Vale Bill Bright (1946-2023)

Musica Viva Australia regrets to announce the death of renowned Australian harpsichord maker, William ‘Bill’ Bright, aged 77, at home in Barraba NSW on 1 May.

Bill’s beautiful instruments were heard regularly on Australian stages, particularly in eastern Australia. Both MVA and the Australian Chamber Orchestra own and tour Bright harpsichords, and a ‘mint’ instrument is held by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. There are numerous Bright harpsichords in private and professional hands, including overseas. The national significance of his work was also recognised through a ‘Keating’ Creative Fellowship.

Bill’s adventurous life included farming and a stint on an oil rig outside Scotland, as well as mingling with some of the great names of the ‘early music’ revival in the 1970s and 80s. He honed his craft in in Germany with Rainer Schütze before returning to his birthplace, Barraba, where he lived in ‘The Nuthouse’ with pets including the late lamented peacock, Willie, whose quills were sometimes used in the harpsichords. His instruments often featured local Australian landscapes, frequently painted by his friend and neighbour the late Rupert Richardson.

Bill’s rural life contrasted with the delicacy, refinement and extreme attention to detail for which he was celebrated, creating immaculate copies of fine European instruments, with delightful Australian details. His working practices were not as detailed and orderly as his output suggested – his surroundings were usually chaotic, and commissioners were sometimes frustrated by delays. But he said, ‘I’m building it to last 400 years, so what’s a year or two?’

Bill will be buried privately in Barraba on Friday 12 May, followed by a celebration at his workshop at 3pm. He leaves many grieving family members, friends and musical colleagues.