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?]