Welcoming Follen’s Harpsichord

The original prototype (c. 1608)

The Italian harpsichord given to Follen by Anne Engelhart is built by one of the most prominent contemporary builders, Keith Hill of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Keith is author of an authoritative book, The True Art of Making Musical Instruments—A Practical Guide to the Hidden Craft of Enhancing Sound, and he provided many of the instruments owned by the University of Michigan, where Follen’s harpsichordist Director of Music, Vivian Montgomery, studied. He is known as the most exacting yet experimental of builders, focused deeply on sound and touch rather than exterior bells and whistles.


The early 17th century prototype of this instrument can be found at a museum in Germany while Follen’s replica was built in 1974 and has been the treasured possession of Anne Engelhart since it was born (in fact, the builder wrote her name inside the soundboard well!). What makes this a distinctly Italian instrument? It’s a single manual (keyboard) with a limited range, but more importantly it has a bold and biting sound because it’s entirely brass-strung, has a very thin and resonant soundboard (usually made from cypress), and it has thick plectra (the quills that pluck the strings).


We’re so happy that its ringing sound will be heard regularly in the sanctuary and Follen’s new music center – thank you, Anne, for this beautiful gift! Stay tuned for a photo of the harpsichord in its new home.