Christopher Clarke was born in 1947 in the north of England. He specializes in the making and restoration of 18th and early 19th centuries instruments referred to as “expressive”, in particular clavichords and pianofortes from the pre-industrial era. He is internationally recognized for using original and traditional techniques, craftsmanship and materials. His workshop, which is located in France, is amongst only a few to produce instruments using historically-correct tools, and his instruments are played all over the world. Christopher Clarke’s work is based on extensive research into the instruments and the study of original examples in museums and private collections, and he has a number of publications on the history and construction of keyboard instruments under his wing.
After initial studies in the field human sciences at the University of Edinburgh, he turned to instrument making. He joined the conservation team at the Sunderland Municipal Museum (England), and then became assistant curator of the Russell Collection of Harpsichords and Clavichords (Edinburgh), before joining the company of Adlam Burnett in Finchcocks (Kent). In 1978, he moved to Paris and joined the instrument making workshop “Les Tempéraments Inégaux” on rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine. In 1982, he moved to northern Burgundy, and, in 1987, to the Clunisois. In 2006, he was awarded the title of “Maitre d’Art”.
Over the years, Christopher Clarke has become an undisputed reference in the field, collaborating with prestigious institutions such as the CNSMD in Paris and Lyon, the Musée de la Musique in Paris and the Victoria & Albert Museum – to name only a few. Clarke is also keen to pass on his knowledge to future generations, and he works closely with Matthieu Vion, the apprentice he trained, who set up his own workshop in Uchizy about 10 years ago.
His career has been punctuated with distinctions. He is listed in the Official Directory of Artistic Professions of France and in the inventory of intangible cultural heritage of the French Ministry of Culture. His notable awards include the 1st departmental prize of the SEMA (1985), the 2nd regional prize of the SEMA (1986) and the Bettencourt prize “For the Intelligence of the Hand” in 2000.
He became a French citizen in 2020.