The purpose of the Frederick Piano Collection is to give musicians and music lovers a chance to hear works by major piano composers, played on pianos such as those the composers knew, and for which their music was conceived.
The Collection includes only grand pianos, by important makers whose instruments were highly regarded in their day, acquired in basically good condition, with most of their original materials intact (especially soundboards). It aims to match each instrument to a specific composer or generation of composers known to have used or preferred that make and vintage of piano. The period of pianos in the Collection extends from about 1790 to 1928, representing music from Haydn and Beethoven through the French Impressionists.
Begun in 1975, The Collection is the project of Edmund Michael Frederick and his wife Patricia Humphrey Frederick of Ashburnham, Massachusetts. The Fredericks' qualifications for owning and curating such a collection are particularly strong:
Edmund, originally an East Asian History major, had become interested in the historical harpsichord before entering college. During school vacations, as an undergraduate at Harvard, he built two harpsichords (from plans of museum originals, not by assembling kits), and spent hours visiting with master harpsichord builder Frank Hubbard, learning about techniques of instrument building and restoration. A serious amateur player, Edmund studied harpsichord with David Fuller and John Gibbons and audited a course on harpsichord literature with Gustav Leonhardt. Edmund researches the history of the piano in the context of its repertory and performance practice, restores the Collection's pianos, and is a lecturer and consultant on the historical piano. His articles on piano history have been published in music books and journals.
Patricia's family was dedicated to the passionate pursuit of creative activity. Her father, Laning Humphrey, publicist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and curator of the Casadesus Collection of Ancient Instruments at Symphony Hall, arranged for demonstrations of the instruments by members of the Orchestra and by performance specialists from Boston's Early Music community. Program annotator for the Boston Pops, Mr. Humphrey emphasized the human factor behind the music, to draw his readers into a personal interest in music history, its composers and its instruments. Patricia's mother was the orchestra's staff artist, photographing and sketching musicians, conductors and guest artists from life, for news publication.
Patricia began piano lessons at age six; an Elementary Music Education specialist with a degree from Boston University, she has taught choral/general music in several school systems, is a church organist and choir director, and a popular guest speaker on musical subjects. She is the Collection's business manager, publicist, fundraiser, and assistant lecturer.
Esplanade Concert Fund Enriched - Patricia Ann Humphrey, 8-year-old pianist who aspires to be a concert artist someday, turns over hard-earned $4 to fund director Fredericka Nielson from sale of Hatch Shell picture cards. Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Laning Humphrey of 364 Woodward St. Waban, the young musician prides herself as being the Boston Symphony Orchestra's youngest "patron".
A typical tour of the Collection begins with its most modern piano, built in Leipzig in 1907, and works backward to the oldest instruments. It introduces basic elements of piano-building, with musical examples played on each of a succession of instruments whose design priorities reflect musical tastes during many composers' lifetimes. A tour usually lasts two or three hours; seriously interested persons sometimes spend many hours at the Collection, asking questions, playing the instruments, and listening to the Fredericks' collection of CDs re-mastered from early recordings by important musicians trained in the 19th century.
Each tour is tailored to the interests and level of understanding of its audience. The Frederick Piano Collection has been visited by persons from twenty countries and thirty-eight states; visitors have included musicians, music scholars, lay persons, and school children, both individuals and groups.
Since fall, 1985, the Fredericks have conducted the Historical Piano Concerts series, based on the Collection. At each concert a professional pianist, sometimes in solo recital, sometimes with a singer or small chamber group, plays music suited to the piano chosen for the program. The concerts, held at the Ashburnham Community Church in a space with superb acoustics, draw audiences from all over New England.
Historical Piano Concerts, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization supported by public donation and volunteer assistance. Since 1985, the concerts have run "in the black"; through careful management, all bills have been paid promptly, without deficits or cost overruns, a record in which the Fredericks take pride. Views of the venue, taken during concerts and rehersals, can be seen here.
The Frederick Piano Collection, formerly located in the couple's home, is presently located in the handsome former town library building three doors south of their house. There they conduct a Study Center for the history of the piano and its music. The building is leased from the Town of Ashburnham, with the understanding that Historical Piano Concerts, Inc. will supplement its nominal rental payments with ongoing renovation of the building. Thusfar the organization has supplied the building with a handicapped-accessible ramp and restroom, two new chimney stacks, five new copper roof gable valleys, and many other historically appropriate improvements.
Renovations have proceeded with the help of foundation grants, individual and corporate donations, and in-kind labor by volunteers.
To learn more about the Frederick Piano Collection, the Historical Piano Concerts Series or the Study Center, please write or telephone Michael or Patricia Frederick at:
15 Water Street
Ashburnham, MA 01430-1258
Phone/Fax (978) 827-6232
Donations to Historical Piano Concerts, Inc., both in-kind and monetary, are still much needed, for the support of the concert series, the work of the Study Center, and toward building renovations and maintenance. Financial records of the Concert Series and the Study Center are maintained separately, although both are operated by Historical Piano Concerts, Inc. Checks should be earmarked for one or the other. The corporation is a non-profit, tax-exempt public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code; donations are fully deductible.