Thursday, June 4, 2009

Alec Templeton... A Forgotten Genius

A name long forgotten by most of us wafted across my internal blackboard this morning, and I do believe that I have not written about him in my blog; and so:
Alec Templeton was born, as I recall, in Cardiff, Wales, in 1909 (some say it was 1910), and born without sight.
I recently found a recording of his "Tea for Two," and was immediately reminded of his unparalleled cleverness in fusing the styles of Bach, Scarlatti, and other great composers of the past to his pop arrangements.
I played this recording to several of my students, and they ALL asked where I had gotten this performance by George Shearing!
And therein lies the story of this forgotten genius, who preceded George Shearing by about ten years (I believe that Shearing was born in 1919), in writing arrangements of pop tunes in the classical style.
I could kick myself for not having asked Shearing (I have written in a previous blog about my conversation with Shearing) about Alec Templeton - I had COMPLETELY forgotten to do so.
I am convinced that Templeton was a direct influence on Shearing. This recording of "Tea for Two" has uncanny cleverness on the part of Templeton, in his fugal and canon writing in the style of Bach, and is a reminder that THIS chicken came first, not the wonder egg named Shearing.
There are remarkable similarities with both Templeton and Shearing; in that they were both born blind, were educated at college - level in classical music in England, and came to America. Shearing is still with us, but I believe is no longer active, especially after a serious fall a few years ago.
Shearing's recordings are easily available, due to his world-wide reputation in our time; however, for those of you who have not heard the Templeton recordings, I would invite you to get hold of some of them. Although he was not the pianist that Shearing is, and had not developed the dimension of classical/pop fusion to compare with Shearing, you will quickly appreciate the pioneering genius of this Welsh pianist who has pretty much been forgotten.

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