Conservatorium of Music

Eileen Joyce Studio - Historical instrument collection

Further information

  • There are many more instruments housed in this historical collection in the Eileen Joyce Studio at the Conservatorium of Music.
  • The Eileen Joyce collection also includes artworks and recordings of historical significance.

The Eileen Joyce Studio houses the Conservatorium of Music early keyboard collection, a range of instruments spanning the history of keyboard music and including clavichords, pipe and reed organs, a celeste and a variety of harpsichords and pianofortes.  These instruments are part of an extensive collection of historic and ethnic musical instruments owned by the UWA Conservatorium of Music.

Single Harpsichord by Jacob Kirckman, London 1760

The prize of the early keyboard collection is the single manual harpsichord built in 1760 by Jacob Kirckman.  Kirckman's harpsichords, along with those of Schudi, were regarded as the finest in eighteenth century England.  Purchased by the University of Western Australia in 1956, it is in sound working condition however its use is strictly controlled.

17 KIRCKMAN-NAMEPLATEkirckman-harpsichord

Goff Clavichord by Thomas Goff, UK, 1950goff-clavichord2

One of two clavichords in the collection is an exquisitely decorated instrument built for Eileen Joyce in 1950 by Thomas Goff. Goff was an important pioneer in the revival of clavichord and harpsichord making. The clavichord is the oldest of the stringed keyboard instruments dating from the late 14th century.

The case work of this instrument is exquisitely decorated in gold leaf by Goff, with a scene on the underside of the lid painted by British artist Rolan Pym.  It represents the story of Actaeon punished by Artemis (Diana) for stumbling upon her nymphs bathing naked in a forest stream.

Eileen Joyce presented this instrument, along with an antique French music chair, to the people of Western Australia to mark the state's 150th anniversary celebrations.  The gift is on permanent loan from the Western Australian Museum.

Regal Positive Organ by John Nicholson, UK, 1977REGAL-VE-ORGAN-copy

The regal positive organ by English organ builder John Nichsolon is modelled on the small pipe-organs popular in Europe from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. 

Built in 1977, the organ has three hundred pipes which provide four contrasing colours including flutes, reeds and mixtures.




Reed Organ by J Estey & Co, Brattleborough, USA, c1860HARMONIUM

Mr Charles Bydder migrated with his family to Fremantle in 1879 and brought with him from England an Estey reed organ.  It remained in the family until 1982 when his daughter, Mrs Bertha Caroline Welshman, donated it to the Conservatorium of Music.

The reed organ was developed in the late 19th century by Alexandre of Paris.  It is a type of pedal organ which utilises a reservoir of compressed air.  Use of this instrument was widespread in churches and private homes until well into the 20th century, when electric keyboard instruments became readily available.


Travelling Piano by James Semple, Glasgow, c1860TRAVEL-PIANO-2-copy

This unusual little piano was donated by Emeritus Professor Joske of the UWA Faculty of Medicine.  The Joske family brought the instrument to Perth from England and named it a travelling or portable piano because of its ease of transportation with handles on each end and removable legs.

The travelling piano's maker, James Semple, was a piano manufacturer in Glasgow from 1850 - 1875 and the inscription on the piano indicates that Semple held a patent for a check on the downstriking action. This little piano has a keyboard of only 4 octaves (F-f3), knee-levers instead of pedals work as a moderator and damper.  It was designed to provide entertainment and to accompany devotions during the long journey from the UK to Australia.