Remembering an extraordinary talent who never forgot his Wooler roots

Wooler-born David Evans, a renowned harpsichord maker, in the Northumbrian countryside he loved.
Wooler-born David Evans, a renowned harpsichord maker, in the Northumbrian countryside he loved.

A world-renowned harpsichord maker, who was born in Wooler, has died at the age of 82.

David Evans MBE is widely credited with making a significant contribution to the revival of this historical keyboard instrument.

David with one of his instruments.

David with one of his instruments.

He came from a musical family and his early years were spent among rural craftsmen in north Northumberland who gave him his first insights into traditional, pre-industrial skills.

His widow Patricia Jordan-Evans said: “My husband loved his childhood in Wooler. He was enchanted by the countryside and places like Happy Valley and how he ran free, in touch with nature.”

His fascination for harpsichords began in 1945, when, aged nine, he was captivated by a BBC broadcast of early keyboard music played on an original 18th century French harpsichord.

The impact of this experience was so great that he devoted the rest of his life to the sound and making of harpsichords, based on the methods of great makers of the past.

David won a scholarship to Lord Wandsworth College in Hampshire at the age of 12 and travelled there and back on his own. He also learnt how to fly a Tiger Moth.

The family eventually moved to Hull before David went to university there.

After National Service in the RAF, nurturing his love of flying, he moved into education, becoming a primary school headteacher and earning an MBE in 1986 for his services to education.

But his great passion was making harpsichords, mimicking the techniques of the great masters of the art from the past.

His commissions were despatched all over the world and his Henley workshop became a place of international pilgrimage.

Patricia told the Gazette he often recollected on those early days in Wooler and the older men and the other boys he grew up around.

“We now live in the country and it was so he could see the stars properly as he could in Wooler,” she said.

“I wish I had a better memory to relay all the tales he told me about Wooler for he had a deep love of the place where he was born. He worked on a farm in school holidays and used to recall the rabbits running out when the hay or corn was being cut.”

David Evans was born on July 28, 1936, and died on December 8, 2018.