Peter T. Cork (1926-2012) teacher, composer, author, walker, friend ...
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Colin Patience has responded to the This England article in a letter to them. He wanted to 'flesh out' some of the points that were raised in the article. We are pleased to be able to publish Colin's comments on the Friends section of this website.

This England magazine

Peter Worsley, the Assistant Editor of 'This England' magazine has written and published a splendid two-page illustrated spread about the life and music of Peter Cork. The article, under the banner heading "England's Unsung Composers" is to be found in the Autumn 2015 edition of the magazine, which is a quarterly publication.

This England is a fine magazine with many other interesting articles and is well worth seeking out at any good newsagents. It is priced at £4.75 and the current edition should remain on sale between now, September 2015, and the end of the year. The scanned image of the very colourful cover, shown on the right, should help you spot it amongst the other offerings on the shelves.

Once you get your hands on a copy, the article about Peter Cork is to be found towards the end of the magazine on pages 64 and 65.
  The cover of This England Autumn 2015

Autumn 2015 edition of This England

Canterbury Recorded Music Society

The Friends Meeting House

The Friends Meeting House in Canterbury
  The Canterbury Recorded Music Society hosted a presentation of Peter Cork's recorded music on Tuesday, 2nd December 2014. Peter Cosker, his wife Jenny and Michael Foad all received a very warm welcome on arrival at The Friends Meeting House in the centre of Canterbury and just across the river from The Marlowe Theatre.

Peter Cosker started the presentation by explaining how he had first met Peter Cork, when they both taught at Clapham County School in the 1970's. He went on to introduce the first piece of music, a duet called 'Loneliness from Act I of 'The Bells of Craxminster'. That was followed by 'Such Important Ladies Are We' and 'White Bird of Peace' from 'The White Bird'. 'Tango In Mayfair' and 'Cockney Dance in Stepney' followed before Eileen's 'Old Depression Blues', a solo, all from 'Half-way Up the Mountain'.

Peter Cork called these first three productions 'Musicals' or 'Musical Stories' and they were all performed by the girls of Clapham County. The 'Will And The Way' was more of a proper 'Operetta' with both male and female characters.

'Don't Want To Dance' was a number from 'The Will And The Way' that involved both of the principals and the chorus, which was attempted by the girls at a final concert performance, now students at Walsingham School. The music played until this point in the programme was a reflection on Peter Cork's career as a teacher. The music that follows looks at him starting a new career as a composer and initially writing 'Library Music'.

We listened to a Victorian Patriotic March from the Bruton Music Library called 'Off To The Boer War'. This was followed by 'Euphonious Day', a Ragtime Piano Solo in the style of Scott Joplin from the Studio G Music Library. Then finally, a 1930's blues by Dance Band, 'Depression Blues' from the Chappell Music Library. Peter Cosker explained that these three pieces had been chosen simply because they were the top three earners, out of the 66 different numbers, that had paid royalties to Peter Cork's estate in 2014.

An interval with tea and bicuits gave members an opportunity to look at some of Peter's musical scores and other memorabilia.

'Sweet Hollywood' was Peter Cork's Hollywood Suite, written to accompany a radio programme of poems about Hollywood. One number, 'The Old Folks' was heard almost in its entirety by listening to a recording of a BBC Radio 4 broadcast.
  Peter Cosker addresses the meeting

Peter Cosker addresses the meeting

Michael Foad and Peter Cosker

Michael Foad and Peter Cosker
  The music continued with the month 'November' from 'Country Calendar', designed to be broadcast as a series of short programmes but never taken up by the BBC.

Peter Cork had written his 'Through The Looking Glass' suite to portray the Tenniel illustartions in Lewis Carroll's book and we listened to 'Humpty Dumpty' from the commercially produced compact disc.

A change to the programme was then announced because Michael Foad had brought along a cassette tape of a performance of 'The Spirit of Christmas' and we heard some beautiful singing when he played the number called 'An Old-Fashioned Christmas'.

Peter Cork's 'A Man of Kent' suite had been dedicated to Michael Foad and it was only proper that we should listen to the finale, 'The White Cliffs', that had been recorded by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Gavin Sutherland.

We ended the evening with two numbers from 'Country Pictures'. Peter Cork had persuaded a sound engineer, Nick Russell-Pavier to record him playing his 1906 Broadwood grand piano in his own home. This happened in 2006, when the piano was 100 years old and Peter just months from his 80th Birthday. This was to be the very last recording Peter ever made and the run of compact discs was limited to approximately thirty, which he would send to only his closest friends.
  Not only did Peter compose and play the pieces on his own piano but he also took the photographs for the compact disc jewel box cover and the disc itself, designed the booklet and then printed the booklet and the compact disc in his bedroom in Alder Road, Folkestone. As near as it could be, the entire project was his own work. We listened to 'Stepping Stones', the second number and then to 'Summer by the Sea', the finale.

We should like to thank the Canterbury Recorded Music Society for hosting this celebration of Peter's music and for their kindness and hospitality.

The audience takes their seats

The audience take their seats in Folkestone's United Reformed Church
  A Celebration of the Life and Music of PETER CORK was the title of the concert given at the Folkestone United Reformed Church on Saturday, 13th April 2013.

The programme included items of live and recorded music along with memories of Peter Cork by those who knew him.

An interval, with refreshments provided, enabled all those present to renew old acquaintances and make new friends.

Mementos were available on a side table in the form of piano music, miniature scores and other music books that Peter had owned as well as CD's of his music.

There was a Retiring Collection for the Cambodia Trust.

A MAN OF KENT - a Suite for Small Orchestra by Peter Cork

How entirely appropriate it was for Michael Foad to introduce this first piece to us. Peter had written a much earlier version of his 'Man of Kent' suite but soon after a first, chance meeting with Michael on the beach at Sandgate, he was encouraged to write a completely revised version. Peter wrote, "This work is dedicated to Michael Foad, who has done so much to promote both versions of the Kentish Suite."

The work calls for a Small Orchestra and, not having one readily available, we listened instead to a professional CD recording by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under the baton of Gavin Sutherland. Published in 2004 by Campion as Cameo 2031 it features two of Peter's compositions, the main one being 'Through The Looking Glass'. 'A Man Of Kent' suite, which shares the CD, has three movements; Romney Marsh, Alkham Valley and The White Cliffs.

We listened to the second movement, which lasts just over six minutes. Here is what Peter wrote about it, "Alkham Valley makes use of the folk-ballad, 'The Lark in the Still Air', creating a portrait both gentle and deeply romantic." The music was, indeed, deeply moving and very beautiful.

The next musical item was to be a song cycle for Baritone Voice and Accompanist to be performed live. Michael called upon Piers Plowright to introduce it. Piers is a poet and had written the lyrics, which Peter Cork had then put to music.
  Michael Foad, Director of Music

Michael Foad, Director of Music

UNDER THE APPLE TREE - A Song Cycle for the Changing Seasons

The work is in four movements; Spring Awakening, A Dream of Summer, Autumn Blues and A Winter's Tale.

We were very lucky to have Philip Spendley as our baritone, accompanied on the piano by Ken Condon. Philip's voice was pure and strong, his diction so clear, that it really brought the pieces alive. Our thanks to both of them for a truly excellent performance.

Ken Condon and Philip Spendley

  Philip Spendley

Philip Spendley

BRIAN ASTELL - a pupil of Peter Cork's at Dagenham County High

Brian learnt to play the clarinet by hiring an instrument for the princely sum of 6d a week and that included the tuition. He was quick to point out that the clarinet he would be playing in the concert was not the same one that he hired all those years ago!

Under Peter Cork's guidance, he was often accompanied by Dudley Moore, who was another of Peter's pupils. Dudley was so talented that he could manage any accompaniment without the slightest difficulty and was given to making humerous faces, whilst Brian was doing his utmost to play seriously. It is difficult to be anything else but serious whilst playing the clarinet.

Brian also told us of an occasion, as he was about to conduct a concert at Goldsmith's College, when he discovered that the composer of one piece, Peter Cork, would be in the audience. He could not remember the exact details but Peter Cork was, apparently, pleased with his pupil's interpretation, so all was well.

For our concert, Brian had prepared his own recording to act as accompaniment to the clarinet. He had chosen to play us three of Gerald Finzi's Five Bagatelles; the Prelude, Romance and Forlana. These are demanding pieces that can really demonstrate the range of the clarinet. Brian played them beautifully and paused to introduce each of the pieces in turn. It was a lovely performance that was a real pleasure to hear.

  Brian Astell

Brian Astell

Piers Plowright - ex BBC Radio Producer and good friend of Peter Cork

Peter and Piers first met one another in the mid-1970's. It was a time when Peter had written his final operetta, THE WILL AND THE WAY, and when he was moving from teaching to full time composing. Piers told us that, in those days, radio producers could sometimes commission new music for their productions. A number of such commissions followed often with music accompanying poetry readings and this allowed Peter's music to be heard on Radio 4. You may remember, THE HUNT, CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACKBIRD, POTTER OF MANCHUKUO and THE BOATS COME BACK TO HARBOUR.

Piers reminded us that Peter also wrote a great deal of 'Library Music' for Chappell's and Studio G, where the composer was never mentioned but the music itself went all around the world and still does so, to this day.

Peter embarked on ever more ambitious projects for radio with Piers that included A COUNTRY CALENDAR, THE WARTIME PICNICS and culminating in THE ROAD FROM MARRIAGE FARM, which achieved great critical acclaim.

Piers and Peter shared many common interests including a love of the countryside and of walking. Together they visited many parts of the country to undertake walking holidays. One particular favourite was the Lake District and Peter especially enjoyed the remote Duddon Valley.

  Piers Plowright

Piers Plowright
Piers maintained that Peter had never received the recognition, as a composer, that he really deserved but thought that his day might yet come. Many other composers only became well known after their deaths and this could be the case with Peter Cork.

So, what piece of music did Piers choose to play us? He picked the month of 'April' from A COUNTRY CALENDAR - Scenes from English Life as it used to be in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s told in words and music by Peter Cork.

The 2-disc CD set had been a private venture in April 2000. As the inset booklet states, "A Country Calendar is produced by Piers Plowright with the music conducted by Peter Cork and recorded at Henry's Studios." Unfortunately, the BBC could never be persuaded to use this work despite it being ready-made and easily serialised into 12 parts; such a pity.

Norma Winstone - a pupil of Peter Cork's at Dagenham County High

We were very fortunate to have Norma with us at all, as she had been in Italy earlier in the day. Despite having flown into Gatwick and then driven all the way to Folkestone, Norma was still happy to talk to us about Peter Cork, play us one of her recordings that held a special meaning and sing several songs from the great song-writers that she knew would have met with Peter's approval.

At Dagenham, Norma had been in a different year from either Dudley Moore or Brian Astell, being quite a bit younger, but had plucked up courage to ask Dudley for his autograph. Peter and Norma lost touch with one another for a long time and only discovered, quite by chance, that their respective homes were in the same corner of Kent. Since then Norma has frequently accompanied Peter and his companions on country walks including his 'Birthday Walks'.

Norma has become a very successful Jazz Singer, winning the title of Best Vocalist in the BBC Jazz Awards in 2001 and was awarded an MBE in the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Norma was accompanied by Hugh Mitchell on the piano. Hugh was introduced as being a scientist who works at Charing Cross Hospital with perhaps the slightest implied suggestion that, with those credentials, he might not be able to play the piano! In fact, his playing was splendid and he appeared to enjoy himself as much as we did. It was Hugh, by the way, who took the very fine photograph of Peter Cork sitting at the same piano back in March 2007 and which features on the entry portal to this website.

The performance by Norma Winstone and Hugh Mitchell was the perfect way to end this 'Celebration of the Life and Music of Peter Cork' concert.
  Norma Winstone

Norma Winstone

Contact the Editor

My name is Peter Cosker and I am just one of three people charged with looking after Peter Cork's music. We are also to encourage and help facilitate future performances of his works, when and wherever possible. It is my hope that this website will be of some help in this respect.

You will find an e-mail link on the right that will enable you to contact me. I promise to reply to every message, although it may sometimes take a few days before you get a reply.

  We have a growing number of 'Friends of Peter Cork'. If you knew Peter and have a story to tell or any old photographs or memoribilia or, indeed, anything that could be added to the website then it would be most welcome and duly credited.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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editor: Peter J. Cosker Peter T. Cork updated: 10/10/2015