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News of current projects, projects to come and maybe a little bit about past projects ...

21st September 2010

A HAPPY NEW YEAR (academic, that is) to you all and especially to friends and supporters of DeeP Music. To whom it may concern - thank you for the work!! The News of the Victory was busy at the beginning of the month with private bookings for some "special" birthdays in West Norfolk and in Yarmouth and on both occasions the band acquitted themselves in the usual style. That in itself was an amazing achievement since two days before the first of these September bookings Ivan was attacked by a swarm of angry wasps who helped him fracture his arm at the elbow. Such is Ivan's musicianship that only those who spend an unhealthy amount of time studying our live performances would have noticed any difference. What a trooper.

I was invited to call for Peach Fruit at a ceilidh for a corporate function at the beautiful Eynsham Hall near Witney in Oxfordshire last weekend. Not only did we get to play for people from all over Western Europe, but the host organisation arranged the evening meal, accommodation and breakfast in the Grade II listed manor house set in three thousand acres. I could get used to this. It certainly beat driving home at three am.

Work this term starts off with sessions at Walpole Cross Keys School where the staff has a new head teacher, Stuart Graver. Best wishes to Stuart in his new school in the wild west of Norfolk. We've begun work on new composing projects and even the new reception children are getting into the groove.

The Tour of Britain cyclists came through Hunstanton on the 16th September. A couple of days before that Steve Bingham and I were invited into Redgate Junior School in Hunstanton to begin to put together a new composition with the aid of the year five pupils played primarily on bits of bicycles. The performance took place on the Thursday morning that the tour passed through the town. Normally I would say that Hunstanton is not really the kind of place that one happens to be just passing through. Surely most people arrive there through intention.

The King's Lynn Community Samba Band had its first rehearsal of the year on Thursday,16th. Much as I love playing the usual repertoire it really is time we started something new. Over the summer I put together a new rhythm based on the West African gong line employed by Steve Reich in his Clapping Music for Two Performers. The first rehearsal went better than I hoped, although I'm not sure what they dancers will make of it when they hear it!

I was recently invited back to Leverington Primary School near Wisbech to teach four steel pan workshops with the new year five class. Sadly, their regular teacher is unavailable, but in the meantime it has been fun playing pan again. I am very much looking forward to my second visit there later this week.

Also later this week I am looking forward to a return visit to Swaffham Infant School, where we'll enjoy a morning of singing and composing new music on a theme of "Birds" for their class topic.

Look out for information about DeeP Music workshops shortly to be included in the new School-Select directory due to be published for several counties in the east, the south-east and the south over the next few months.

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2nd August 2010

Drawing to the end of a fantastically busy couple of months with school and community music projects, The News of the Victory, Hoofbeat, The King's Lynn Community Samba Band, Beatroot and other events too, including a filming project, Common Ground, a community film project with the Field Theatre Group in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. The project took three years in the planning and features a cast of more than 50 people, many of whom had never acted before. The film, which is directed, filmed and produced by Deborah Curtis, Jennifer Stevens and Peter Harmer, focuses on Fenland life at the turn of the last century and is the result of painstaking research and local story gathering. Common Ground was filmed over eight months in various locations in Littleport and Wicken Fen.My part in the process was initially to teach members of the cast a Fenland-type brush/broom dance, but somehow I found myself in the film too. What a fascinating process!

The summer saw the usual run of Children's Our World Festivals organised by the indefatigable Gordon Phillips. I ran back-to-back instant samba sessions outdoors in for maybe five thousand people at Marham, Taverham and Sutton Bridge (the festival's first landing in Lincolnshire). The Marham/Swaffham area also requested some singing, so I proposed helping the children compose a new song. Year 6 pupils at Marham Junior School came up with some great ideas which we put together as music and lyrics and I sang the song with some eight hundred people at the festival. With its strong humanitarian and environmental message it was a moving experience. In addition to the usual Our World Festivals we also had an Our World Festival based on British traditions at Ashbeach School, Ramsay St Mary, near Huntingdon. It made a great change to spend the day singing the traditional songs of England that I learned from my mother and when I was at school. I've always wanted to sing The Tailor and the Mouse in Ramsay (what ambitions I have!). This is as close as I may get for a while. Quite unexpectedly I found myself back in Ashbeach School a few weeks later as a stand-in caller for George Stevenson (get well soon, George) at a retirement party for the head and deputy with what I think may have been a version of The Dennis Cuddles Starlight Band ...

In addition to the usual blocks of work at Walpole Cross Keys and Yaxham (thanks again for the work, my friends) and in addition to those already mentioned I've enjoyed visits to schools in Ingoldisthorpe, Castle Acre, Necton, Narborough, Swaffham, Saham Toney, Downham Market and Mundesley. The pupils of Year 6 and an after-school group of pupils along with older and younger family members connected with Mundesley Junior School, along with musicians Melanie and Ruth from the City of London Sinfonia came together to perform their devised pieces under the title of Chatter! Chatter! Chatter! I worked with the two groups from the school's community for several weeks over two or three months to devise the two pieces we performed at a very fine concert in Knapton Church in June. Alongside the instrumental work I was composing with the groups, Jane Wells was working with Year 3 pupils from the First School to devise new vocal sections which we incorporated into the piece by the after-school group. Year 6 pupils played a separate piece that had it's origins in our discussions about "Who LIves Here?" Melanie and Ruth joined us just before the concert to add some wind and brass colours to the pieces. The results were very satisfying. It was good to see the pupils make so much progress and become such confident performers. Thanks to Norfolk Music Works passing this interesting work on this project my way

About 250 key stage one pupils in the Downham Market area gathered together for their annual Infant Music Workshop over two mornings in June. Unusally for this event the weather was fine. Unfortunately, owing to extensive building works at Clackclose Primary School, we couldn't go out to enjoy it! I've been leading these gatherings annually since 1987 and it is still just as much fun as it ever was. I like a challenge and, this year, the teachers decided that I had to find two mornings worth of songs to fit the theme "Time". Thank you, teachers. A special thank you to Tina Neale for organising the event so smoothly that all I had to do was to answer e-mails, prepare the songs and turn up to lead the mornings! Great fun!!

Tomorrow I am looking forward to working for the first time with students at the Noise and Chance School of Dance in King's Lynn to compose and record new music for a new dance piece.

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10th May 2010

Another embarrassing pause while I remember to let you all know what's been happening. Many apologies!

In short, the year has been a round of school and community music workshops, ceilidhs with The News of the Victory, Beatroot, Hodmedod and an almost Hodmedod line-up for an apprentice clergypersons gig last Saturday while Hoofbeat has been gearing up for a short rural tour which kicks off this week. The Hoofbeat tour will see us playing village halls in
Hindolveston, Norfolk - 13th May at 8pm
Coddenham, Suffolk - 14th May at 7.30pm and
Welborne, Norfolk - 15th May at 7.30pm.
The shows will feature our mix of new and old, far and near music. We'll be including some of my compositions ("Junkanalia", "Was It Ever Like This", "Ray's First Day" and "The Culinary Terrorist") and some of Jane Wells' compositions and arrangements ("On the Hoof", "Too Way Too", Kurt Weill's Mac The Knife and Tango; medieval composer Machaut's "De Petit Po" and "Dame, De Qui Toute Ma Joie") as well as popjazzical music by other local composers and music from the Caribbean, South Africa, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Venezuela and India.

One of this year's projects, Rural Rhythms, has been devised in conjunction with Norfolk Music Works and The City of London Sinfonia. I've been working in Mundesley Junior School and we are busy preparing a piece that we'll showcase in the area's Griffon Festival at Knapton in Norfolk in June. As well as working with pupils in school time there after school group also includes families and children from the first school next door.

Since the beginning of the year I have also been working at Woodlands Primary School in Bradwell, near Great Yarmouth on a project sponsored and supported by Creative Partnerships. Apart from the developing music side of this project I have had the chance to work with artist, film-maker and animator, Matthew Harrison and Dr Ken Farquhar who is a science/maths/performance practitioner. If you aren't sure what one of those is, think street theatre with guerilla science. It is always great fun working with others and I look forward forward to working with both Matthew and Dr Ken at some point in the not-too-distant future. The pupils and teachers at Woodlands have been fortunate to enjoy some amazing activities, including dinosaur hunts, building a huge pyramid and creating animated stories with musical soundtracks.

Not related to music, but I have just returned from a trip to New York with twenty-three school students from Haute-Savoie, in France. We stayed at the International Youth Hostel in NYC and experienced the delights of free music performances in Central Park, Washington Square and Battery Park, saw the streets and venues made legendary in folk, jazz and popular music and paid a visit to the amazing Museum of Modern Art. The trip was unexpectedly extended through the activity of Eyjafjallajökull, but we were only five days late returning our young charges to their grateful families. If ever you find yourself in New York I have to recommend breakfast at the Moonrock Café!

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