#50 Jules, why? – 2

(continue from Jules, Why? – 1)

Another mystery about Regondi: why did he pick up the concertina? And, if he needed a second instrument, why the concertina? It’s so unfair: Regondi ended up writing two concerti and a method book for the concertina, but not for the guitar.

(At least there are pictures of young Regondi with a guitar. I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of Regondi playing the concertina.)

Was Regondi’s adoption of the concertina a complaint to the guitar’s shortcomings? Low volume, limited repertoire, lack of works composed by “big-name composers”, inability to utilize distantly related key areas and chromatic keys (“We Hate the Guitar” by Erik Stenstadvold gave a lot more insights in how negatively the guitar was viewed in 19th century Europe in general).

In his article in Grove Music Online, Thomas Heck mentioned Regondi played an 8-string guitar, which was quite common for a lot of 19th century guitarists – Carulli, Legnani, Coste, Mertz. The 8-string guitar does extend the guitar’s range, but it doesn’t practically solve any of the issues mentioned above. Was playing the 8-string an intermediate step to picking up the Concertina? Fortunately, Regondi did not give up the guitar entirely – he would play both instruments in concerts. So, the love for guitar was still there.

I got more insights from the obituaries for Regondi published in The Musical World, as well as the radio show, Wheatstone, His Sighing Reed, and The Great Regondi—BBC Radio4 Programme. Charles Wheatstone was an English scientist who also invented instruments. And when he needed a music virtuoso to be the “ambassador” of his newly invented concertina, he asked Regondi’s foster father A. Regondi if he knew such a musician. A. Regondi happened to have a very musical son.

That might answer why little Giulio have picked up the concertina. Although I make it sound like little Regondi was being exploited by his foster father (as always), he was indeed offered an exclusive chance to try out a new instrument. Guitar was on the decline as Regondi grew up, and perhaps Regondi (or the foster father) saw the opportunity to be a pioneer and spokesman of a newly invented instrument as a possible alternative to a declining guitar career . The concertina also projects better than the guitar, and could be played in a bigger venue with a bigger audience. The louder volume of the concertina probably also explains why did Regondi compose two concerti for the concertina but none for the guitar.

Anyhow, just out of curiosity, I also looked at Regondi’s New Method for the Concertina and Rudimenti del Concertinista to see if his own writings would provide further perspectives. While Regondi did not compare the guitar to the concertina in his method books, the method book does offer a lot of interesting things about the concertina and how Regondi thought of music.

(continue to Jules, Why? – 3)

#49 Jules, why? – 1

One of the most beloved pieces in the classical guitar repertoire is the tremolo standard, Reverie, Op.19, by Giulio Regondi (1823-1872). I have mentioned him a bit in previous posts, where I talked about the first tremolo piece and Madame Sidney Pratten. With much delay, I have finally decided to collect my thoughts and write a short post about this wonderful musician.

A few commonly known information about Regondi (at least to guitarists): a child prodigy guitarist with golden hair, settled in London when he was 8, Fernando Sor’s dedicated his op. 46 Fantasia “Souvenir d’ Amitie” to Regondi when the latter was 9, picked up the concertina later in life, toured Europe with both instruments, and now being remembered as one of the best guitarists and concertinists (is this a real word?) of 19th century England.

Giulio Regondi in Ireland by Thomas Lawrence is a wonderful document that discusses Regondi’s tour with his foster father A. Regondi in Ireland from 1834 – 1835. Not only are there many previews/reviews of Regondi’s concerts and repertoire at the time (the concertina is part of his concert at this time), but it also showed a glimpse of his fine character:

“While Giulio was in Brighton preparing for the next season, his father absconded with their amassed fortune of £2,000…”

“… after waiting until his pecuniary resources were exhausted [five pounds that he had been given for his trip to Brighton] and without receiving any reply to many letters he had addressed to his father, the poor boy drooped and would have died from starvation but for the care and thoughtfulness of his hostess…

“… Giulio ironically received a letter from his foster-father, the older Regondi, saying that he was dying and needed money. The compassionate Giulio responded accordingly and brought him to London where he tended to his father’s needs for the remainder of his life.” 

One particular concert mentioned was interesting: Regondi performed on both guitar and concertina, and a Mr. Holland presented his “Achromatic Oxy-Hydrogen New Ionian Microscope”. The first google search results will show an article from the Magic Lantern Gazette, with many amazing pictures of microscopes.

Guitar Review also had a three-part article series, “Giulio Regondi – Guitarist, Concertinist or Melophonist?” by Douglas Rogers (from issue #91, 92, and 97). These articles included a lot of Regondi’s concert reviews, and a few things that strike me include:

  • a review from The Musical World (June 26, 1852) mentioned “… just before the conclusion, for a heavy thumderstorm occurred at the time, and one of the strings of the guitar broke, which was rather impropos to the talented artist.”
  • Regondi played a melophone: “invented in Paris by a watchmaker named Leclerc and could be described as a free reed hurdy-gurdy”. A picture shows a hybrid instrument of guitar and concertina… makes sense as Regondi’s weapon of choice, right? Later in the article, it refuted the possibility of Regondi playing the melophone.
  • Regondi played a “melophonic guitar”: “an improvement upon the common Spanish Guitar. This instrument certainly deserves every encomium, for effecting that which no other guitar was ever made to achieve, namely, a sustained, even tone, not only on the metallic strings, but also on the higher ones…”

The end of the third articles says “The name “Melophonic guitar” did live on, however, and underneath “(To be continued)”, but I am not aware of a follow up article…? A google search brought me to www.harpguitars.net, which included a melophonic guitar with a description:

“The brothers D.& A. Roudhloff were prolific makers in London who copied both the styles of Panormo and Lacôte with equal success. The “improved Melophonic Guitar” was a popular model offering two extra strings in the bass, a short playing string length of 599mm, and was built either with the traditional rosewood back and sides or in solid pine for the belly, back and sides. -Ian Watchorn”

The melophonic guitar made by the Roudhloff brothers in 1841 (see pictures 1 and 2) is an instrument with two extra unfretted bass strings, hence being listed on Harpguitar.net. This echoes Regondi’s entry on Grove Music Online written by Thomas Heck:

“…Here he also met the Polish guitar virtuoso Marek Sokołowski, whose seven-string instrument may have prompted him to go a step further and take up the eight-string guitar.“

Theguitarmuseum.com shows a 6-string Roudhloff guitar with an X-bracing. Was the X-bracing the improvement to the traditional guitar? When did Regondi switch to an 8-string guitar (there’s a review from the Guitar Review article saying he performed on a 6-string guitar)?

As usual, the more I dig into things, the more questions I have. Aside from what these articles have discussed, two things regarding Regondi perplexed me. One of them is shown in the portriat of Regondi above: what was that thing he wears on his pinky? Sor would anchor his pinky on the soundboard, just like Regondi did in the picture. That’ is kind of alright, as earlier in the 19th century, the right hand ring finger was not a main part of the guitar technique. From today’s perspective, that is counterintuitive, as the pinky-anchoring would restrict movement of the ring finger. Even though the guitarist might not anchor his/her little finger through a performance, wouldn’t this pinky support slip? Did other 19th century guitarists also wear a pinky support? Was Regondi born with different hands from others that gave him extra flexibility, such that he can wear a piece of “bling-bling”? To stand out from other guitarists? To show off his flexibility?   

And there’s the second question: why did Regondi pick up the concertina?

(continue to Jules, Why? – 2)

#48 “I cannot teach you, only help you to explore yourself, nothing more”

Two days ago was Bruce Lee’s birthday. He would have been 80 years old. Once a year, I watch his interview on the Pierre Burton Show around his birthday to remind myself of his sayings. He might be know as a kung fu movie superstar, but he was a true artist. Every word from the interview is gold. One thing he said was ” ultimately martial arts means honestly expressing yourself”, and this has been the guiding principle for me since I watched the interview last year. Everyone can interpret it differently, but I see it as doing things (performing and arranging) in a way that would please me the most. This might not be the best “commercial” decision, and it might not be the best “career move”, but [I think] I am slowly learning how to live and not worry about how others would judge.

A different Bruce Lee video this year has provided reassurance in one thought I hold as a teacher, or rather, a “teacher”: “I cannot teach you, only help you to explore yourself, nothing more”. This was a line from the TV show, Longstreet, in which a blind man received martial arts training from Bruce Lee (never seen the show before, just a guess from the 9-minute clip I saw). I was fortunate to have teachers who expressed the same thought at different points of my life, to frame my view of learning: when I was in my second-to-last year of high school, my beloved economics teacher Mr. Siu told the whole class that he’s not smarter than us, and he’s just a man who knows more at that moment in time, and we should know as much as he does by the time we graduate from high school (Mr. Siu was the one person who advocated me to continue education in U.S.); when I was pursuing my undergraduate in music, Professor Bruce Frank said that his job is to teach us, so that he would lose his job.

A few summers ago, I was back in Hong Kong, and attended a Bruce Lee memorial exhibition. Included in the exhibition was a newly produced hour-long documentary on the life of Bruce Lee. I have always known Bruce Lee won a Cha Cha dancing competition when he was young, but apparently he was fond of creating his own moves by mixing and matching different steps. The true master creates…

Brandon Lee- Bruce Lee’s son – also had a cool interview. I can’t say I enjoy most of the it, as the host kept asking Brandon about Bruce. It’s more about Bruce Lee than anything. True, without Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee might have a more difficult start with his career, and perhaps it was necessary to introduce Brandon Lee to the audience with as much Bruce Lee as possible during a short interview. But… I am not going to defend the show anymore. Regardless, I thought Brandon Lee did a pretty good job presenting and expressing himself, as well as protesting the promotion stunt by saying hi to his girlfriend on TV. Smart and fun.

#47 Random Thoughts on Teaching

My classroom this semester is a large space, filled with instruments, and usually reserved for large ensembles to rehearse. Upstate New York is getting cold, and the heat hasn’t been turned on yet, so the room was empty and chill. The rainy weather made it even cooler today. After teaching two lessons, I decided to teach in the hallway. As I often tell my friends, I grew up in Hong Kong, and my body was made for subtropical climate (although I have been living in Upstate NY for 10+ years).

As I was teaching in the afternoon, I was so surprised to see one of my students, because he just had a lesson with me in the morning. He said he came back to practice! I asked him to use my classroom, since I wasn’t teaching in there, and there were amplifiers he could use.

As a first year arts student (ceramics), I thought he signed up guitar lessons for fun. He’s been making a lot of progress, and does not mind when I drill him on technique. We have been working on blues improvisation, and from his video assignments, ideas he came up with went above and beyond what I have shown him.

A dedicated student like him is a teacher’s dream. I have had colleagues who told me they only teach to the best students, and wouldn’t care about students who don’t do well. It doesn’t matter if the “bad” students were trying hard or not, beacuse if they were not performing well, they have not put enough time and effort into the materials.

I am still conflicted with that thought. I always thought “good” students wouldn’t really need a teacher and would be motivated to succeed no matter what. It’s really the “struggling” students who need a teacher. But my colleagues aren’t completely wrong. I have had students who couldn’t care less about class materials, no matter how much feedback I provided on their assignments. But is a student “under performing” due to my bad teaching?

Back to my super dedicated first year student – after I finished my teaching, I went to the classroom to collect my belongings, and he was practicing what he learned in the morning with a metronome. Since he has been doing so well, I have decided to show him something more challenging – the first chorus of Freedie King’s Hideway. We are six weeks into the semester, that’s how long he has been playing guitar, and I understand why he is improving so fast. I couldn’t help but sat at the drumset to play with him. He had a background in playing drumset and percussion, and so we switched instruments and jammed a bit on Pipeline! He later told me he is considering adding music as a second major. I couldn’t be happier.

#46 Dilermando Reis, Darcy Villa Verde

Nothing captivates me more than Brazilian music. For the longest time, I had a hard time deciding whether Garoto or Luiz Bonfa is my favorite. But amongst all Brazilian guitarists, Dilermando Reis holds a special place in my heart , as his repertiore contained numerous romantic waltzes. Now one can find so many of Reis’s recording on Youtube, but back then, I spent quite a lot of money buying his CDs. Reis played a lot of Brazilians dances and choros, and wouldn’t be considered a classical guitarist at his time (not to mentioned he played a steel string guitar), but his repertoire included quite a lot of classical pieces. His technique was also definitely of the classical guitar tradition. His hyperromantic approach made his playing so unique – excess vibrato, rubato, portamento, extreme tone colors, and… some just can’t be explained.

He must be familiar with Tarrega, as he played Tarrega’s arrangements of Nocturne by Chopin and Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, as well as Tarrega’s own Adelita. He also played Choro #1 by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Excerpt from Op.10, #3 by Chopin, Estrellita by Manuel Ponce, Spanish Romance, Guitar Concerto #1 by Radames Gnattali, and La Catedral by Agustin Barrios, and an arrangement of the second movement from the Concierto de Aranjuez.

Often times, I wish I was born 50 years earlier, so I could witness (or maybe even meet?) great artists from the past. But what’s better than “meeting an artist” by playing his/her music? And I have heard stories from friends who were so excited to meet their musical idols, only to find out there’s nothing great about them other than their music. Perhaps it’s best to not realize our dreams, leaving room to romanticize.

Much of what I know about Reis came from the book Choro: A Social History of a Brazilian Popular Music by Tamara Elena Livingston and Thomas George Caracas Garcia, The Brazilian Guitar of Dilermando Reis, by David Jerome, as well as Jerome’s article in Soundboard magazine, vol. 31 no. 1, 2005.

There is a Chinese proverb – 溫故知新 – that roughly means, by reviewing what one has learned, he/she would reach new understanding and gain new knowledge. And that’s exactly how I feel by reviewing these sources regarding Reis – born in 1916 (very close to 1915…), Reis was associated with the “old fashion way”, “the country”, and “nostalgia”. He studied with Americo “Canhoto” Jacominio, who was a left-handed guitarist and played the “standard” right-hand guitar without re-stringing (Elizabeth Cotten and Jimi Hendrix come to mind). Reis lived with Joao “Pernambuco” Teixeira Guimaraes, and played in Pixinguinha’s group (per Joao Pernambuco’s recommendation?). Apart from teaching, Reis frequently performed live on the radio. He was also closely related to Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek.

What’s completely “new” to me from David Jerome’s article is the students of Reis – Bola Sete (1923 – 1987) and Darcy Villa Verde (1934? – 2019). I knew Bola Sete primary as a jazz guitarist who had performed with Vince Guaraldi (what is that “lute-guitar”?!). But I have not heard of Darcy Villa Darcy at all. That lead to a search on him.

Villa Verde had only one out-of-print recording, but luckily there’s a live recording from 1971 on Youtube. Coverted from a casette tape, the sound quality was not the best, but one can still hear his virtuosity. He performed a program which included a piece by Domenico Scarlatti, a minuet by Haydn, Turina’s Rafaga, Lauro’s Waltz No. 3, Villa-Lobos’s Prelude no. 3, his own arrangement of Felicidade, and an arrangement of Canarios with orchestral – kind of like Rodrigo’s Fantasia para Un Gentilhombre. Verde’s arrangement of Tom Jobim’s Felicidade was extremely entertaining, with an elaborated percussion breakdown. His interpretation of Villa-Lobos’s Prelude no. 3 used some pretty extreme tone color – an influence from Reis?

Almost all materials related to Villa Verde on the internet are in Portugese. Thanks to Google Translate, I learned more about him from a obituary: his virtuosity won him a competition in Paris, where he had a chance to study with Ida Presti. He also performed at Georgetown University and the Carnegie Hall. I couldn’t find much about his studies with Reis, but he played by ear, and was “was a pioneer in promoting the instrument in the media, appearing on TV shows”. On his radio show, renowned Brazilian guitarist Fabio Zanon played a few recordings of Villa Verde (see the track listing here).

#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)