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New exhibit explores local 19th-century woodwind makers

January 23, 2012

Portrait of Philo Ruggles (1765-1829) by Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society.

A new exhibit called Whirring Lathes, Dulcet Tones: Woodwind Making in Early 19th-Century Connecticut and New York will open on Wednesday, January 25, 2012, at Yale’s Collection of Musical Instruments.

Twenty-six woodwind instruments are on display, including flageolets, fifes, a piccolo, flutes, clarinets, and a bassoon.

The most unusual instrument featured in the exhibit is a bass clarion (a bass clarinet in the shape of a bassoon) made by Uzal Miner after a design that his mentor George Catlin patented in the early 1800s.

The instruments come from the workshops of Edward Riley (New York City), George Catlin (Hartford), Uzal Miner (Hartford), John Meacham, Jr. (Hartford and Albany), Asa Hopkins (Litchfield), Benjamin & Munger (New Haven), and Firth, Hall, and Pond (New York City and Litchfield).

Enhancing the displays of instruments are period portraiture, genre scenes, newspaper advertisements, instrument tutors, and instruction books. Facsimiles of engravings enable viewers to see what kind of lathes were used in the turning of woodwinds at this time. Actual wood samples acquaint viewers with the different species of woods that were favored by makers: boxwood, satinwood, rosewood, cocuswood, ebony, and maple.

Bass clarion by Uzal Miner, Hartford, early 19th century. Photo by Christopher Gardner.

The exhibit was organized by Susan E. Thompson, a curator of the Collection. Thompson was assisted by three museum interns, two of whom are recent graduates of the School of Music, and one who will graduate this spring: Bethany Wiese ’10 MM, Scott Holben ’10 MM, and Ian Petruzzi ’12 MM.

Monica Ong Reed, the School’s Design Manager, carried out the design of the forthcoming exhibit catalogue; Hal Schwartz of Yale’s Printing and Production Services will oversee its production.

Whirring Lathes, Dulcet Tones will remain on view until June 29, 2012.

The Yale Collection of Musical Instruments is located at 15 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven. Visiting hours are Tuesday–Friday, 1:00–4:00 pm, and Sunday, 1:00–5:00 pm, September through June. Admission is free.

For further information, call 203 432-0822 or visit www.yale.edu/musicalinstruments.

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