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Saturday, August 15, 2020

Maurice J.Summerfield remembers Julian Bream (July 15, 1933 - August 14, 2020)

I first saw Julian Bream in concert at the City Hall in Newcastle in 1956.  I was studying jazz guitar with the late Charlie Smith in Newcastle. I was immediately  enchanted by the musical virtuosity of Julian Bream.  As a result I developed a life long love of the classical guitar and its repertoire.  Bream's tone, rhythmic  timing and overall brilliant musicality, I am sure, were coloured by his love of jazz.   His father, an artist and amateur jazz guitarist,  encouraged his son  to listen to Django Reinhardt and other jazz guitarists.   During his National Service Bream played an archtop guitar in the  Army dance band.

In 1956/57 I used to go to London to study with Ivor Mairants at his Central School of Dance Music.  I was fascinated to see on the school's teaching staff, amongst others, Bert Weedon, my old friend Ike Isaacs and Julian Bream.

I first spoke to Julian Bream, on the phone,  in 1974.  He was making a television programme for the BBC - 'The Five Faces of the Guitar' - and he wanted to contact  Barney Kessel to be the jazz guitarist on the programme.  In addition the programme featured Paco Pena (Flamenco), John Renbourn (Folk), Jeff Beck (Rock) with himself on classical guitar.  I was able to put him touch with Barney who did take part  in this programme.

In September 1982 my publishing company (Ashley Mark) began to publish the monthly magazine 'Classical Guitar'.  I was the managing editor of this magazine for almost 32 years until I sold the magazine in 2014 to String Letter Publishing in the USA.  Julian was was the first cover artist of the magazine and the last cover artist of the UK edition.  This fact reflected my admiration for this unique artist.  

Over the 32 years I was in regular contact with Julian by letter and by phone.  He also invited me to visit him in his beautiful country home in 1985 in  Semley, Dorset.  A memorable day (see photo).

I was pleased to be able publish the biography - 'The Art of Julian Bream' by Graham Wade (Ashley Mark 2008).  Although unauthorised, the author Graham Wade gave Julian a copy who confirmed that he was pleased with it.

The world of music has lost a rare genius.  However we are fortunate to have a very large number of his wonderful recordings  so that his legendary unique musical talent can continue to enchant this generation and future generations.

Maurice J. Summerfield

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