David Jenkins described the arrival of a new harpsichord at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas as “serendipitous.”
“We weren’t searching it out or anything,” said Jenkins, the liturgical music director at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity. “It kind of just happened.”
The harpsichord was donated by Dr. Gerald Gaul, an eye surgeon based out of Grand Forks, North Dakota, who has performed on viola with the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra for 20 years and recently was named a trustee of the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota.
Gaul, a longtime friend of Chris Kachian, professor of music, was invited to perform at St. Thomas with Kachian and Jenkins. Gaul brought his own harpsichord to play on for the concert and, during rehearsals, Gaul asked them if they wanted to keep the harpsichord.
Listen to David Jenkins play a selection from Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue by J.S. Bach.
“It sounds like a million bucks,” Kachian said. “Just an amazing, amazing instrument.” Kachian added that two of Gaul’s uncles had been ordained at the seminary, so it was important to him that the donation was a gift to St. Thomas, the Music Department and the seminary.
The harpsichord, which Gaul had commissioned, was built by Kevin Fryer in 1994. Fryer, who is based in San Francisco, is quite well-known internationally and is of “the caliber of best builders,” Jenkins said.
While the harpsichord is modern in terms of age, it was built with the tradition in mind. Jenkins pointed out the gold leaf along the top, the color choices and the hand-painted imagery inside the harpsichord. Fryer visited the harpsichord at its new home after its arrival to perform some restoration work. Jenkins said Fryer was pleased with the condition of the instrument.
It will now be used for concerts, teaching harpsichord and for some liturgies.
“There are lots of pedagogical possibilities,” Jenkins said. “It will definitely enhance and broaden the possibilities for St. Thomas.”
The harpsichord, played by Jenkins, will makes its debut at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 19 in St. Mary’s Chapel. Kachian, Gaul and Gaul’s wife, Cecilia Garcia Gaul, also will perform. The concert is free and open to the public. A reception will follow to formally thank Gaul for the donation.