It was with much sadness that I recently learned of the passing of Alan Middleton on 16th October. Alan has been, and always will be, a huge part of Clifford Essex Music. His contribution to the company is immeasurable; I would go as far as to say that together with my father, Clem Vickery Snr, Alan had been at the heart of Clifford Essex Music since my father revived the company in 2009. In fact, Alan’s association with the company goes back to 1948 when he worked with the legendary then managing director A. P. Sharpe, assisting with the editing of and contributing arrangements and other contributions towards of BMG, the company’s music supplement. Alan left the company in 1954 to pursue a teaching career, which I understand occupied him for the next four decades, however, within this time, as well as regularly performing, he also produced a huge amount of banjo, guitar and harp compositions and arrangements and instruction books. His work on the guitar was written under the pen-name Alonso Medio and his tutor book, ‘The Guitar and How To Play It’, still enjoys considerable acclaim throughout the fretted instrument community.
Alan’s knowledge and experience were integral to the success of the revived Clifford Essex Music Co. Ltd. My father, too, was an excellent musician, however, with Alan on board my father knew he had struck gold. Alan’s role within Clifford Essex Music in the early 50s had come full circle, however, not only were the arrangements and compositions flowing once more, Alan’s knowledge on all banjo-related issues was a huge help and resource. When Clifford Essex Music was resurrected in 2009, Alan was in his 80s, and despite his great age, his output was prolific. Not only did Alan contribute numerous arrangements to our ‘solos’ range, he also produced the following books and collections.
Banjo Bonanza – 30 original solos for fingerstyle banjos.
Morley Magic – Four volumes of Joe Morley music and four complementary volumes of ‘Notes on how to play the solos’.
Early Morley Memories – Twelve solos composed by Morley during the 1890-1900 period.
The Banjo and How to Pay It – Fingerstyle banjo tutor.
Early Minstrel Music – Twenty pieces especially popular with American players.
Mini Melodies – 25 graded fingerstyle banjo pieces.
Clifford Essex Music has been working on developing a new website which has involved transferring our music catalogue from the old domain. It has been an honour looking through each of Alan’s publications, be it a book or a piece from our solo range. Alan’s musicianship and mastery of the banjo is unquestionable, second to none! A personal favourite of mine is Alan’s composition ‘Meadowsweet’ from Banjo Bonanza. Sensitively and tastefully written with rich harmony and a melody that ebbs and flows beautifully, it is a complete joy that no doubt Joe Morley and Emile Grimshaw would fully appreciate.
Since taking up the reins of Clifford Essex Music, following my father’s death last year, I have spoken to Alan several times, often to ask for advice on a wide variety of issues. His wisdom, wit, sense of humour, knowledge and expertise will be sorely missed.
Alan’s passing is a massive loss to the banjo fraternity, however, we have been so lucky for so long and we’ll be forever grateful. Alan, the banjo meadow is far sweeter now than it has ever been due to the beautiful music you have blessed us with. Rest in peace.