Norwich School


My characteristically wonky shot of the outlook from Norwich School features its original raison-d’etre (for possibly a whole millennium it’s been where Norwich Cathedral choirboys go to school) and its most famous former pupil Lord Nelson, with telescope and handy mini-cannon at the ready. Nowadays this is a large co-ed independent day school, surely gaining something special from its beautiful surroundings in a central civic location.

I visited an unusual collaboration between the school’s music students and members of Norfolk Composers’ Group, spearheaded by Norfolk resident Michael Finnissy, who had been instrumental in bringing these two sets of people together. A public discussion was followed by a concert which struck me as most unusual in its meeting between younger (Norwich School pupils) and older (I hope my friends from NCG will forgive me for putting them here in this bracket) composers. Nowadays the vast number of new music events that I see advertised, in London at least, feature the work of a generation in their 20s-getting-on-30s, so many of them recent composition graduates of the brilliant teaching programmes at the London colleges. It's a very advanced, technically assured mass of composers. But during this carefully crafted event in Norwich School's Blake Studio, music from further ends of the age spectrum seemed to endow unexpected stylistic freedom and unpredictability to a concert performed by Ixion and several other talented local performers.

For me there were a couple of standout works, the first inevitably by Finnissy himself. Easy Things to Do is a recent piece for community choir and piano 4-hands (we heard a version for just hands.) Even writing simply enough for non-reading beginner singers, Michael’s music still sounded just like him; which should be an aim for all composers, however super-educated they might be. Standing out too (make that ‘leaping out’) was a piano solo by Norwich School student Adam Possener, energetically performed by him; a twisting mid-keyboard ostinato with everything including the kitchen sink being thrown during its careening progress. The title I think was ‘At the end of the world, turn left’ ( in the post-concert excitement of Norwich on a Thursday night, my copy of the programme became mislaid). A good-sized audience, including quite a few school students, listened with admirable concentration.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer

© Judith Weir, 2020