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Leonore Overture

collects the music and arts criticism of Keith Powers

Jeremy Adams, builder. An exhibition of his furniture and instruments. Cape Ann Museum. Reviewed

 Jeremy Adams in his Danvers, Mass. studio. Photograph Paul Cary Goldberg.

Jeremy Adams in his Danvers, Mass. studio. Photograph Paul Cary Goldberg.

Jeremy Adams creates art for the eyes and the ears. 

An exhibition of works by the instrument and furniture builder, on view now at the Cape Ann Museum, is mostly for the eyes. And the imagination. And when some musicians show up, for the ears as well.

“Voicing the Woods” shows harpsichords, clavichords, organ materials and furniture, all crafted entirely by Adams in his Danvers workshop. It’s a broad display of creativity and craft, reflecting Adams’s long commitment to acoustic instruments, and his inventive skills as a woodworker.

Jeremy Adams, with a background as a musician, apprenticed with one of the finest harpsichord makers ever—William Dowd in Cambridge, in the 1950s. He subsequently worked as an apprentice with Gloucester’s own Charles Fisk, whose organ company continues to build and refurbish important instruments all over the world.

Adams’s apprenticeships coincided with the rising interest in period instruments, and increased proficiency in the music of the Baroque and Renaissance periods. More and more scholars and musicians were not only interested in the music, but in how it might have been played when it was first written. 

Music lovers in the Boston area are by now familiar with distinguished practitioners of period performance like Boston Baroque, Handel & Haydn Society, Boston Camerata and the performers of the Boston Early Music Festival. Less familiar are the luthiers, wind and horn makers, and harpsichord builders like Adams who have kept abreast of that scholarship and allowed the musicians to explore their ideas with authentic period instruments.

This exhibition includes those instruments that could be transported; a few of Adams’s organs, most of them spread around the country, can be seen locally as well, like the Chapel Organ in the Maple Street Congregational Church in Danvers, and the organ in the Annisquam Village Church. 

“Voicing the Woods” shows several marvelous harpsichords, including one that was just recently completed, a demonstration organ chest, and a 1995 clavichord. Additionally, on view in the adjacent Captain Elias Davis House, is a selection of Adams’s furniture—whimsical, precise and lushly finished. 

“We wanted to combine his new things and our old things,” says museum curator Martha Oaks of the furniture. “It’s really fun to see the contemporary stuff with the furniture in the house. Our docents will have to figure out how to explain it.”

In addition to displaying instruments and furniture, the museum commissioned photographer Paul Cary Goldberg to document Adams’s studio, and photograph some of the details that could not possibly be displayed. About two dozen of Goldberg’s photographs accompany the instruments in the upstairs gallery.

“He makes everything,” Oaks says of Adams, “which is really quite amazing. We asked Paul to spend some time with Jeremy and document his process, and his studio.”

“Voicing the Woods” runs through Feb. 26 at the Cape Ann Museum. There are numerous gallery talks, music presentations and lectures accompanying the exhibition. For complete information visit www.capeannmuseum.org or call 978-283-0455.

 

Published in the North Shore GateHouse newspapers, 10.21.16.

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