Harpsichord: A Sonoran Twist on a Traditional Theme 

There is plenty of room for ‘new’ when decorating a harpsichord. The available area stretches more than seven feet in length and begs to be painted in a decorative array of flora and fauna. Tradition, dating back to the 1600’s, calls for elaborate images on these musical keyboard instruments. Iris, roses, lilies were popular and “re-elaborations” of mythological, historical or bucolic scenes graced lids. 

A new day dawns. Tucsonan, David Brooks wanted a motif closer to home. He built his Flemish Double Manual Harpsichord from a kit produced by Zuckermann Harpsichord International. This was a big project, but not far from his experience as an amateur luthier, building acoustic guitars. “I knew I wanted this harpsichord to reflect my passion for the desert,” David enthused, “so I had to find an artist who could paint the soundboard and lid with the unique flora and landscape of the Sonoran Desert.” 

ASBA Botanical artist, former Director of the Art Institute at the Arizona- Sonora Desert Museum and past-president of ASBA, Susan Fisher was delighted to take up the project. She knew it was a great opportunity to honor a classical tradition and to give Sonoran Desert subjects an opportunity to take center stage on both the keyboard and the lid. “Among 28 different desert subjects, I painted a frog, a scorpion, a little cactus wren, hummingbirds and a butterfly for the keyboard.” The vast desert landscape background painted on the lid is a depiction of the Baboquivari Mountains and Altar Valley. That Great-Horned Owl swooping out of the painting? She lives at the Desert Museum as a member of their Raptor Free Flight Program. 

  • Botanicals indigenous to the desert are faithfully represented on the sounding board.
  • David Brooks pictured with Susan Fisher seated at the beautifully illustrated Flemish Double Manual Harpsichord. Inner lid shows great owl spreading her wings over a full depiction of the Sonoran Desert near sundown