#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)

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