In memory of John Duarte (1919 – 2004)

Written by Simon Cheong

Wednesday, 26 January 2005 23:51

This article written by me was published in the Classical Guitar Society Malaysia‘s website and is reproduced here.



It is with great sadness that I learned of Jack’s passing when I received an e-mail from one of my students.

John Duarte, a great person whom I had the honour to have studied with, showed me the ropes when I was in London in 1983. I chose to have classes privately with Jack when I received a British Council grant because I felt that he was a person who was willing to help despite his busy schedule, besides being a humble renowned composer, teacher and critic.

A year or two before my trip to London, I had made an arrangement of El Noi de La Mare for ensemble and had my friends complaining. I was unhappy, being young and with no guidance especially in Malaysia at a time when music experts were few and difficult to find. (More so when one is not well off!) I made 5 copies and sent them out to the few people I knew – who were famous and whom I respected – for their comments. ONLY John Duarte replied and gave me a free lesson over the post! This respect led on to my studies with him and later to my bringing him to Malaysia to give masterclasses (sometime in 1985).

John Duarte’s contribution to Malaysia comes in the form of two Themes and Variations – Variations on a Malaysian Song op. 125 (Getaran Jiwa) by P. Ramlee and Variations on an Indonesian Song op. 124 (Gubahanku) which I had commissioned for the Society in 1996. The first piece chosen was Gubahanku but was later discovered to be a song written by an Indonesian but had, at a time, been very popular in Malaysia. Therefore it had to be put aside as we wanted to premiere a Malaysian piece. I quickly sent him Getaran Jiwa , and as was Jack’s generosity, he told me he would work on both – BUT for the price of one!

Before he left Malaysia, I asked him for publishing rights and since these pieces did not have commercial value, Jack told me that I could just publish it and not bother about royalty! Unfortunately, these pieces have yet to be published.

In 1996, John Duarte was our artiste-in-residence at our Guitar Camp at Fraser’s Hill. With his presence, the Society’s camp became a runaway success with over a hundred participants. He shared his knowledge and experience with the campers, and for everyone present at that time, he was a living legend!

And for John Duarte, I will miss you dearly.

With condolences to the Duarte Family,

Simon Cheong


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