Watching Charles Gunn’s fingers sprint across the keyboard of his harpsichord is exhausting and exhilarating.
The instrument, which resembles a piano and sounds like an energetic harp, has strings that are internally plucked like a guitar when Gunn rapidly hits the keys.
“This music needs to be played with vigor,” says Gunn, a Lower Greenville-area resident who works as a freelance musician.
Gunn says he wants to bring the harpsichord “out of the closet,” where he says many music teachers have kept it.
“As the piano was developed, the harpsichord was slowly thrown away,” Gunn says. “The music is so wonderful. It’s more confident than a piano.”
Gunn, who is in his early 40s, knows his way around several instruments. He began playing the piano at the age of four under the instruction of his grandmother. He moved to the violin in high school, and in college, he studied the organ. But it was the harpsichord, which Gunn began tinkering with as a teenager, that he says stole his heart.
“It just comes to you – which instrument brings out who you are,” he says.
Gunn’s father bought his teenage son a $150 kit to construct his first harpsichord, and the two of them built it together, Gunn says.
“It was a valuable lesson. It taught me how to take one apart and put it back together,” Gunn says. “If you own a harpsichord, it must be babied. They’re not as stable as pianos.”
A harpsichord requires extreme precision and is “very unforgiving” when you play a wrong not, Gunn says. You can’t mask a mistake like you can with some instruments, he says.
“I was born a very undisciplined person,” Gunn says. “The harpsichord allows me to discipline myself in a way that doesn’t hurt.”
Gunn, a bachelor, owns two harpsichords, which he refers to as his “children.”
“They’re like cats. You can have a litter of them and not one is the same,” Gunn says.
In addition to his two harpsichords, Gunn also owns two pianos, an organ and a practice keyboard.
“There is no reason why there shouldn’t be live harpsichord music everyday somewhere in Dallas,” he says. “You’ve got piano music, jazz bands, blues bands…
“I have never heard an audience that didn’t love the harpsichord.”
News & Notes
Lakewood Branch: The Lakewood Branch of the Dallas Public Library, 6121 Worth, welcomes Touchstone Residential Realtors on April 22, at 6:30 p.m. Representatives from Touchstone will present “Buying Your Home,” a free program that will offer tips to potential buyers. Touchstone will be back on April 29 at 6:30 p.m. to present “Selling Your Home,” a free program for those who want to sell their home. For information, call 214-670-1376.
Skillman/Southwestern Branch: The Skillman/Southwestern Branch of the Dallas Public Library, 5707 Skillman, will offer three half hour classes to explain its new computer system during National Library Week, April 14-19. All classes begin at 2 p.m. Space is limited. Call the library to sign-up. The library welcomes Dr. Stephen Sporn, Saturday, April 5, from 3-4:30 p.m. Dr. Sporn, a naturopathic physician, will explain alternative medicine and its advantages. Tax return preparation assistance by the AARP and VITA will be given on April 2 and April 9, from noon-6 p.m. Throughout April the library will also host a nostalgic exhibit of Pez dispensers in the lobby display case. For information, call 214-670-6078.
Lakewood Theatre: The Lakewood Theatre, 1825 Abrams Pkwy., will host a Night of Nostalgia, on May 3. The program benefits the Women’s Chorus of Dallas. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Danny Ray, who will play the theater’s organ while silent movies dance across the big screen, kicks off the festivities at 7 p.m. At 8 p.m., there will be a showing of the five-star comedy, The Women, starring Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. Following the movie, the theater will transform into a cabaret, with a program of torch songs performed by singers from The Women’s Chorus of Dallas. The chorus includes such neighborhood residents as Dr. Melanie Blumer, Sonya Calo’oy, Janie Hall, Donna Robbins, Anne Albritton, R. Dawn Grimes, Barbara Moore, Lynnie Henderson, Laura Caraway, Melissa Cater, Betty Robason, Sarah Sprecher, Cindy Tan, Carol Trigg, Julie Patton, Dana Curtis, Mo Elizondo, Carol Gallant, Barbara Bach, Marie Hewlett, Cathy Kleintop, Dak Konrad, Carol Montgomery and Carroll Norton. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Advanced tickets may be purchased with a credit card, and can be held at the door or mailed. To order tickets or for information, call 214-827-4943.
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