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Clarion Larson builds a harpsichord article
Clarion Larson builds a harpsichord article
TitleClarion Larson builds a harpsichord article
Date of Original1978
CreatorFanning, Pam
Creator RoleAuthor
DescriptionAn article in the Bismarck Junior College Mystician about retired teacher, Clarion Larson, building a harpsichord.
General SubjectColleges and universities
Subject (LCTGM)Teachers
Universities & colleges
Personal NameLarson, Clarion E.
Organization NameBismarck Junior College
LocationBismarck (N.D.)
Item NumberBS-173
Format of OriginalNewspapers
Transcription"Harpsichord built for BJC to premier Dec. 1, 2 By Pam Fanning A harpsichord built exclusively for the BJC Performing Arts Department can be heard at its premier performance Dec. 1 and 2 in the Union's Missouri Room. The classic keyboard instrument will help recreate a 16th century Elizabethan atmosphere at a festive madrigal dinner, according to Erv Ely, band director. He added that the music department also will use the harpsichord for music majors, studying Baroque music and vocal concerts. The harpsichord, which first came into use in the 14th century in Europe, is similar to a piano. The major difference is that a harpsichord's strings are plucked with a plectrum, a plastic tongue, while a pianos are struck with a small hammer. 'It is a charming piece of equipment, ' Said Ely. The instrument was made from a kit by Clarion Larson, a retired Bismarck High School band director. He taught at BHS for 24 years, the record to date, during which time he instructed Ely, then an aspiring young band student. Ely says that the three BJC music instructors, Erma Garrity, Harley Muilenburg and himself, couldn't have found a better person for the job. 'Clarion is a musician, he's retired and he has the time to do this, ' he said. Ely and Muilenburg both worked on the kit last year, anticipating its completion for that year's madrigal dinner. 'But we simply ran out of time, ' said Ely. The kit, which cost $800, saved about half the price of ready-made harpsichord, according to local music stores. It arrived last fall complete with blue print, strings, keyboard, precut wood, glue, and hundreds of tiny nuts, bolts and screws. The two instructors, who got as far as fitting the framework together, passed it along to Larson this October. He completed it in one and a half months. Although Larson said he never doubted he could assemble the parts successfully, he admits he was apprehensive when he saw all the parts and the 100-page instruction book. Larson worked steadily, usually devoting several hours each day to his project. His goal was to have the instrument completed by Monday of this week. He said the easiest part of the operation was dropping the keyboard into its slot, because the keyboard was already made. But working with the strings was tedious, he said, since each of the 122 wires had to be cut, measured, and wound. He explained that the harpsichord has 61 keys, compared to the piano, which has 88. Each key of the harpsichord, therefore, had two strings to it, which could be played separately or together for a fuller sound. The strings had to be stretched between two pegs and the pitch of the note was determined by the size of wire. 'The longer and thicker the string, the lower the note, ' he said. 'The shorter the thinner, the higher.' Larson, who obviously enjoyed every minute of his work, even invented a tool to help him wind the wires consistently. It consisted of a piece of wood and a coat hanger, If there was a tiny king in one wire, he explained, the string would break when stretched. According to his wife, he is thinking of sending it to the kit manufacturers, who request helpful ideas, In describing the sound of his finished instrument, he said it definitely sounds 'plucked, ' compared to a piano, which sounds 'pounded.' Ely said that, 'If you were to close your eyes and just listen, it would seem like a lute or a guitar.' The instrument, which can't be played as fast as a piano, has to be played staccato style; the player lifts his fingers from the key as if touching a hot iron, This gives the plectrum time to return to its original position after making the sting vibrate rapidly. The piano, in contrast, will created a sound as fast as one can repeatedly press a key. Students who would like to try the instrument need only to get permission from one of the music teachers. 'Our policy will be just the same as with our pianos, ' Ely said. 'You don't have to be a concert pianist, a music major, or even a musician to use it!' There most likely won't be time before the madrigal dinner to lacquer or stain the already attractive beech-wood instrument, according to Ely. it will still be worth seeing, though, and plans are to decorate it with tapestry. Charlene Hartman, a sophomore from Kildeer, will perform all the harpsichord pieces for the dinner.
NotesTitle created by staff.
Biography/HistoryClarion Larson was a teacher at Bismarck High School and also worked with Bismarck Junior College in the music department. He was the founder of the Bismarck Junior College Bagpipe band.
Repository InstitutionBismarck State College Library Archives
Credit LineBismarck State College Library Archives (BS-173)
Rights ManagementCopyright transferred to Bismarck State College Library Archives.
Ordering InformationBismarck State College Library Archives
Attn: Carolyn Twingley
1500 Edwards Avenue Bismarck, ND 58501
(701) 224-5503
GrantNHPRC SNAP Grant 2009-2010 NAR10-RC-10062-09
Digital IDdmBS173
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