Paul Y. Irvin

Steven Becker, photographer

Paul Y. Irvin - Instrument Maker

After years of playing in school and community bands and orchestras, Paul Irvin was introduced to Bach, Baroque and the harpsichord while studying in college.  Soon after receiving his B.A. in chemistry in 1969, he built his first harpsichord from a kit.  Dissatisfaction with a second kit caused him to abandon it to begin researching the historical harpsichord.  This study resulted in instruments of his own design, based on historical principles.  Word-of-mouth demand turned his hobby into a career of custom designing harpsichords and clavichords, a career now in its twenty-third year.

After years of research and experimentation, and study of European and American instrument collections, Paul has made significant contributions to current harpsichord building practice.  One of these is a system which automatically adjusts a harpsichord action for changing seasons and weather, thereby eliminating the major portion of the maintenance which harpsichords need due to humidity-induced swelling and shrinking.  Other discoveries are concerned with ways of making current harpsichords, clavichords and fortepianos sound more like their antique models.

Paul has written articles, presented lectures, workshops, exhibits, and festivals for colleges and various associations.  He is an avid reader of the literature on historical instruments and their acoustics, is a long-time member of The American Musical Instrument Society,  The Friends of St. Cecilia’s Hall (Russell Collection of Historic Keyboards, Edinburgh), The Galpin Society, The Fellowship of Makers and Researchers of Historical Instruments, The Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society, and The Shrine to Music Museum.  Paul was a founding member of Early Music America, a board member for six years and president of the Chicago Area Early Music Association and has been a board member of The Midwestern Historical Keyboard Society for ten years and served as its president.