Introducing John McCormick

portrait of John McCormick

By way of introduction, my name is John McCormick. I have been playing and teaching the classic guitar in the Central Ohio area for many years. Before taking up the guitar, I was a singer; performing in Opera and Musical Theater, giving song recitals, and directing church choirs. In addition, I produced and announced a nightly classical music radio program for twenty years on one of our local public radio stations.

I originally started playing the guitar with the intent of accompanying my own singing. I became so enthralled with the solo literature for the guitar, however, I pretty much forgot about the singing part. In addition, two problems only came to light after I had begun playing. The first was that nobody other than Sibelius had written anything for classic guitar and loud bass voice. Secondly, My one-track-mind did not want to let me do two things at once. The only solution was to play for other singers, which I have done on numerous occasions. I finally married one.

Between raising a rather large family and having busy teaching schedules, my wife and I have given many concerts, performing a large portion of the currently published repertory for voice and guitar. Our first love, though, remains with the classic and early romantic Italian composers, since we were both raised on Italian opera. The only problem with this is that we have always had difficulty finding this type of music in the context of guitar accompanied song. Relatively speaking, currently published music of this type is very limited.

Some years ago, I got my hands on an LP (remember those?) containing the Boleros of Fernando Sor. Much later, when I finally listened to the other side, I was taken by the songs of Vicente Martin y Soler, a composer completely unknown to me at the time. With the help of Thomas Heck, I was able to locate them in the British Library. To my surprise, there were not only the few I had heard, but a total of twelve. The accompaniments were not written for guitar as such. In fact, they were not written out at all, but were only a bass line, or at the most, a simple arpeggio. According to the composer, they could be played on a piano, harp or guitar.

Since the guitar accompaniments I had heard on the recording had been written by others, probably near contemporaries of the composer, I decided to follow historic precedent and write my own. In the process, I wrote accompaniments for all twelve, which to my knowledge, had not previously been done. I also followed closely the composer's indications, as opposed to the earlier ones that were very free arrangements.

Matanya Ophee was kind enough to publish this collection. How we became acquainted is a story too lengthy for this space. Suffice it to say that he was also patient enough to teach a formerly computer-illiterate person how to engrave the manuscript. In the process, I learned more about the computer than just the SCORE program, as anyone who knows Matanya can easily imagine. Example: "The computer has no sense of humor" (whenever I made one of my many mistakes); and to my every question, "That's easy!" (How reassuring!).

I then began to wonder if there might be more such music out there that nobody has thought about one way or the other for the past 200 years or so. I began to look into this by way of guitarists who may have written such music. My first lead came from two sources, Thomas Heck and Mario Torta. I had become intrigued by the songs of Carulli. Whereupon, I again consulted with Tom heck, as I have many times in the past. He, in turn, consulted the Carulli catalogue of Mario Torta. I then called Dr. Torta to ask where these songs are located. This led directly to our first trip to Lucca and Istituto Musicale L. Boccherini where the songs are located.

I have since acquired my own computer and have embarked on a search through RISM and other resources for more songs with guitar, written roughly during the time of Napoleon. This was, of course, also the time of Fernando Sor, Carulli, Giuliani, Aguado and all the other people with whom we who take the guitar seriously are familiar. In the process of this search, I have so far found many songs with guitar written by opera composers, singers and song writers of the time who are little known today, in addition to the many guitarists of the time who wrote such music. They are of many nationalities and represent a further testament to the incredible popularity of the guitar during this time.

Matanya has been kind enough to allow me to share these findings elsewhere on this website. In his "guitar issues" section, you will find what I have unearthed thus far. As part of this list, or catalogue if you will, I have listed composer, song titles, library locations and where possible, biographical sketches of the composers. As time goes by, I will continue to add to the listings. The page begins with a rather opinionated essay on singing, the guitar, performance practices, and whatever else came to mind as I was writing it.

My purpose in pursuing this interest is simple. I feel strongly that much of this music should see the light of day in the form of performances and modern publication. My wife, Jane and I have recently completed recording the songs by Martin y Soler, along with ones by Carulli, Giuliani and Moretti, which should be released in the near future. It is my hope that others will be motivated to take up this idea. This will serve to expand the repertory for both the voice and the guitar to a significant degree. You will notice that the list is not limited to solo song with guitar, but includes duets, trios and choruses as well, all with guitar accompaniment.

Since Matanya and I live in the same city, he is now going to have a hard time getting rid of me. I think I'm on a roll!!!

Copyright © 1999 by John McCormick All Rights Reserved.

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