In Memoriam – Thomas F. Heck (10 July 1943 – 3 October 2021)

Fifty years ago, the study of guitar history was in a rudimentary state (woefully short on verifiable facts, and worryingly long on unsubstantiated anecdotes), with even professional performers having little idea of the full extent and richness of their instrument’s repertoire. A key figure in the emergence of guitar history as a formal area of study was Tom Heck, whose death was announced recently. A fine obituary paying tribute to his long life and his many achievements (which extended far beyond the guitar) can be found in a newspaper from Santa Barbara (his home town since 2001) at

So here (on behalf of my Consortium colleagues) I would like to concentrate specifically on his key contribution to the history and understanding of the guitar.

Many of us first encountered Tom’s name, thanks to his groundbreaking PhD thesis: “The birth of the classic guitar and its cultivation in Vienna, reflected in the career and compositions of Mauro Giuliani (d.1829)” (Yale University, 1970). As its name suggests, this thesis sought to locate the roots of the modern guitar (especially in Italy) during the late eighteenth century, and demonstrated how the Italian virtuoso Giuliani had been a key figure in developing the instrument’s popularity in early-nineteenth-century Vienna. The depth and originality of Tom’s research (much of it conducted in Austria in 1968-9, thanks to a Fulbright Fellowship), his meticulous attention to detail, and his ability to place guitar history within a wider musical context were a revelation to younger scholars like me when I first encountered it. I can still remember the deep impression that this thesis made on me when I was able to read it in London (via a rare microfilm copy) in 1983. I learned a great deal about Giuliani’s life and work, but more importantly, this thesis set the gold standard for how all research into plucked instruments should be conducted. Thankfully, the essence of this pioneering work eventually became much more widely available, when it was published in book form as “Mauro Giuliani: Virtuoso Guitarist and Composer” (Columbus: Editions Orphée, 1995).
Years later, I was able to meet Tom in person in Cambridge, when he became a founding member of the Consortium for Guitar Research at Sidney Sussex. Unassuming, immensely knowledgeable, and with a quietly subversive sense of humour, he was generous and helpful to colleagues, endlessly curious to learn about newly rediscovered guitar music, and willing to discuss different ways of looking at guitar history. He was always open to new ideas, and was never defensive about his own work, because its quality and reliability still speaks for itself, more than half a century after its first appearance. He and his wife Anne became frequent visitors to the UK, and Tom regularly attended our gatherings until his failing health finally prevented him from travelling a couple of years ago.
For much of his career, Tom worked as a librarian, being director of the Music and Dance Library at The Ohio State University for more than two decades. He was also one of the founding members of the Guitar Foundation of America (1973), whose journal Soundboard is well known to guitarists worldwide. In 2015, he also created a special annual edition, entitled Soundboard Scholar, which concentrated more exclusively on historical research.
The Consortium for Guitar Research has now been in existence for more than a decade, and the death of a member is one of the sad inevitabilities of life. But Tom leaves behind him a legacy of scholarship that sets the standard for the rest of us, as well as many fond memories of a funny, warm, and exemplary colleague.
Paul Sparks

First Consortium Research Prize to Luca Soattin

In 2021 the Consortium Research prize was awarded for the first time, to Luca Soattin for his research on the largely unexplored transitional guitar of five single strings. The prize is meant to encourage the sharing of for new facts, thoughts, and findings in the field of the classical guitar.

Luca’s winning article, ‘Were all guitars of the nineteenth century ‘Romantic’? A study of iconography and organology in the 18th and 19th century’ can be found here:

The Andrew Britton Fellow for 2021

The Andrew Britton Fellow for 2021 is Romaric Martin (France). 

After obtaining, in 2011, the first prize in guitar and chamber music at the Conservatoire de Bordeaux in the class of Olivier Chassain, he continued his studies at the Pôle Supérieur de Spectacle Vivant in Rennes where he studied with Hervé Merlin, Pablo Marquez, Roberto Aussel, Michel Grizard and Francisco Bernier. In 2015, he completed his Bachelor’s degree with the Diplôme National Supérieur Professionnel de Musique and finished, the following year, his training for the Diplôme d’Etat de professeur de guitare at the Centre d’Etudes Supérieures de Musique et de Danse de Poitou-Charentes.

Working with Bruno Marlat since 2009, Romaric specializes in romantic guitar and obtained in 2017 a master’s degree in early music at the Centre d’Etudes Supérieures de Musique et de Danse de Poitou-Charentes and at the University of Poitiers. During this training he was introduced to baroque guitar and continuo with Beatrice Pornon and Pascal Dubreuil.

The Consortium was especially taken with Romaric’s proposed research into The French guitarist and composer François Doisy (1748-1806).

A book on the Eglantine Table

The Elizabethan table at Hardwick Hall, known as the Eglantine Table, was manufactured in the later 1560s, probably in London. It provides a unique and detailed visual record of contemporary wind and stringed instruments. The Table was cleaned and restored in the 1990s and may therefore be seen today in something much closer to its original glory; nonetheless, no comprehensive visual record of the marquetry on the surface has ever been published, and it has never been systematically studied. This book, with essays by an international team of contributors, is designed to fill that gap. It contains a full-colour record of the Table, with individual chapters on all of the fifteen instruments shown including violins, a lute, a harp, a cittern, a guitar and various woodwind and brass.

Here is a link to the publisher’s page.

A new book in honour of Christopher Page

A new book on Music and Instruments of the Middle Ages was published in honour of Christopher Page. For more information see here or here.

Editors are Tess Knighton and David Skinner. Contributors: Elizabeth Aubrey, Anna Maria Busse Berger, John Caldwell, Alice V. Clark, Lisa Colton, Lawrence Earp, Mark Everist, David Fallows, Manuel Pedro Ferreira, Andrew Kirkman, Elizabeth Eva Leach, Marc Lewon, Jeremy Montagu, Keith Polk, Reinhard Strohm, Rob C. Wegman, Crawford Young.

A new CD by Richard Savino

Consortium member Richard Savino is delighted to announce that Naxos has chosen his latest recording as their featured international release for April. It concerns Archivo de Guatemala – Music from the Guatemala City Cathedral Archive, including compositions by Castellanos, Durón, García de Zéspedes, Quiros, and Torres. Richard Savino (guitar) is joined by his ensemble El Mundo. More information here.

A new CD: The Ledbury Lute – Lute Music From Regency England

Taro Takeuchi plays solo lute music on a recently discovered, original and rare, Regency lute made by Joseph Buchinger, London c.1800, loaned by the Butcher Row House Museum in Ledbury, Hertfordshire.
Music by Mozart, Haydn, Pleyel, Voyer and others including marches, dances, airs and a rare solo sonata all from the original published sources for the Regency lute.

The recording is available at:

New: The Consortium Research Prize

The Consortium for Guitar Research at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, is offering an annual Research Prize of £200 for original research into the history of the guitar, or closely related plucked instruments, during the period 1540-1940. Entries from scholars, performers, instrument makers and collectors are invited. The research must be previously unpublished, and may take the form of an article (maximum length 5000 words), a report on work in progress or any other form which the competitor finds useful for the best presentation of new facts, thoughts or findings, The judges would welcome (but do not insist upon) the inclusion of photographs, diagrams, images, and short audio or audiovisual recordings. A complete video presentation (not exceeding fifteen minutes in length) may be presented instead of formal written work, perhaps submitted as an unlisted link on YouTube or Vimeo. Other solutions may be possible. (NOTE: Videos of performances must include a substantial element of explication or commentary).

Submissions must be in English. The opening date for submissions is 15 April 2021, the closing date is 5pm, 15 September 2021. The winning entry will be announced at midday on 7 January 2022. The decision of the judges, drawn from members of the Consortium, is final. Submissions should be sent to and accompanied by a short
synopsis not exceeding 200 words. Entry is open to everyone (no age limit), except for full members of the Consortium (members of the Consortium’s Cohort wing may apply).