#45 Hong Kong 1980

Last October, I attended my first annual convention organized by the Classical Mandolin Society of America. It was the 22nd or 23rd convention, held in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. I had to arrive late, as I had to finish my teaching in the morning. The drive was 11 hours long, and it took me through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. It was nostalgic driving through Indiana, as I spent a good 5 years in Bloomington, IN. I was stopped by a female cop in IN, because my license plate light was out. She was super nice though, and even suggested me where to find a motel. I tried my best to finish the 11-hour drive, but a bad headache and a heavy rainstorm prevented me from completing the drive. I ended up spending the night only 40 minutes away from Bloomington, IL, finishing the drive early Thursday morning.

The convention was an eye opening experience: bought a few old CDs and mandolin scores, saw a few spetacular performances by virtuosos Sebastiaan de Grebber and Fabio Giudice, and played in the En Masse mandolin orchestra with 100+ mandolinists/guitarists packed on stage. Of course I met a lot of mandolin enthusiaists from all over the country. Quite a few of them know about and have purchased instruments from Rochester’s own Bernunzio Uptown Music (quite proud to tell them I frequent the store to talk to John and try out their instruments), and a few of the teenagers could really play!

It was at the sectional rehearsal of the second mandolins where I met Kay, from Arkansas, also attending the CMSA convention for the first time. Not having much experience playing in a big group (guitarists are our own conductors, never have to look at one…), we kind of struggle through the sectional rehearsals. We were assigned to sit in the back row of the orchestra, and it was easy to chat. It turned out Kay is a photographer, and went to Hong Kong in 1980. Being an 80s kid from Hong Kong, I was so curious of what she saw and thoguht of . She was interested in my status and life in the States, and how Hong Kong is like now. She told me she had taken many pictures in Hong Kong, which she was willing to send me when the convention was over. We exchanged emails, she sent me a selection of the pictures, and we have kept in touch ever since.

It’s been on my mind to share her snapshots of Hong Kong, and I thought the blog would be a good way to do so. The actual pictures look much better than what you see on the screen now. If you are in Rochacha, I will gladly show you the actual prints. I have selected my favorite shots from what Kay sent me, and she kindly wrote a preface and provided captions for the pictures. Below are her amazing pictures and descriptions. I have added remarks in parentheses to help explain a few things.

While living in Midland, Michigan I joined the local photo club and met a host of talented, skilled, photographers from whom I learned so much. One of those people was an Australian woman who befriended me and when her husband got a job in Hong Kong I was invited to visit them. I gratefully accepted the offer in 1980 and made the long flight from the midwest to Hong Kong, staying for two weeks. Almost every day I was in the streets or exploring other areas of the island without benefit of language, and pretty much free to photograph at will. These images are a few of the 1,600 images I took.    

Kay Danielson

I couldn’t resist this old gentleman and his cat napping.

Of course, the B&W didn’t show the wonderful mix of colors in the display jars.

(This is a Chinese medicine store, where one would see a Chinese doctor, buy herbal medicine and make herbal tea/soup. I had my fair share of these medicinal soup. They didn’t taste good.)

I had no idea what this boy was doing in his boat but the composition was pleasing and he did not object to being photographed.

The screen in the doorway provided some privacy from the street but the window signs indicated what was happening in the shop.

The sights, sounds and smells of the markets were unknown to me and most of the food entirely novel or unidentifiable.

The double deck buses were new to me and quite colorful.

(The double deck bus is actually hidden here – the transportation with the Sony ad is the tram – only to be found on Hong Kong Island. It is a slow but cheap way to get you across the Island. It is electric – you can kind of see the wires hanging in the air, and it has its own tracks. During traffic jam, it might actually run faster than other public transportations, except for the subway/MTR. I took the tram a lot as a student, and now I would take them when I visit home, just for old time’s sake.)

Hong Kong was so new to me, I found interest in recording much of everyday life in this teaming city, even the traffic and tall buildings. 

I saw these examples of everyday life in Hong Kong as something new to my experience and well worth the piece of film it took to record it. 

(If you can zoom into the picture, at front center is a yonug Chow Yun Fat on one of the covers.)

Riding to the top of the island on the Peak Tram. It was a strange feeling being hauled to the top at such a great angle but the ticket taker was obviously used to it.

The shape of this tree made me think it looked similar to the wonderful Chinese characters I saw everywhere and had absolutely no idea what any of them meant.  

I was told this doll maker created the Betty Boop doll but I found his face to be far more interesting. 

The woman made paper models for funerals. The grieving friends and family would offer these for the journey to the afterlife.

#44 1959

When studying for my doctoral comprehensive exam, I looked up a bunch of Youtube videos. How nice would it be if I can study by watching a Youtube video? That was just wishful thinking, but I did come across a lot of cool music documentaries. One of them was 1959 The Year that Changed Jazz. It talks about four influential jazz albums released in 1959: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, Charles Mingus’s Um Ah, and Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come.

My first reaction after watching the documentary: 1959 was quite a happening year, in addition to the four influential jazz albums, Black Orpheus was released, Villa-Lobos passed away, Giant Steps was being recorded. I began looking more into what happened in 1959.


Me visiting Motown in March, 2019.

1/1 The Cuban Revolution overthrown Fulgencio Batista, and U.S.- Cuban relationship turned sour.

1/3 Alaska became the 49th State.

1/12 Berry Gordy Jr. formed Talma Records – later incorporated as Motown Record Corporation on April 14, 1960.


2/3 Plane crash killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper

2/5 Water Talk by John Cage premiered on “Lascia o Raddoppia,” a TV program televised in Milan. Here‘s a video of Cage performing it on TV show I’ve Got A Secret.

2/14 Renee Flemming was born.


3/2 Recording session of Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.

3/8 Release of Chega da Saudade by Joao Gilberto.

3/9 Release of Porgy and Bess by Miles Davis.

3/9 Barbie and Ken debuted. Check the commercials.

3/19 The movie Green Mansion (starring Audrey Hepburn) released, with a soundtrack by Heitor Villa-Lobos. VL edited the score into a cantata, Forest of the Amazon (Floresta do Amazonas), which included the beautiful song, Melodia Sentimental.


4/22 recording session of Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.

4/? Release of The Flamingos’ version of I Only Have Eyes for You.


5/4 and 5/5 recording sessions of of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps.

5/5 – 5/12 recording sessions of Ah Um by Charles Mingus.

5/22 recording session of Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman.


Julian Bream and Malcolm Arnold

6/12 release of movie Black Orpheus in France.

6/14 Marcus Miller was born.

6/25 recording session of Time Out by Dave Brubeck.

6/25 first performance of Malcolm Arnold Guitar Concerto by Julian Bream.


7/1 recording session of Time Out by Dave Brubeck.

7/1 the movie Anatomy of a Murder released, with sound track and cameo appearance by Duke Ellington.

7/17 Billie Holiday passed away.


8/14 Magic Johnson was born.

8/17 release of Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.

8/18 recording session of Time Out by Dave Brubeck.

8/21 Hawaii became the 50th State.

8/25 Miles Davis beaten by police outside Birdland.

8/? release of Put Your Head on My Shoulder by Paul Anka, eventually reached no.2 on Billboard.


9/? Johnny and Santo’s Sleepwalk reached no.1 on Billboard.


10/? release of Ah Um by Charles Mingus.

10/21 the Guggenheim Museum open to public


11/16 Sound of Music musical open on Broadway.

11/17 Heitor Villa-Lobos passed away – did he hear bossa nova?

11/18 release of the movie Ben-Hur.

11/19 Rey de la Torre premiered the Concierto de Aranjuez with the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Robert Shaw.

11/? release of The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman.


12/2 Naima (part of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps) recorded.

12/14 release of Time Out by Dave Brubeck (just in time for Christmas. Who got Time Out as a Christmas present?)

Unidentified dates

?/? Publishing of Fuga No.1 and Tres Apuntes by Leo Brouwer (there’s some descrepancy on the dates of Fuga…)

?/? the release of Persuasive Percussion

1959, pretty important (musical) year? I have a feeling if I dig hard enough, every year is an important year.

#43 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #8 Her students – Arthur Froane, Albert F. Cramer

(portrait of Arthur Froane)

(continue from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #7)

In Stewart Button’s thesis, Guitar in England 1800-1924, Arthur Froane (1861-?) is part of chapter four – The Pupils of Ernest Shand and Madame Sidney Pratten. It wasn’t clear if Froane was a student of Madame Pratten. Froane was more likely a student of Shand – he performed Shand’s compositions often, and his book, The Guitar and How to Study It, is designed to be use alongside Shand’s Op.100 Improved Method for the Guitar. I have included him anyways, since he’s part of the Pratten mafia. Just as Madame Pratten and Shand, Froane’s right hand position involve anchoring the little finger under the sound hole. There was not much said about his playing, but

“His purity and strength of tone, correctness of technique and clear execution, combined with good, expression and perfect finish leave little short (sic ) as complete an artist as one can wish to hear… It is a pity Mr Froane’s performances are not more numerous, and that he does not go further a field” (Button, p.181-182)

The CSUN Digital Archive contained a letter written to Vahdah Olcott-Bickford by Froane in 1943 . It showed that Olcott-Bickford was inquiring Froane about Shand, possibly to prepare for her performance of the Shand’s concerto in 1947? Froane only remember their last encounter with Shand involved a game of billard, but it seemed like he did not know Shand died in 1924. Froane seemed like a well-rounded musician, as he accompanied Shand on his concerto several times, as well as studied the mandolin, played with a mandolin guitar band, and conducted the group when necessary.

In his letter, Froane mentioned about another student of Madame Pratten – Albert F. Cramer (1865-1931. Coincidentally, both of them were A.F.?). Again, Stewart Button’s thesis provided information of Cramer: he enjoyed

  • accompanying, and had ccompanied Adeline Patti (a vocalist we studied in the 19th century performance practice class) at the Royal Albert Hall
  • performing duets – “teamed up with Shand and started to give concerts together” (Did they play together though? If so, what pieces?)
  • performing quartets – when Shand left for Australia, Cramer formed a quartet with guitar, mandolin, mandola, and bandurria.

Cramer had a studio where he taught guitar, mandolin, and banjo. Apparently, he also taught ukulele/banjuke, and Hawaiian guitar

B.M.G., Vol. XXII., No. 241, May 25, 1925

Cramer also had a guitar method from 1930 (?):

And a Hawaiian guitar method that was still available in 1967:

B.M.G. LXV No.750, October 1967

Button’s thesis has the only picture of Cramer I could find so far, in which he’s playing the Hawaiian guitar:

From Button’s thesis

Another piece of info from Button’s thesis was suprising and disturbing:

Button p.187

In Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten, Harrison mentioned Madame Pratten performed the guitar part to Cowen’s cantata, The Corsair. The Corsair was from 1876, and Harold from 1895. Guitar entrances are marked on the score of The Corsair, but not the Harold. Was it customary for Cowen to include the guitar in his large large scale vocal works? What about other British composers? Why did Cowen not mention the guitar at all in his autobiography, if the guitar was regularly employed?

#42 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #7 Her students – Walter and John Lindsey Leckie, Frank Mott Harrison, Edith Tulloch

(picture: last known portait of Madame Pratten with Dr. Walter Leckie)

(continue from Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #6)

Apart from Ernest Shand, I tried looking up as much as I could about other students of Madame Pratten. I have mentioned about Dr. Walter Leckie and Dr. John Lindsay Leckie, whom I have learned much from the recent publication Dr Walter Leckie & Don Francisco Tárrega: The unlikely tale of an English Gentleman and a Spanish Guitarist by Brian Whitehouse. Madame Pratten had dedicated pieces to both of them: Sadness, Lost Love, A Lament – all available on IMSLP, were dedicated to Dr. John Lindsay Leckie. For Dr. Walter Leckie, Madame Pratten had composed the Hungarian March (tuned in E major), Progressive Preludes and Pieces for Guitar, and Dance of the Witches – Fantasia Grotesque from her Songs without Words and Sketches (p. 28, Whitehouse).

After studying with Madame Pratten, Dr. Walter Leckie went on to study with Tarrega, and Whitehouse’s book suggested that it might be through Madame Pratten that Leckie and Tarrega met. The book also mentioned the mutual respect between Madame Pratten and Tarrega: they exchanged presents, and Tarrega “always kept with thrilled gratitude, the gold bracelet worn by Mistress Pratten that she placed on his wrist, in a moment of emotion after hearing him, as enduring proof of her deep admiration.” (p.42, Whitehouse). This nicely echoed what Frank Mott Harrison wrote of:

p.56, Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten

Another student of Madame Pratten was Frank Mott Harrison, the author of Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten. A google search prompted a few guitar publications of his:

The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, Vol. 34, No. 604 (Jun. 1, 1893), p.363

Harrison also published his edition of the Sor Guitar Method:

A few things from Harrison’s biography of Sor were eye catching…

  1. “It was during the Napoleonic invasion that Ferdinand Sor fled from Spain to see refuge in Englad, and in 1809 he established himself in London as virtuoso and teacher.”

=> 1809 seems too early? Brian Jeffery’s biography of Sor said Sor arrived London in 1815. Stewart Willian Button’s thesis (p.23) pointed out this discrepanncy, but who is right?

2. “The eminent guitar maker LACOTE, of Paris, also made a great many instruments under Sor’s supervision, some of which have a second sounding board.”

=> Double top 19th century guitar? Here is a Lacote with double soundboard, a rear sound hole, and an adjustable neck. And this reminded me of a family of Gelas double top instruments at Bernunzio at the moment

3. “He was also a consummate master of vocal art, and his manuscript of a clever and exhaustive treatise upon singing – written apparently for a favourite pupil – is now in the possession of Madame Sidney Pratten. It is written in French, and has probably never be printed.”

=> Sor attended the Santa Maria de Montserrat as a choir boy. In addition, “Sor’s emphasis was on song accompani­ment and it is a significant fact that whilst in England he published more music for voice and piano than for any other medium.” Why was the vocal treatise published?

In an 2002 issue of Soundboard (Vol. 36 Issue 4, p.50), Richard Long presented Le Ruisseau, an original composition of Harrison. Long wrote: “His [Harrison] musical compositions, while not brilliant, reveal a poetic soul, some occasionally interesting harmonies and modulations, a good knowledge of the upper figerboard, and not a few similarities to his more famous contemporary, Ernest Shand.” Harrison didn’t seem to be performing much, and his writings of Madame Pratten launched his teaching career – he was teaching at the Trinty College London in 1897. Together with his brother, Richard Harrison (who studied with Neapolitan mandolin virtuoso Ferdinando de Cristofaro), they owned a music shop. Richard Harrison wrote a successful mandolin method (where do I find it?!?!), and there is a full page ad with numerous wonderful quotes on the last page of Frank’s edition of Sor’s Method:

Frank Mott Harrison was also an expert on John Bunyan, who wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress. Okay. I must admit, I had to look up who Bunyan was, and watched a short documentary to learn about him.

Another student mentioned in Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten was Edith Tulloch. Frank Mott Harrison mentioned he missed a 1892 recital that Madame Pratten performed at, her “last important recital”. Madame Pratten sent Harrison a letter, describing the concert:

p.38, Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten

Edith Tulloch apparently came from a huge family with 8 sisters, each received a different artistic training. Although Edith was listed as a student of Madame Pratten, she seemed to have grew to be a soprano, while her sister Ada, also a student of Madame Pratten, performed as a guitarist. Here is a recurring ad in 1893, in The Musical Times, about the Misses Tulloch:

The Musical TImes, October 1, 1893

And a reivew:

From Musical News, Volume 9, p.312, October 19, 2893.

Another review

A review from The Era, November 11, 1893

(Continue to Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #8)

#41 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #6 Her students – Ernest Shand

(Continue from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #5)

School has just started and I am quite happy. I missed teaching.

I always want to know what other teachers do, learn their tricks, and make my teaching more fun. A glimpse into Madame Pratten’s teaching can’t come more timely:


Be flexible, systematic, have integrety, and encouraging… easier said than done… And be so flexible, to compose according to the students’ abilities:



Of course, Frank Mott Harrison, the author of Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten, was one of Madame Pratten’s students too. But it seems like one of Madame Pratten’s most famous students was left out here: Ernest Shand (1868-1924). Through looking up Madame Pratten’s students, I came across the thesis, The Guitar in England 1800-1924, by Stewart William Button. This is such a great read! I have read Shand’s bio from the preface of Ernest Shand-23 Solos from Victorian England by Stanley Yates, but, Button’s thesis contain not only a detailed biography of Shand, but also that of Madame Pratten, Giulio Regondi, Ferndinand Pelzer, and a whole list of guitarists I knew nothing about: Filippo Verini, Charles Sola, Giuseppe Anelli, Lui Sagrini, Carl Eulenstein, J. A. Nuske, Wilhelm Neuland, Felix Horezsky, Stanislaw Szczepanowski, Leonard Schulz, Elizabeth Mounsey, Herbert J. Ellis, George Marchisio… and there are more names that I am not including here.

Back to Ernest Shand – Button’s thesis included Shand’s first meeting with Madame Pratten around 1888:

“Later, he recalled their first meeting, when Pratten asked him how many hours he practised a day.’ ’Two”, he replied , to which she added, “make it twenty two”. He then performed one of his compositions for her. She was so moved that she wrote “Of course I will teach you, but I cannot teach you anything. You are too great a genius my compositions fade in to the shade after your’s.” (Button, p.157)

Born as Ernest Willian Watson, Shand was a stage name that became his family name after his death. The first edition of his Op.100 Improved Method for the Guitar was too difficult, such that he in the preface to the second edition, he mentioned about getting some help from his friend Arthur Froane, who is also a student of Madame Pratten:

Madame Pratten also encountered a similar problem – having to publish a second simplified method, because the first one was too difficult:

p.58, Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten

There is a section from Shand’s method that discussed about vibrato:

Shand must know Aguado’s method? Was Aguado the first to use a vibrato sign? And were there other guitarists/method books that discussed about using vibrato to sustain, and had a designated vibrato sign?

Aguado Method, p.53
Aguado Method, p.54

A lot of the right hand fingerings are specified in Shand’s method, with carets and dots, which sometimes form frowning faces:

Shand’s Op.48, the Preimer Concerto pour Guitare, was not performed a lot: in 1896 by Shand himself, in 1947 by American guitarist Vahdah Olcott Bickford, and by Julian Bream from 1947 and 1948. Written for guitar and string quartet, the string score did not survived, and Stanley Yates reconstructured the string parts from the piano accompaniment.

As virtuosic and prolific as Shand was, he was born in a time when the popularity of the guiar was in decline. He became a successful stage actor to the point that he was asked to incorporate the guitar in the theatre. Shand responded:

“No one has the interests of the guitar more at heart than myself. I gather from your editorial note that you suggest that I should play the guitar on the stage, and so to help it regain its popularity. I am afraid it would be in vain. The scenery, the height above the proscenium and the general noise would tend to destroythe effect of the instrument. I am anxious to do all I can for the guitar, but in the proper place.’

And he suffered a tragic death:

“During the war Shand visited Nottingham, and before a concert he sang a patriotic song to which a Russian in the audience took offence. The following Monday morning the Russian attacked Shand in his dressing-room. When Louisa arrived she found Shand on the floor . She despatched Phyllis for a Dr. Percy Edgar Tressider, of 12, Shakespeare Street, who gave immediate attention . Shand was seriously ill for several months, and was never to recover fully from the attack. The Russian continued to send threatening le tte r s which deeply disturbed Shand, and althoughhe was awarded damages, the Russian was never caught. Shand’s career, except for composing, was virtually ruined. He found it necessary to retire , and in I918 moved to 140, Salisbury Road, Moseley, Birmingham. Here he died of heart failure on November 28th 1924.” (Button, p.173-174)

New goal for myself: learn more pieces by Shand. Here’s the first one.

(continue to Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #7)

#40 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #5

(Continue from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #4)


Madame Pratten came from a musical family, with her dad Ferdinard Pelzer being a renowned teacher and sister Giulia also a child prodigy (the Los Romeros of 19th century England?). Why didn’t she use her family name? I wondered about why did she keep the name “Madame Sidney Pratten” throughout her life. Out of devotion to her husband? The Archlute.com gave a different perspective:

“…The denigration of the guitar by 19th Century writers and music critics is well known. Often the denigration appears as a form of backhanded flattery to the artist. To wit, artists such as Regondi, Ferranti, Giuliani, and Sor were often held to be the greatest of virtuosi but then it is speculated such a pity that they play the guitar and not some instrument of higher regard…

…Catharina Pratten would have been well aware of this negative attitude some had toward the guitar. Her father worked hard to champion and disseminate the music of Giuliani and had his fair share of critical reception both as a guitarist and a publisher. During her lifetime the prevailing attitude changed only slightly. Using her husband’s name served the dual purpose of legitimizing the guitar and more importantly his fame would help in extending the audience exposed to the music…”

Going sidetrack, I recall reading something about the different names of the American composer Amy Beach (1867-1944). A quick internet search jogged my memory of yet another story about female musicians (or whatever profession?) who had to change names to gain recognition: born as Amy Cheney, the marriage to Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach in 1885 gave her the name “Mrs. H.H.A. Beach”. Discouraged to be a performing artist, she shifted gears to compositions (would she have composed as many great pieces if it wasn’t for her marriage?). After the husband’s passing in 1910, she toured Europe, and began using the name Amy Beach there, but

“…returned to using Mrs. H. H. A. Beach when she discovered that she already had some recognition for her compositions published under that name. She was once asked in Europe, when still using the name Amy Beach, whether she was the daughter of Mrs. H. H. A. Beach.” (from Thought Co.)

In the last section her essay, To the Girl Who Wants to Compose, published in the Etude Magazine in November 1918, Amy Beach wrote,

“Just one point more. I believe it was Rubinstein who said, “To compose is a pleasure—to publish is a responsibility.” When we think of the tons of music which have been already issued in print, perhaps it is as well for us to pause and remember Rubinstein’s remark before rushing our compositions out to the public. Still, “there is always room at the top,” and always a place for good music in any form or of any kind. Keep on writing, young people, as much as you like, so long as you realize both “the responsibility” and “the pleasure,” and so long as you are willing to give only of your best in every respect.”

As a [forever] music student, this excerpt resonates with me much, especially when one replaces “compose” and “publish” with “play” and “perform” respectively. Too often are we tempted to perform a piece that needs much more polishing, but we can’t hold back our desire to perform a master work before it is ready. But, when is a piece ever ready?

Amy Beach’s change from a performing pianist to a composer reminded me of a similar narrative, Robert Schumann was set to be a pianist, but rumor has it that he messed up his hand by training with a finger-strengthening device. Schumann therefore shifted his energy to composing. These hand strengthening devices reminded me of torture devices… No pain, no gain, right?

Here is a picture of one such device, from an issue of Etude Magazine from 1897 :

This conveniently ties me back to the excerpt above, where Madame Pratten recounted the story of a young singer who paid her hard work and earned her credentials, but failed to gain the approval of the press. Such a telling paragraph. It’s hard to be a musician, who puts immense amount of time and resources into training, and still could not deliver a pleasing result, either to oneself or the audience. Be nice to artists, okay?

(continue to Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #6)