Decades ago, Dr. Paul Abrahams was working with computers. He was in the process of building a compiler for the highly complex PL1 program when he was given a sabbatical. He learned that computer …
Decades ago, Dr. Paul Abrahams was working with computers. He was in the process of building a compiler for the highly complex PL1 program when he was given a sabbatical. He learned that computer programs were not the only thing that could be complicated.
As he told the story Sunday at Greenwood Church, Abrahams was attracted to a musical instrument and skills he knew little about, the harpsicord to take on a new challenge. He launched into building a Zuckermann harpsicord, a year-long project where he learned carpentry before tackling the intricacies of the instrument. He finished the harpsicord in 1976.
The instrument, a forerunner to the piano, became the property of David and Nancy Dickerman. Nancy met David when they were members of the Greenwood Community Church Presbyterian choir where they sang for 57 years. She was an accomplished flutist. Music was part of her life. As a student at Veterans Memorial High School, she was a member of the marching band that perAformed at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Nancy outlived David and after her death on March 27, 2020, the harpsicord was bequeathed to the church. As the shutdown to Covid had just occurred, there was never a proper service remembering her or her contributions.
That is until Sunday.
A dedication recital featuring John Black, 27, director of music at Greenwood on the harpsicord; his wife Olivia as soprano soloist, Mary Ellen Kregler, flutist and Alexandra Nichols, violinist was held Sunday. The program included selections composed by J.S. Bach, G. F. Handel, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and Francois Couperin. The Rev. Dr. Stephen Clark talked about the Dickermans and offered a memorial prayer of Thanksgiving. A memorial reception followed the recital.
Dr. Abrahams talked about the challenges of constructing the instrument and how it offered him insights to the mathematical progressions of Bach’s compositions. He also talked of the enjoyment of the listening to Black play. “It brings joy to my heart that it is in this home,” he said of the instrument.
Black said staging the recital took hours of rehearsals in large part because the keyboard is smaller than a piano or organ and the manner in which the strings are plucked, rather than struck in the case of a piano. Nonetheless, he said the harpsicord will be featured periodically throughout the year.
There’s no forgetting the Dickermans.
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