Saturday, May 1, 2010

Manitoba/Ontario Tour - Sunderland ON

Sunderland, Ontario was the first “return” visit of the tour – during last year’s master class tour, Sunderland was one of the one-day venues (you can see the report on it in the blog archive) but this year Sunderland offered the new format of a two-day event. The local organizer once again was Kim Schneider, who did a great job this year as well. Here is a picture of Kim in her studio, together with her children, Liselotte Jongedijk (one of the tour managers), and me:
We started the two-day event off in a very different way – more than twenty djembe drummers, the R H Cornish Public School “Mini Explosion” Group from Port Perry (in fact the full Grade 4 French Immersion Class with their teacher Suzanne Garriock) were waiting for me and we had a workshop involving all of the drummers. They played for me first, making a great sound and also looking fantastic in their colourful costumes:
The drummers were led by a rock-solid djinn djinn drum player throughout, and after everyone played together, four drummers each provided a rhythm for the others (now split into four groups) to follow. Once I had the procedure clear, I got them to create 4 rhythms to Toledo from American Popular Piano Level 2, one of the pieces being used for improvisation work. At the Gala Concert, Toledo was played as the final piece, with the drummers and the keyboard group all playing together. A great sound! Here is the drumming group on stage, practising for the final concert.
Once again, some good work had gone in on solo pieces for the master classes and we had some assured, accurate and expressive performances at the Gala Concert. Sunderland was the first full two-day event, so there was a fully rounded experience for the young performers, thinking hard about piano playing and piano technique one day, starting to improvise the next. I felt the combination of activities was very good for musicianship – students were starting to think about the sounds they were making, but were also more aware of playing with other people and with having an aural image of what they were about to play. The effect on students’ enthusiasm for music and confidence as performers was sometimes quite dramatic.

Here is a picture of some of the students improvising during the Breakfast Time improv group in Sunderland:
Kim Schneider’s son Dillon received a private piano lesson with me as a 10th birthday present – which he seemed to enjoy very much!

I was also pleased to see quite a few teenage boys performing, often very well. Look at the concentration on this student’s face during one of the master classes:
Congratulations to the many students who took part in this event, and to Kim Schneider for mounting such an extravaganza and for giving us the opportunity to stay in a delightful early nineteenth century log cabin B&B.

Comments from Sunderland:
From Wells (14-yr old student): “When I got to the Town Hall my sister's class was pounding away on the keys and I was amazed at what I was hearing and seeing from about eight spectacular young musicians. The minute I saw what Chris was doing I knew I had made the right decision. Chris is not only an amazing composer but also one of the coolest guys I have ever met. Chris gave me a new insight on piano. He showed me new techniques and some great improvisation tricks. The Chris Norton workshop was an absolutely amazing experience and I will definitely do it again.”

From Gareth (student): “This spring, at my piano lesson on a Tuesday morning, I learned that I was going to attend an improv class and a master class with none other than Mr. Norton. I was very excited.
For the master class, I spent a few weeks preparing one of Mr. Norton's
songs. Several weeks later, I travelled to Sunderland to attend the class. When my name was called, I went up onto the stage with Mr. Norton. I played my song for him, he gave me some really useful tips, and then he asked me to play it again. The second time round, Mr. Norton played with me - it was great.
I was then asked to perform at the 'gala' concert that night, which really
put the icing on the cake on an amazing day. Mr. Norton accompanied
everybody, and it was so interesting to see how the partnership and
support he gave made people's playing come to life even more. Thank you, Mr. Norton, for making it all so much fun and so worthwhile.”

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