Andrew Garrett Obituary | Classical music


My friend Andrew Garrett, musical instrument maker, curator and restorer, who died aged 83, was one half of the Clayson & Garrett partnership and the National Trust’s adviser on musical instrument conservation.

Andrew, reading the story, met Richard Clayson, reading English, in Oxford, where they built their first harpsichord during their final year of bachelor’s degree. Richard playing the piano and organ did not have the same opportunities to make music as Andrew, a violinist. Their musical taste was baroque, instrument rental was expensive – why not make their own harpsichord?

Andrew Garrett and his wife, Paddy, with one of his harpsichords

This first instrument caused a sensation at Oxford in 1962. Harpsichord maker Michael Thomas invited them to work with him in his workshop and collection at Hurley Manor, near Maidenhead in Berkshire. The Spartan accommodation was a converted barge on the Thames and the cold endured during the harsh winter of 1962-63 is long remembered. After this brief and idiosyncratic continuing education, the couple were able to move to Richard’s hometown of Lyminge, near Folkestone in Kent, to settle independently.

In 1969, after six years making harpsichords and clavichords according to Thomas and their own ideas, aided by cabinet maker Ted Burren, they changed direction, becoming pioneers in the UK by copying surviving historic instruments rather than reinventing a “modern” harpsichord.

Andrew and Richard’s long association with Alfred Deller’s Stour Music Festival in Kent had introduced them to historically informed performances, especially in the Netherlands, where harpsichordist and conductor Gustav Leonhardt was at the heart of the early music movement. Leonhardt was a significant influence, advising and encouraging them during their daring transition.

Similar-oriented British musicians, such as Trevor Pinnock and Colin Tilney, commissioned instruments, and by the mid-1970s Andrew and Richard were making harpsichords after Flemish, Italian and English originals. All were appreciated for their impeccable craftsmanship and fine tuning. Andrew’s success in continuing the business after Richard’s tragically untimely death in 1987 has been heroic. Both were active in hiring instruments and influencing the establishment of the use of historical temperaments in the chord.

From 1982 to 2016, Andrew was the National Trust’s adviser on the conservation of musical instruments. In this role, he transformed both the care and the state of knowledge of these farms; more than 1200 instruments of very different types and conditions have been studied and cataloged.

Touring and rental adventures, or discovery in an attic of an 18ecentury of harpsichord intact for 200 years, were the starting points for Andrew’s delightful manner with a story. Never predictable, it will now often be the cause of affectionate anecdotes in others. On a curatorial day to present the work of conservation experts to National Trust staff, Andrew opened his six-minute presentation with a photo of his beloved Citroën DS Safari to illustrate the dilemmas that arise in the use and conservation of historical objects.

Andrew was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, the son of Mona (née Granby) and the Reverend Robert Garrett. Prior to Lincoln College, Oxford, he attended Lancing College, West Sussex, on a music scholarship.

He is survived by his wife, Paddy Fraser, whom he first met in Leeds in 1959 and married in Rome in 1976.


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