Thursday, October 11, 2012

Christopher Norton in Christchurch, New Zealand 10th October 2012

Christopher Norton workshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, 10th October 2012

I was pleased, right at the very end of my Australasian sojourn, to give a presentation to the Christchurch branch of the Registered Music Teachers Association (
My presentation was organised by my first composition teacher, superb piano teacher and life-long friend Rosemary Miller Stott (

My brief was broad – to talk about ensemble music and improvisation and to conduct a masterclass on 2 Rock Preludes that have recently been listed by the ABRSM (Sierra and Sturdy Build)

The ensemble section of the talk featured the Two At A Time series, published by, American Popular Piano and Microjazz. I was helped by various members of the audience, all gamely sight-reading in public. Here are some of them hard at work:

I pointed out the virtues of playing duets (especially how it cultivates the notion of listening to another part as well as your own) and of starting with very easy 5-finger student parts allied to musically interesting teacher parts. People enjoyed the on-the-spot music-making and could see lots of potential for teaching and for student concerts.

I also talked about adding backing tracks to the equation, using tracks from the APP series as well as the relatively new tracks from the Microjazz Collections.
With video clips from all over the world as well as our in-house renditions, this was a very enjoyable session. I finished with a reference to Microjazz Trios, finishing with the by now infamous Canadian and Italian versions of Free’n’easy from YouTube.

The improvisation session was using APP Repertoire and Etudes – I gave a quick overview of how the teaching of improv works at the early Levels. The audience were very interested in this and many will go away and explore the material with a view to using it themselves.

Near the end I did a masterclass with 2 teenage boys – both had started learning Rock Preludes quite recently but they certainly had the notes and overall style well in hand. I was able to concentrate on technical matters – fast staccato octaves, ff chords in both hands, genuine legato etc. The audience could hear what a different sound could be produced by analyzing some of the mechanics involved. Here is one my two students at the piano:

The audience included people I have met on other occasions, including my other favourite Christchurch couple – Colin McLachlan and Christina Sell McLachlan.

And one family who came included a non-piano playing mother who enjoyed being asked to play the piano in public for the first time:

This was a very happy occasion – just the right mix of people came: teachers, students, general music fans… and it felt like a genuine exchange of ideas had occurred. I have already had some nice feedback from this session on the Christopher Norton – Composer Facebook page.

Christopher Norton
Christchurch, New Zealand, 11th October 2012

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