Friday, March 29, 2013

Christopher Norton writes 5 Micro Musicals!

Christopher Norton writes 5 Micro Musicals – February 12th &13th, March 20th-22nd, March 25th & 26th 2013, Davies Lane Primary School, Leytonstone, east London and Selwyn School, Highams Park, east London

I’ve worked for many years with an excellent cellist, Robin Thompson-Clarke.

In his own words:

I first met Chris while working as a professional cellist. I was asked to play on John Pantry's album "Simple Sailing for Beginners' (CN: available for download at As luck would have it, there were a couple of solo cello parts and Chris was very complimentary about my playing. He offered me the opportunity to work with him over the following years and I played cello on at least 40 albums, including 4 solo albums. During this time I “fixed” musicians for Chris for many albums and as well as working with Chris, I have also acted (and continue to act) as his agent from time to time.
While working together we became friends and have remained so ever since. I gave the first UK performance of his Sonatina for cello and piano and we are due to record it in the near future. As well as continuing to work as a professional cellist, including teaching at the Royal College of Music, I am now also a fully qualified primary school teacher, working in an East London school as part of the senior leadership team and as their Advanced Skills Teacher for Music.

Robin asked me to come to the school he teaches at, Davies Lane Primary School in Leytonstone, and both create and teach 3 musicals effectively “from scratch”. I was given the themes, but was otherwise free to do what I liked, as long as 8 songs could be taught in a day to around 60 children from one year group!

Davies Lane school is a very tall building, a Victorian monolith at the end of a suburban street:

The first musical was based on A Christmas carol and naturally had songs for Scrooge, the three ghosts and Bob Cratchit. I wrote the words as well as the music and was quite amused at the relish with which the students spoke the lines of the first song, I hate Christmas!

To quote Robin again:

The 'Musical from Scratch' workshop with Chris was a fantastic success. He worked alongside the teachers from a whole year group of 65 children, to create a musical based on Charles Dickens's ' A Christmas Carol', which they had been studying. From the very start all the children were engaged, eager to contribute to the lyrics of each song. Children who were normally reticent about singing were completely involved. As the day progressed, Chris developed the ideas, adding instruments, body percussion and even 'whiteboards' to accompany the songs. Solo singing and small groups were also added. Chris's music, original and contemporary, brought a sense of the 'West End' to this East London school; an experience few had or would ever participate in. Would I recommend you invite Chris to your school-a wholehearted YES!

The second musical was based on the legend of Beowulf and was suitably blood-thirsty and dramatic. The students relished the mixture of symphonic rock and heart-felt ballads, as well as the chance to do dramatic speaking over music.

A few weeks later I went back to Davies Lane Primary School and Robin and I worked on the music, adding vocal harmonies and some canonic ideas as well as working with drummers, guitarists and tuned percussion. Meanwhile other teachers had worked on a script which would help tell the story in dramatic form, as well as costumes and set design. At the end of the second day’s work on each musical, we performed 4 songs, with additional dialogue and staging, for an enthusiastic audience of parents, other year groups and teachers.

A third musical, based on the Vikings, was also devised, this time for year 3 students and its subsequent staging will happen as well.

I also went to another school, Selwyn Primary School in Highams Park (also in east London) and wrote and taught musicals based on Queen Nut – an Egyptian theme – and Theseus and the Minotaur. Return visits will also see these worked on further and presented as staged concert performances.

Visits of a similar nature to other schools are already planned in May and June.

If the idea of Christopher Norton coming to your school to either teach or write a Micro Musical is of interest to you, in the UK, get in touch with Robin Thompson-Clarke at For North America, contacty Olive Yau at

Musicals written so far:

A Christmas Carol
The Vikings
Queen Nut
Theseus and the Minotaur

Christopher Norton
London, UK 29th March 2013

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