Music Upbeat: Coda

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The Independent Culture
The European Community Baroque Orchestra's newsletter offers startling revelations about one of the year's great musical mysteries. During rehearsals at Casa Mateus near Villa Real in Northern Portugal, the sounds of ping and plunk regularly punctuated proceedings as strings on the orchestra's two harpsichords snapped by the dozen. 'Three times we had to fly a technician out from London to bring first aid,' says ECBO administrator Paul James. 'Must be the Casa ghost,' opined the orchestra's host, the Duke of Albuquerque. The more scientifically-minded suggested the effects of temperature and humidity, but tests run at the harpsichord manufacturers in Holland revealed the corrosive effect on the strings of . . . bat urine, from the blighters in the rafters. Who swallowed that idea? The ECBO's insurers, for a start. 'Theoretically we weren't covered,' says James, 'but they saw it was . . . an exceptional case.'