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Our harpsichord has taken its final, glorious form!

Extraordinary music requires extraordinary instruments. Our new harpsichord, commissioned from Dutch maker Titus Crijnen with the support of 45 private donors, was officially launched by the Minister for the Arts, The Hon. Elise Archer MP, at Hobart Town Hall on Monday 21 August.

The instrument features an interior lid illustration by nipaluna/Hobart botanical artist, Deborah Wace. Linking art and science, this incredible bespoke artwork is inspired by the rocky headlands and tumultuous seas surrounding the instrument's island home. It features 31 botanical species, with many specimens from Deb's private collection. 

“This is a meaningful commission for me,” says Wace. “My arts practice has always involved music, plants, and printmaking. Here I’ve combined the highly ornate and elaborate style of art and design that typifies the Baroque period with the land and botany of lutruwita. I’m thrilled to be part of an instrument that showcases the world-class musicianship of our Van Diemen’s Band.”

Harpsichords have traditionally been richly ornamented. Unlike the uniform black gloss of a concert grand piano, harpsichords through the ages have displayed all manner of colours and patterns, reflecting the design trends and fashions of the period in which they were created. For Van Diemen’s Band, it was crucial that the brand-new harpsichord reflect the unique natural beauty of our island.

“Deb’s work is the final touch on the instrument we commissioned in 2020 from the great builder Titus Crijnen,” says VDB Artistic Director Julia Fredersdorff. “We’ve taken something that represents the apogee of European culture and given it a uniquely local twist. In a way, it’s the return of serve to those visiting French botanists who captured our indigenous plant culture, collecting specimens and making drawings during the 1792 d’Entrecasteaux expedition to lutruwita – a subject on which Deb has made a serious study.”

Read more about the fascinating process behind Deb's artwork here or discover more about this superb instrument here. 

The harpsichord can be heard by audiences in lutruwita/Tasmania during our October Borderlands tour, which is also being streamed on Australian Digital Concert Hall on 1 November.


Photographer credit: Richard Jupe