of my instruments. I had taken it to Des Moines... and I was on my way back. I had a hearse at that time that I carted it around in. I set it up at the university, and several of the professors came around. One fellow sat down and played it for a little bit - playing Mozart. It sounded just like an angel singing. He stopped and turned around to the rest of us, and he said, 'I've been playing Mozart all my life, and this is the first time I ever understood it.'" To date Philip Belt has made 38 fortepianos. He and his family have moved into their new house and he plans to move his shop from its current location in his sister's barn to a building to be completed near the family home. At an age when most have retired Philip is still making plans. On our last visit Merlinda and Philip were discussing the possibility of building a Nannette Streicher piano. Editor's postscript: Pete and Barbara O'Donnell own Philip Belt's copy of the 1770 Stein fortepiano, an unusual instrument built in the Philippines with a mahogany soundboard and appropriately decorated with a reproduction antique map of the world. ELAINE FUNARO TO PERFORM . Harpsichordist Elaine Funaro will be the featured artist in Early Music Iowa's second concert of the 1996-97 season. Ms. Funaro, a graduate of Oberlin College and the New England School of Music, is an expert on contemporary music for the harpsichord, as well as music by women composers and indigenous musical forms. ICEKS members may know Elaine as past president of the Southeast Historical Keyboard Society. Her Iowa City program, titled "From Naples to Venice and Beyond...", will include harpsichord music from the 18th and 20th centuries. The concert, co-sponsored by Early Music Iowa and the University of Iowa School of Music, will take place on Sunday, November 3 at 2:00 PM in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol. Admission is free and open to the public. Join us at a dinner welcoming Elaine on Saturday, November 2 at 6:00 PM at The Brown Bottle in Iowa City. In a related event, The UI School of Music Organ Department is sponsoring a lecture-demonstration by Ms. Funaro on the topic of winners of the Alienor Harpsichord Composition Competition. This presentation will take place on Saturday, November 2 at 10:30 AM in the Krapf Organ Studio at the School of Music, and is open to members and friends of ICEKS. CALENDAR OF EARLY MUSIC EVENTS . November 2, 10:30 AM, Krapf Organ Studio/UI School of Music Elaine Funaro gives a lecture-demonstration on winners of the Alienor Harpsichord Composition Competition. Members of the public and of ICEKS are invited. November 3, 2 PM, Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Early Music Iowa and UI School of Music present Elaine Funaro, harpsichord- ist, in recital. Free and open to the public. November 16, 8 PM, Clapp Recital Hall Chamber Singers of Iowa City, directed by Kenneth Phillips present "Mozart and More", including the Mozart Requiem and part-songs of Haydn. November 23, 8 PM, Clapp Recital Hall UI Collegium Musicum, directed by Elizabeth Aubrey performs a program of early music by/for/about women, including music of Hildegard of Bingen and Barbara Strozzi. November 24, 7 PM, Trinity Episcopal Church UI Collegium Musicum repeats their performance of November 23, presented by Music at Trinity. December 12-15, various times, IMU Lounge Annual Madrigal Dinners. December 22, 3:30 PM, Trinity Episcopal Church Music at Trinity presents "Christmas Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols", performed by The Trinity Choir directed by Robert Triplett. For updated information on University of Iowa School of Music events, call the automated information service: 335-3168.