Visiting Artists series
Thursday 9 May 2019
Unitarian Chapel, Brunswick Square
Brian Whitehouse is leading light of the UK guitar scene. Former Head of Guitar at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, examiner, publisher and currently Patron of the Consortium for Guitar Research at the University of Cambridge, he is the Director of the Classical Guitar Centre in Birmingham.
Brian’s latest book is the subject of tonight’s talk: Dr Walter Leckie and Don Francisco Tárrega: the unlikely tale of an English Gentleman and a Spanish Guitarist. With an excellent set of illustrative slides, he took us through what is both an uplifting tale of friendship, and an insight into the thoughts of the man who remains the foundation of modern guitar technique, Francisco Tárrega.
Dr. Leckie retired in the 1880s from a career as a military surgeon, to devote himself to peace, travel and study of his beloved classical guitar. As a young man he had studied in London under Mme. Sidney Pratten, guitar tutor to, among others, the Royal Princesses.
A man whose larger-than-life personality matched his large bank balance, Leckie retired to the French Riviera and sought out a new teacher. He was directed to Tárrega, then resident in Barcelona, and the two became firm friends. Despite some of Tárrega’s acquaintances feeling somewhat shocked by the loud, spontaneous Englishman, Tárrega found in him what his life’s work prized: sophisticated musical culture and absolute dedication to the guitar. Their concert trips around Europe and north Africa, financed by Leckie, were an inspiration to Tárrega. For Dr. Leckie, Tárrega was the epitome of the depth and beauty of the guitar.
Brian showed us historic photos, documents, and Leckie’s leather-bound notebooks, with music written out for him by Tárrega and annotated during their lessons. It is a beautifully-produced volume; luminaries including John Williams have been highly complimentary.
The stories of Dr. Leckie and of Tárrega are fascinating each on its own, but Brian’s book highlights the rare good fortune, for the guitar we now know and love, of their paths having crossed in the time and place they did.
Sincere thanks to Brian for taking the time to come to visit us. We wish him well with sales of the book.
Nick Regan May 2019
Brian Whitehouse (2019), “Dr Walter Leckie and Don Francisco Tárrega: the unlikely tale of an English Gentleman and a Spanish Guitarist” (+ 2 CDs) is published by ASG Music Limited.