Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Cyril Cork: Full Sail - for piano solo


I can find nothing on the internet about Cyril Cork – not even his dates of birth and death: he may well be still alive. There is, however, a reference to a ‘Cyril Cork’ prize, but nothing about the man himself.
His piano work Full Sail is a little gem. This suite of pieces was published in 1966 by the redoubtable Manchester music publishing firm of Forsyth Brothers. In fact this is where I purchased this sheet music- it was in their sale, priced £1.
These are six excellent descriptive pieces, which are full of nautical imagery loosely based on the well-loved story by Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island. The opening swaggering ‘Pirate’s March’, which is dedicated to John Longmire, gets the piece of to a technically demanding start – at least for Grade 4. Cork juxtaposes chromatic sequences, a jaunty tune and a chordal, almost hymn-like melody. Great use is made of melodic leaps of the ‘seventh’ and scattering of major second chords.
The second movement is entitled 'Lonely Inn'. It certainly has the feel of mist bound Admiral Benbow Inn from Stevenson’s story. The piece is written in compound time: alternating between 9/8 and 6/8 time. Again harmonic seconds are prevalent.
The third movement is perhaps the liveliest. This is a lop-side jig entitled ‘Evans the Stump’. A note on the score suggests that ‘The Welsh cook with a wooden leg. His cry of ‘Come and get it!’ could be heard almost to the other side of the ocean’. It is an intricate little piece that demands concentration by the player – and nimble fingers. However, I cannot recall a pirate or sailor called ‘Evans’ in RLS’s book!
Eventually the pirates or sailors reach ‘The Island’. This is represented by a little impressionistic piece in 6/8 time that explores a rising melody for the right hand with a barcarolle like accompaniment. Some subtle key changes and chromatic notes ensure that this easy piece never gets boring.
‘Joe the Parrot’ is naturally the ships parrot, who apparantly ‘could almost whistle back correctly if you sang him a tune.’ This is a lively little scherzando with lots of imitation and wayward melodic leaps.
The final movement is the eponymous ‘Full Sail.’ This is probably the best conceived part of the work. Certainly the 9/8 time signature allows the composer to portray a great ship speeding across the waves. However he uses expansive chords rather that figuration to achieve this sense of breadth. There are lots of added note chords towards the end. In fact it is a piece that I think would sound good if transcribed for a large orchestra.

I guess that this suite reminds me of some fellow Forsyth’s stable mate, the great Mancunian Walter Carroll and his music. However, Cork brings a good imagination and some original thought to these pieces that begins to transcend the boundary between ‘grade’ pieces and a work that would reward hearing in a public recital.
Perhaps I may hear more about Cyril Cork in the coming days. Meanwhile I append a list of his published works of which there are precious few. Most appear to be didactic pieces for the music student.

Four Hands Adventuring: piano duets H. Freeman & Co. c1962
Full sail Forsyth Bros. c1966
A guide to musicianship examinations, initial to grade III, with specimen tests London: Trinity College of Music, 1978
Singing sight-reading exercises for grade examinations London: Trinity College of Music, c1972
Specimen ear tests for diploma examinations London: Trinity College of Music, c1978
Specimen sight reading tests for licentiate pianoforte diploma London: Trinity College of Music, [1981?]

6 comments:

thedarklingwood said...

Hi,
I've just been on what looks like a similar search. I was recently given a stack of old sheet music from a retired piano teacher (I'm a teacher myself) and came across some rather pleasing Cyril Cork pieces. I don't know if they're known to you. They come in an album called 'Pianoforte Grade III Book B - Containing three groups of Studies and Pieces'. They're published by Trinity in what looks like the 60s (owing to the pre and post decimal pricing). I've emailed Trinity and if I get any info back from you I'll let you know!

Best wishes,

Elin

John France said...

Elin,

Thanks for that - keep me posted

J

John France said...

Elin,

Thanks for that - keep me posted

J

John France said...

Chloe,

Thanks for that. I would love to find out more. But cannot reply to your email for some reason

Regards

John F

Andrew Cork said...

My sister and I were touched by the comments about our father,Cyril Cork. He died in 1988. Trinity College wrote about him:
There are not many who have been connected with Trinity for 60 years but Cyril was. The College has lost one of its most distinguished figures and a remarkable person. A fine musician, he also had a faculty owned by few in the artistic professions-a head for business and organisation, and so served the College with distinction in both teaching and administration. His concern for the welfare of the young in general gave him a high place in the esteem of those who came to study at Trinity. This is clearly shown in the circumstances of his home life where, not content with having a son and daughter, he and Jean fostered 140 children for periods from a night to 20 years. This warmness coloured all his dealing with others and was a tremendous asset in his work with the students. On a piece of paper titled "College Connections" he writes: "First fell in love with the place in 1929 when examined by no less a person than Bantock for Grade 1. Awarded prize for the highest mark. A year later failed Grade 3, probably the lowest mark. The College heard nothing more from me until 1941 when I took my LT. The College was then afforded a welcome respite from me (if not from Hitler) from 1942 to 1946 during which time I caused much concern to the Royal Artillery."
Cyril came to Trinity in 1946 and quickly became conspicuous in the fields of piano and musicianship. His compositions, especially his songs, were often performed at student concerts. In 1948 he joined the teaching staff of the College in which his own splendid musicianship was instrumental in putting many students on the right road. In 1960, he was appointed Secretary of the College, and I quote from Cyril: "Much to the relief of the teaching staff and proving that even such a body as the Board of Trinity College can make mistakes". The teachers in fact felt a great sense of loss when he gave up teaching, but his Secretaryship forged a strong link between teaching and administrative staffs. In 1961 he became an examiner for the College, including three trips to the USA and Canada. In 1964, he was appointed Director of Studies and later the College's first Vice-Principal, a position that he held until he retired in 1985. In the field of composition, Cyril wrote several albums for the College grade examinations, and took the lead in formulating the guide to musicianship teaching for teachers, where his wisdom and experience were invaluable. One of the best contributions as a composer is a collection of piano duets entitled Four Hands Adventuring where secondo really has something to do beyond the usual filling in of an accompaniment to prima's melodies. His sense of humour was renowned with staff and students. Cyril used to set mock papers for fellow teachers, in one "Musikal Nollege" paper a question was: ‘Man, the Harmonic Chromatic Scale and the Universe what I believe. Expound. The examiners will look for a closely argued and reasoned statement which considers the metaphysical position (Man with access to a Divine nature and Lovelock's Rudiments) as a serious contribution to the understanding of chromatic harmony and the life force within’. Another tale was when walking along Oxford Street on his way to a Board meeting a tall, West Indian girl in a flowing dress, beads and sandals flung her arms round him, kissed him and said loudly, 'Daddy, where have you been.' He detached himself with difficulty and answered, 'Claudine, it is you that is missing.' Claudine being one of their foster children who ‘left home’ the day before. His sense of humour also extended to exam papers, in answer to the question ‘What is a Madrigal’, a student wrote “A madrigal is a song for an unaccomplished voice,” Cyril gave marks and wrote “You may be right there!” Cyril was a wise, humane person and the College will miss him greatly.

John France said...

Andrew,
I cannot reply to you personally as there is no 'reply' feature on your comment. If you would like to email me direct at
landoflostcontent@hotmail.co.uk

...I would be able to ask you a few questions!

Meanwhile thanks for all that info..