R. J. Regier Fortepianos & Harpsichords
The R. J. Regier workshop is located in a rebuilt barn attached to an ell attached to a house. Within this archetypal Maine structure lumber and veneer are stacked and seasoned, sometimes for many years. Cabinetmaker's hand tools, benches, and machinery as well as equipment unique to musical instrument manufacture are near at hand. Harpsichords and fortepianos in various stages of construction or repair rest on wheeled carts for easy movement around the assembly area or into the listening room.
The workshop is not large and production is necessarily limited. Our priority has always been to concentrate on a small number of designs and develop them rather than to make sequential prototypes. Our first Flemish harpsichord was built in 1975, our first 5-octave fortepiano in 1977, and our first 6 1/2-octave fortepiano in 1983. As a design evolves, fine original instruments are examined and played, then visited repeatedly to be reminded of their musical character, flexibility, and feel. Period instruments are our touchstones and our guides, however, we are not enslaved by their construction methods. Both hot hide glue and certain parts cut out by laser have their place. We make modifications in response to materials available today, to the North American timber species we prefer to use, to modern workshop practice, to customer request, and to what we hear.
photography Kip Brundage, Jim Hedrich, Amanda Kowalski and Warren Roos
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Adjusting the action, the mechanism by which the keys drive the hammers to hit the strings.
The natural (white) keys are cow bone; the sharps (black) are ebony. What defines a piano
action is touch dynamics, the ability to play softer or louder depending on the force
of the player’s fingers. These instruments are, in a sense, a musical laboratory that permits
us a hint of the time the piano was new and rapidly evolving, when composers and
players created a new idiom and technique for the new instrument, when Mozart would
have been astonishing, Beethoven revolutionary, and Schumann unnerving,
What artist, craftsman or musician do you admire most?
Great portraitists - Holbein, van Dyke, Rembrandt, Ingres, Sargent, Karsh - whose paintings, drawings, engravings or photos…whose magic bares the subject's soul. And great composers who bare my own soul.
Which was your favorite piece to create?
Sitting amidst an audience that has collectively stopped breathing as listeners focus on the pianist on stage—knowing my helper and I made the instrument for the artist’s expression.
Is there a piano that you haven't yet made that you'd like to make? Or perhaps a different instrument?
One that elevates my amateur playing to sound like Arthur Rubenstein or Emanuel Ax.
Your favorite drink and place to enjoy it?
After a hot afternoon, cold spring water high in New Hampshire or Montana.
Describe your favorite meal.
Any meal that first requires a stop at either Harbor Fish or Micucci's, or better, both.