This article first appeared on my personal site icoldwell.com in Fall 2004.
D. Kennedy was an importer living in Yokohama, Japan who was also an amateur guitarist.
October 1934: letter to Vahdah Olcott-Bickford
Volume 5, Number 1, March 1935
“American Guitar Society”
“Fingernail or Fingertips”
(Spanish guitarist Francisco Alfonso, author) trans. D. Kennedy
Volume 6, Number 5, October 1938
“How I Came to Meet Pujol and Mrs. Bickford”
(in Yokohama) D. Kennedy
“What is Tarrega’s Performance Style?”
(Alexis Chesnicov, author) trans. D. Kennedy
“Ye Shall Conquer the Guitar”
(in America, L.J. Valler) trans. D. Kennedy
Number 74, April 1941
(Perrot) trans. Kennedy
Text of this letter provided courtesy Ron Purcell, Director of IGRA.
Dear Mrs. Bickford: [dated, Oct., 1934]
I duly received your very interesting and informative letter, for which I thank you most heartily, as well as for you explanations in regard to the guitar adjustor.
As to the books on the guitar by Spanish authors, I now see that my references to them were not explicit enough. What I intended to say was that, Bone’s book being out of my reach to obtain, the only recourse would be to fall back on books by Pujol, Prat, etc. Although I have ordered them from the publishers, I have not yet got them in hand. I have not even seen them yet; I only know about them through descriptions of them in the Japanese magazines. Prat’s book, I now understand, is still in press. The publishers are
Bmé. Mitre, 961, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
As to Spanish composers, I was disappointed to see you make no mention of Tarrega, in whose compositions I take such supreme delight; far more than from those of Mertz, Jiuliani[sic], Carcassi, Carulli and such non-Spanish composers. Of course in this far off corner of the world it is not easy to know what sort of music is in existence, much less obtain copies of them or to hear them played by good artists, so that my range of acquaintanceship with them is greatly circumscribed. This being the case I am in no position to make comparisons, the more so from the fact that I am yet quite an immature player.
Regarding the matter of membership in your Society, much as I wanted to join it, I was prevented from doing so, owing to the extremely adverse position of Japanese money relative to American money. That is to say, in order to remit to you $5.00 I should have to send you as its equivalent a very large sum in Japanese money. I have at any rate filled in your card (enclosed) and made the necessary remittance.
I had just made up my mind to make a certain request of you when your letter reached me. It is this: Owing to my intense love of the guitar, I go considerably out of my way to do my bit towards fostering the love for this beautiful instrument in Japan by translating articles relating to it for the Japanese musical magazines. But, situated in this remote part of the world, I find great difficulty in obtaining the necessary material for tranlsation. Seeing that you are in such an excellent position to obtain such material, I was wondering whether you would be so kind as to let me have the loan of duplicate cuttings of what goes in your scrapbook. I shall not hold them longer than 10 days, returning them to you by registered mail. As a guarantee of good faith, I am perfectly willing to make a cash deposit with you for whatever sum you may name.
If you think it might interest some of your Serenader readers, I shall be glad to write for you a short article describing the position of the guitar in this country, enclosing some recent programs.
[signed – D. Kennedy]
P.S. Owing to the extensive use of your tutors in this country, your name is widely known among Japanese lovers of the instrument. They are all deeply indebted to you.
Armonia Volume 5, Number 1, March 1935 – D. Kennedy – Armonia
About the American Guitar Society
Being a member of this society, comprised of teachers and students of the guitar as well as enthusiasts, and desiring to inform Japanese guitarists about its activities, I took it upon myself to write a short report. This society was first organized at exactly the time of the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923) and is the only society of its kind in the United States. Regardless of the recent economic downturn in the United States the society is still in existence. Its members come not only from the United States but also Australia, England, Canada, Japan and other countries. This society’s purpose is to tell the world about the possibility of playing the Spanish guitar in the Spanish way (not with a pick but the fingers) and do its utmost to publicize the hidden beauty of this instrument through performances and its society journal, “The Serenader.”
One of the society’s jobs every year is to publish music that is of deep interest to guitarists or that is out of print and difficult to obtain. Also, the society endeavors to widely introduce relatively unknown composers’ works. Up until now albums of works from Spain, Mexico, Russia, Schubert and Beethoven have been produced. It was announced in mid-January that this year an Opera album will be released. In addition, this society does not limit itself to lending music to its members, but also sometimes holds lecture/recitals and wonderful concerts. At these members are welcomed to bring friends. To give an example of a lecture/recital, recently (October of last year) one was given on a guitarist and composer born 51 years ago in Vienna, Austria, Heinrich Bohr, after which many of his guitar compositions were played. Before that, in June, the Great Hall was used for performances of only Bohemian songs. In such recitals there are not only guitar solos, but also guitar with other instruments such as flute, cello or voice. In this way the beauty of the guitar playing with other instruments can be shown to the public. Earlier recitals of just Coste, Carulli and Carcassi have been given. Once a year a members’ banquet is held. As proof of the interest in accompanying members to the society’s concerts there are people who travel from as far away as 140 miles to attend.
Due to the influence of jazz, nowadays there are many imitations of the Spanish guitar, as well as unusual playing techniques (such as a pick), so there is much effort put into getting the public to use authentic Spanish playing techniques such as those used in playing works written by great guitarists such as Sor and Tarréga. Of course, in the concerts there is much emphasis on solo guitar playing, but sometimes a guitar ensemble performance is inserted into the middle of the program. In such an ensemble many guitars are used (as many as 8). Mando-cellos and mando-basses are also used. A wonderful aspect of this society is the very low percentage of empty seats at performances. The society also keeps an album for review by members of guitar related news clippings from around the world and guitar concert programs from many countries. They also collect photographs of guitarists and guitar composers from long ago.
They are in preparations for this year’s large concert of mainly English compositions. The president of the American Guitar Society is well known to Japanese guitarists, Mrs. Bickford. The society offices:
American Guitar Society
2280 West 23rd Street
Los Angeles, Cal. U.S.A.
Because of the number of guitarists in Japan I think it would be wonderful if a “Japan Guitar Society” could be formed.
Armonia Volume 6, Number 5, October 1938 – D. Kennedy – Armonia
How I Came to Meet Pujol and Mrs. Bickford
D. Kennedy (in Yokohama)
I left Japan in July of this year and arrived in Paris August 1st. One day, when I went acquire some sheet music from J. Rowie’s music shop on Rue Pigale, I inquired of an employee whether there was a guitar instructor by the name of Pujol. When I asked if she knew his address, I was surprised to get the response that Pujol was at that moment in the next room. I then asked if I may meet him. She went to the next room, but came back shortly, told me I would be allowed to enter, then showed me the way. In that room, which was the owner’s office, Rowie was with Pujol and Pujol’s wife. When I told Pujol of the enthusiasm for the guitar in Japan he was greatly delighted.
The owner, Rowie, is a gentleman in his fifties. He said he plays cello but cannot play guitar. He also said the office is a meeting place for guitarists in Paris. I could see it was true by the 40-50 photos pasted on the office walls of guitarists from various countries.
Pujol (51 years of age this year) looks much older than his photos published in this magazine. His hair is thinning, but he looks healthy and is a truly courteous gentleman. Pujol’s wife is a famous Spanish flamenco guitarist (stage name Madame Cuerva). They have recorded guitar duos on Victor Records number JF26A-B. She speaks English very well, but it appears that Pujol does not.
I stated then that such a chance meeting with Pujol was truly an unexpected blessing. When I asked if I could hear him play guitar just once, it was like a dream when he asked what he should play. He immediately took a Garcia guitar which was at the shop and played Tarrega’s Capricho Arabe. I was so happy at the time I was at a complete loss for words. Then Pujol’s wife took the same guitar and played a Granadina flamenco song, which enthralled me very much. I could not be but amazed at her technique. What is very unfortunate, however, is that Pujol can absolutely not play guitar on a stage. This is because he suffers from attacks of stage fright. When he played for me he had the same symptoms.
Around that time Pujol was discovering 16th century lute works in the world’s foremost library in Paris. He said they were well suited to the modern guitar and he was in the process of transcribing them. According to Rowie, Pujol currently had 30 students and the hourly fee was 60 francs. (That is about 8 yen at the current exchange, but as it is in francs it is a great sum.) In the course of conversation it was said that Ms. Anido, from South America, and Ms. Maria Rita Brondi, from Italy, are great talents. When I asked the whereabouts of Tarrega’s other pupils I was told that Llobet is in Barcelona, Spain and that his younger brother was killed in the war. Sainz de la Maza is also in Barcelona, but Daniel Fortea is in Madrid.
When I was told that Pujol and his wife would leave to summer in Monte Carlo that evening I was more than disappointed as I thought we had not conversed nearly long enough. Anyhow, before we parted, I promised to send news of the guitar in Japan to him, and he would send news of the guitar in Europe to me. By the way, the guitar I mentioned above, made 30 years ago by the famous Barcelona luthier Garcia, Pujol had intended to acquire for one of his students, but when he heard me tell of Japan’s dearth of good instruments, I brought it back to Japan.
As I was using the Chichibu-maru, departing from Los Angeles, for my return, I stopped over and met Mrs. Bickford. Previously our communication was limited to correspondence, but because I now had an opportunity to meet her, I phoned from the hotel. She was very pleased and immediately accompanied Mr. Bickford by car to my hotel. They took me to their home and offered me dinner. I was entertained by both and spent a pleasant half day. She also holds a great interest in the guitar in Japan and told me to convey her best wishes to Japanese guitarists.
I also met in Paris a Japanese person most interested in the guitar. In speaking with him he said that if sheet music, music related items or anything at all were desired then he would gladly send them upon receipt of the items’ cost and postage. I would like to tell everyone so that they may utilize this opportunity. The person is Nishimura Satoru.
14, Cité Falguiere