St Cecilia’s Hall is home to the collections of early keyboard and plucked strings, part of Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments (EUCHMI), which ranks among the world's most important collections of musical heritage. The sister collection is currently on display and in store at the Reid Concert Hall Museum of Instruments. The c. 4000 objects in the permanent collection constitute a rich research resource of both breadth and depth, and include many historically typical models of musical instruments spanning over 500 years, together with prized rare and unique items. Highlights include harpsichords by Ruckers and Taskin, guitars and lutes by Sellas, Staufer, Lacote, Harz and Railich, bowed strings by Bassano and Tielke, woodwind instruments by Haka, Stanesby, Simiot, Bassano and Denner and brass by Schnitzer, Winkings and Sax. The Collection contains the only unaltered Ruckers double manual harpsichord in the world, the only surviving one piece ivory tenor recorder from 16th century, the world’s only sub-bass serpent, unique examples from all the major guitar makers from the early 19th century and the world’s most copied harpsichord (Taskin 1769). The instruments are supplemented by an archive of original materials, working papers and a sound archive. The Collection as a whole attracts researchers from far and wide and is an extensively cited resource in international scholarship. Instruments are lent to prestigious exhibitions at home and internationally.
The collections were principally established for musical instrument research and academic instruction, but hands-on research for publication, making technical drawings, building replica instruments, demonstrations, recording etc. are actively encouraged and facilitated by EUCHMI staff. The Museums have a strategic aim to foster organological teaching and research through full participation in the University’s academic activity. As formulated in EUCHMI's Mission Statement, ‘the purpose of the Collection is to promote the study of the history, construction and functions of instruments of music and all cognate matters, the furtherance of research and the propagation of knowledge of instrumental history. The Collection will maintain a substantial permanent collection in relation to these objectives'.
The emphasis of the Collection is on instruments that are no longer in regular current use and the collecting policy is to acquire instruments when they fall out of use rather than to collect instruments by contemporary makers. The Collection thus covers the period from the 16th century (the earliest from which examples are available for acquisition) to the 20th century (the most recent from which instruments can be regarded as historic).
Many of the instruments are still playable and through an established concert programme and as a regular venue during the Edinburgh International Festival, the Concert Room provides a contemporaneous setting for performances, within which the audience can be seen as the interface between the University and the public. For instance, St Cecilia’s Hall is the only place in the world where it is possible to hear 18th century music in an 18th century concert hall played on 18th century instruments.
This article was published on Apr 8, 2013