Thursday, December 11, 2008

Recording this week

I'm in the studio this week recording with UK-based gospel singer John Pantry, who is not just an excellent songwriter, but also a popular presenter of the morning programme for London's Premier Radio (
John came to me with a demo of the songs - I transcribed them all - this included getting John to play his piano parts into a music sequencing programme. I then exported those parts into Sibelius and edited them so that we ended up with parts playable by the average player. Once I had this edited piano score, I arranged the pieces for 4-part choir and sent them to an excellent local choir, Adoramus ( and they began rehearsing. At the same time, my team began to create tracks based on the piano scores and the choir were sent these as well.
We recorded the choir a few weeks ago, using 53 sets of headphones! It was a lot of fun and the choir loved the songs. The songs are largely based on the Anglican service and are destined both for choir use and for congregational use as well. 
Now that we're in the studio, we have added guitar parts, done remotely by an excellent session guitarist and sent to us on DVD. We have also had backing vocals done by a great singer in Seattle - Ingrid DuMosch - and saxes and flutes, again recorded remotely, done by a player in London. The end result is rich and full and we hope radio-friendly!
I own publishing rights in this project, as well as the recording. It has always been a significant part of my work to be involved on all these levels - transcription, arrangement, recording, publishing and licensing - and I have also found distributors for both the audio and sheet music.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Kaiserslautern, Germany 12th November 2008

Last week I did a workshop in Kaiserslautern, which is in the Rhineland in central Germany. It proved quite an adventure - an early flight from London City Airport to Frankfurt was great but all passengers who had luggage in the hold found that it was all lost on arrival! I still haven't got it back - camera, speakers, projector, a complete set of books.
I hired a car at Frankfurt and drove to Kaiserslautern, a charming city which has a large Nato military presence, a well-known university  and a number of international research institutes. Fortunately I had my laptop with me, so we managed to find equipment that did the job, including a projector and screen and a little speaker for backing tracks. Phew!
The shop had done a good job of publicising the event, which was actually in the shop ( and we had quite a good crowd. One of the people there was English but had lived in Kaiserslautern for over 40 years, so I had an excellent translator! It was an introduction to Microjazz (and Microstyles, The Easiest Way to Improvise, the Concert Collections and Preludes) and of course I found quite a few people who had never heard of me or my compositions! I quite like the feeling of having to start the process of creating market awareness which began 25 years ago and which never really ends. I got the audience to clap and even to sing - we will post some video footage of this soon!
The second part was about the Latin elements in Microjazz, although I also made quite a feature of MicroLatin, which is so new I haven't really ever publicised it. Again, there were lots of things to do for the audience, including some of the clapping exercises found in the forthcoming Guide to Microjazz, written in conjunction with Scott McBride Smith (
I had hired a car and one of the many things lost in my luggage was my own GPS unit - the one supplied in the hire car simply would not find Frankfurt airport, so I had to drive right into Frankfurt and hope I found airport signs! Fortunately I did and got a flight back to the UK late that evening.
The shop in Kaiserslautern have written a report (in German) on the workshop which will be posted on the my Boosey & Hawkes website ( They hope to have an American Popular Piano workshop next year.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Workshop in San Mateo, CA

The MTNA teacher group in San Mateo gave me the opportunity to present a workshop on American Popular Piano in the very attractive Oak Room in the new San Mateo library building. There was a very good turnout for this and Janice Sheng is to be congratulated for hosting an extremely well-organised event. Some teachers were aware of the new series – at least one teacher had bought it over a year ago and was not sure how to use it, so she had come to find out! So my session very much emphasized how to use American Popular Piano – the teacher in question was my “student” when I went through some of the ear-training and sight-reading components in the Skills books. Other teachers were delighted to try improvising for the first time.Everyone went away feeling comfortable with how to use the series – they like the material but needed a chance to see how this new concept worked. We will continue to do what we can on the website to communicate the “how to” aspect as clearly as possible.

A final quote from Janice Sheng:
"Christopher Norton's presentation on the APP Series was not only informative but also exciting and inspiring.  The teachers of MTAC San Mateo branch had a great time.  We learnt new concepts and tricks, and we cannot wait to get our hands on the innovative APP materials!"

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sherman Clay, Roseville, CA

Placer and Sierra MTAC branches were pleased to have Christopher Norton present his new American Popular Piano Series at the brand new Sherman Clay store in Roseville, Ca. About 25 teachers attended this event and found Christopher Norton to be charming, entertaining and informative. 

APP is an exciting new concept in teaching piano. The course offers music in the styles that students listen to everyday. The modular format creates a new and exciting way to teach musical concepts and improvisation. The material was well received and the workshop was highly interactive. Many teachers were heard to say that they were going to try APP. Even teachers that already were using APP learned something new from attending the workshop. We are looking forward to the Christmas materials and levels 6-8.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Zealand - Home of My Youth

I was invited to New Zealand to take part in a first performance of the Octagon Overture, a new orchestral piece written for the 40th anniversary of the Dunedin Saturday morning orchestral scheme. I played in the scheme right at the beginning, so it was wonderful to see how much it has contributed to the musical life of Dunedin and also to meet up with people I’d not seen for decades! 

When I first arrived in New Zealand, I gave a talk about my life as a composer to students on the composition course at Canterbury University in Christchurch. It was challenging for them to hear someone talk who really has made a living from being a composer (admittedly for the educational market!) Universities are naturally trying to encourage students to write experimental music, certainly pieces longer and mo
re complex than Microjazz or American Popular Piano pieces! The perceived wisdom is that making a living from writing is secondary to trying to find your own voice through a mixture of experimentation and analysis of contemporary pieces. My breezily coming in and saying that having real enthusiasms for certain composers or styles could be a good starting point for one’s own writing met with a certain bafflement. But there was good dialogue with the audience and students came up and played with me, so some positive connections were made with these musicians of the future. Thanks to Roger Buckton for arranging this event.

On to Dunedin, the city where I went to school and where I also went to university. I was delighted to give a similar talk at the music department at Otago University, to a mixture of students and lecturers, in the very same hall (Marama Hall) where I attended lectures from 1970. This was a very different audience – there is a rock music course on offer and Otago University’s music department has paid more than lip-service to the legitimacy of popular music, especially since John Drummond became professor. Dunedin has had a thriving pop music scene since the 80s and there are very successful composers for film living in the city. So my presentation was of great interest and I had lots of questions and comments from the audience during it. A student composer, Jaroslav Novak, came up and played a very effective Toccatina he had written as a 16-year old and the fact that it was an unashamedly tonal and accessible piece was regarded by the audience as a plus rather than a source of embarrasment or worry. The composer’s delight in feeling he had started from where he felt comfortable stylistically was palpable. I talked about the different strands of my writing from the Trio (see Youtube) and Four Three to Microjazz and Connections, including arranging work, recordings and ringtones and was also able to present American Popular Piano as a perfectly valid coming together of all the strands of the last 30 years. My thanks to Peter Adams for organising this event.

The same day I did a presentation to 150+ students from Dunedin schools – this involved a lot more audience participation, with willing victims coming to the stage to help me illustrate various points. My performances of various pieces (particularly Preludes and pieces from The Concert Collections) were alternated with student performances of pieces for various instruments with piano. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the whole event and were pleased to give vocal support to both the students and my efforts to entertain and on occasion amuse. This event was at Otago Boys’ High School (my old school) and was written up in the Otago Daily Times and the newsletter of the school:

The weekend of the 20th and 21st August was largely taken up with preparations for the 40th anniversary concert, along with awards and speeches. The founder of the scheme, Roger Buckton, was an engaging and genial presence and the conductor of my new piece was Aart Brusse, one of Roger’s protégés from 1968. During the celebrations, 2 Microjazz pieces were played expertly by a young clarinettist with piano and an even younger piano player. The Octagon Overture was rehearsed and seemed to go down very well with the players. On the Sunday afternoon there was a grand Town Hall concert, with items from massed instruments, choirs, recorder groups, swing band etc. The Overture was the climax of proceedings and its bright and tuneful demeanour seemed to hit the spot with the audience crowding out the Dunedin Town Hall. Again the whole event was covered extensively by the local newspaper.

Before I left Dunedin, I gave a talk using Microjazz and Microstyles pieces to an entire local primary school, who sang for me and took part in rhythm and singing games with great gusto.

Back to Christchurch, where I gave a presentation to the local music teachers association, this time on APP. This was a large group and was a wonderful event, at least for me! The audience was attentive and also reacted in a lively fashion to everything that they saw and heard. Many performers came and played and I felt the whole message of the series – that even average students can progress well and learn to both play and improvise from the start – came across very clearly. There was a lot of interest in staging a Christopher Norton Piano festival next year. Watch this space! Thanks to Margaret Maw for organising this event.

I also did a presentation for View Hill Primary School near Oxford, out in the country north of Christchurch and once again was amazed at how young children react with great enthusiasm to music they can relate to and take part in.

A very eventful and rewarding 2 weeks!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Workshop at Ackerman Music, Chichester

Ackerman Music has 3 stores, one in Hove, one in Crawley and a store in Chichester that organized this American Popular Piano workshop (thanks Lynne!) Formerly known as Bern’s Music, the store was established 22 years ago and sells an impressively extensive range of music. There was a good-sized group of teachers (and some students) at this evening presentation.

Pretty much all of the people at the Ackerman Music workshop were familiar with Microjazz and indeed some of the teachers had copies bought over two decades ago (with the “early” photo of me on the back – ulp!) They had obviously found the series useful over the years and so were very open-minded about a new series from the same writer. What they didn’t expect was the course of study aspect combined with an emphasis on improvisation from the very beginning – this proved to be a real plus. Quite a few teachers came up to play and everyone found the presentation informative and entertaining.

Excellent food and drink was on offer at the end and people stayed to chat (and look at the books) – always a good sign!

Thanks again to Lynne and Ackerman Music for their enthusiasm and to all of the teachers for coming out to an evening workshop.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Schmitt Music Expo

Schmitt Music Company is one of America’s leading music retailers. It operates 10 stores in Minnesota and 6 stores in six other states, including Kansas and Colorado. Each year Schmitt Music Company run a Music Expo and clinicians participate on an invitation-only basis. I was lucky enough to be chosen this year, the only UK-based presenter, to speak on American Popular Piano. 

It was a large and very enthusiastic crowd and there was considerable interest in this innovative new series. A number of teachers were familiar with Microjazz , but what made the occasion of particular interest to them was the enthusiastic presence of one of the “early adopters” of American Popular Piano, Minneapolis-based piano teacher Jon Michael Iverson, who has recorded all of the pieces for his own web-site ( and has also supplied the video footage of students performing that I use in my presentations. His endorsement was ringing, to say the least!

This was a great opportunity and my thanks to Schmitt Music Company for this wonderful opportunity to present to such a switched-on crowd.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Conservatory Canada Workshop

  Conservatory Canada, based in London, Ontario, is a music examination board that was created in 1997 through the merger of the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music and the Western Board of Music (itself established in 1934 in Alberta to serve all of western Canada) Conservatory Canada now works with teachers and students throughout Canada and also in Kingston, Jamaica!
  Conservatory Canada had already used some Microjazz pieces in its piano syllabus, with considerable success. When American Popular Piano came out, it seemed ideal for the new Contemporary Idioms syllabus, which contains an improvisation element. This tour gave me an opportunity to present the American Popular Piano repertoire but also to demonstrate how the Improvisation Etudes, Skills and Technic components of the course can be used to build confidence in terms of improvisation, ear-training and piano technique.
  I toured with the Executive Director of Conservatory Canada, Victoria Warwick, who was demonstrating the other publications connected with the Contemporary Idioms syllabus – Hal Leonard books of popular songs, a new handbook for teachers and contemporary Canadian repertoire.
    The presentations were lively and entertaining, with plenty of audience participation. Many of the teachers and students who came were interested in converting to the new syllabus. One comment from a participating dealer:

Dear Victoria,
Thank you again for coming to Ottawa to give the workshop, I think it was a great success and everyone really enjoyed it - and are now hooked - as are we!

The places visited were:
London, Ontario
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Edmonton, Alberta
Vancouver, British Columbia
Toronto, Ontario
Regina, Saskatchewan
Ottawa, Ontario

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

JW Pepper Workshop

JW Pepper is the world’s largest retailer of sheet music. Pepper provides music direct to US customers year-round, with an extensive catalogue, ,a vast web site and online music clubs. They also have a number of retail outlets, including one in Chicago. The workshop was held in a hotel across the road from a Pepper retail store. Once again, one teacher was present who had already used American Popular Piano very successfully, so my presentation wasn’t the only vehicle for glowing remarks about how well the course works! Bill, the organizer, was very pleased with the reactions of the teachers and liked the series enough to recommend it widely. It was a small gathering, so pretty much everyone got a chance to play.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

JG Windows Workshop

Newcastle, England

This workshop, held at the very impressive Centre for Life in the refurbished Newcastle city centre, was the first one that J G Windows had ever put on, so they were interested to see how it went! A group of around 20 teachers came and once again it was a presentation on American Popular Piano, with lots of participation from an ever more willing audience! The readability, instant appeal and ease of use at the early stages of this course of study was commented on and the unique way of teaching improvisation was also of great interest. 

Teachers find it hard to imagine moving to a new core series, so the components had to be explained clearly – learning to play the piano really well, lots of sight-reading and ear-training, repertoire that children will like and that they can choose…All of these elements began to convince some of the audience that this might be one of the few really new ideas to come on the market in some time.

Microjazz and Preludes were also showcased and it became clear that the existing materials and the new materials can work very happily together.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Sizzle!

Palmerston, Ontario, Canada

Entering its 9th year, Summer Sizzle is a growing piano pedagogy symposium for teachers and students. It takes place in Palmerston, Ontario, a peaceful country setting. Summer Sizzle helps bring music and culture to rural educators and musicians while offering urban professionals a chance to further learning in a relaxed environment. Over 200 participants attend this annual event, which offers several specialized workshops led by international experts, launches new Canadian pieces with composers in attendance, hosts public concerts showcasing visiting composers, guest experts, teachers and students and boasts a full music trade show.
Summer Sizzle was expanded in 2007 to include a complete three-day Keyboard Kamp for students aged 11 to 21 as well as a half-day Children’s Program for students aged 5 to 10. Keyboard Kamp offers students master classes taught by experts ranging in subject matter from composition to overcoming stage fright. The  Children’s Program offers younger students (and their parents) a chance to engage with visiting composers in composition, rhythm, dance and music development programs.
In 2008, Novus Via Music was pleased to take part and were able to offer the services of Christopher Norton and Scott McBride Smith, the authors of American Popular Piano. Christopher, having just arrived from the UK, went straight into a full day of masterclasses, with students as young as 7 through to late teenagers. Each student had a mini-lesson, with an audience of teachers, other students and parents, on a Christopher Norton piece, from Microjazz, Connections and American Popular Piano. The students who Christopher particularly liked the playing of were chosen to take part in a gala concert the same night, which was very enthusiastically received by the capacity audience. Children and teenagers bounded onto the stage with real joy as they prepared to play pieces that they felt real affinity with. It was a moving and uplifting occasion for all concerned.
 The following day, Christopher and Scott did a joint presentation called “And it’s good for them!” which used American Popular Piano to illustrate how the basics of really good piano playing can be taught using music that students really like. Christopher then went on to give a presentation called “The Norton Code” which unlocked some of the secrets of playing popular styles, touching on terms like shuffle, backbeat and bossa nova and getting the audience to try being human drum kits.
Novus Via will be at the 2009 Summer Sizzle – we hope to see some of you there!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Foulds Music Workshop

Derby, England

The Christopher Norton workshop on the 15th June 2008 was part of a bigger weekend event for music teachers hosted by Foulds Music in Derby. Foulds Music host various events, including workshops, during the course of the year and the end result, along with good customer service, is clearly a warm relationship between a venerable music store (over 100 years old) and its music teacher customers. There were more than 60 teachers at this presentation, a very impressive number in 2008!

This presentation was about American Popular Piano – it’s a course of study that Novus Via Music produced in 2006 and which was officially launched at the MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) conference in Toronto in March 2007. So it’s a new series to English music teachers and they seemed happy to have it explained and to take part in the ensemble pieces and even to try some of the improvisation elements with me! There was obviously a great deal of interest in the idea that I had, along with my US colleague Scott McBride Smith, produced an entire course of study that could become the “core” for a piano teaching programme. Microjazz was well-known and well-liked by all the teachers there, but they seemed happy to hear about something new that was so suitable for players at a beginner stage. 

The presentation was followed by a beautifully presented and extremely tasty selection of food and drink. 

There was talk of a return visit, possibly with master classes featuring students and a public concert. Watch this space!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Norwegian Academy of Music Workshop

Norwegian Academy of Music

The workshop with Christopher Norton was arranged by Norsk Noteservice and the Norwegian Academy of Music, Oslo, Norway. Norsk Noteservice imports Norton’s music to Norway and the Norwegian Academy of Music is the leading music conservatory in Norway.

50 piano teachers from different cultural schools and secondary schools in the area attended this fantastic workshop with an enthusiastic and sparkling Christopher Norton who activated his audience with great competence. The presentation was professional and informative with words, pictures and sound all very well mixed together. Norton’s music is both lyrical and rhythmic and easy to understand in its popular classical style. It is adapted to pupils on all levels in a pedagogically excellent way.

The program was as follows:
10:00-12:00: Introducing American Popular Piano – traditional skills, contemporary styles
12:00-12:30: Lunch
12:30-13:45: Using Microjazz to improve playing, reading and improvisation skills
13:45-14:30: Informal conversation with Christopher Norton

One of the participants describes the workshop in this way: 
“Chris Norton’s music has an exquisite simplicity with a sophisticated touch, presented through humour and a magnificent timing. The seminar in Oslo had moments where the atmosphere in the room was magic, portraying a sense of inner and outer peace, of being connected to something great. What an inspiration!”
- Kjellaug Wik Mikkelsen

Submitted by
Bjørg J. Bjøntegaard
Norwegian Academy of Music/span>