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Jonathan Dove

World premiere
'There Was a Child'
2 May 2009
Norfolk & Norwich Festival
2 May 2009, 7.30 pm
at St Andrew's Hall, Norwich

David Parry (conductor); Mary Plazas, (soprano); Toby Spence (tenor)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Festival Chorus and Hewett School Choir

There Was a Child brings together orchestra, soloists and massed choirs in a brand new work written as a 'celebration of life' in memory of the son of a close friend. Commissioned by Norfolk and Norwich Festival and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the première will be conducted by David Parry, Norfolk and Norwich Festival’s artistic associate, with the combined forces of one of the world’s finest orchestras, two exceptional soloists and the Festival Chorus with Hewett School Choir.

Jonathan Dove writes:

Ten years ago, the 19-year-old son of a friend of mine drowned while on holiday abroad. My friend asked me to help her commemorate him by writing a piece of music – not a requiem: because her son brought her so much joy, she felt it should be a joyful piece, a celebration of life that could be shared with lots of people.

The Norfolk and Norwich Festival and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra have joined in this commission to create a large-scale piece of communal music-making.

Singing with other people is one of the most joyful activities I know, so this had to be a choral work. And music celebrating a young life should include the sound of children’s voices. The idea of mother and son suggested two soloists, soprano and tenor. Accompanying these different voices are all the colours of the symphony orchestra.

I started looking for words for all these voices to sing. I found poems by Charles Causley and Langston Hughes describing the wonder of birth; by Wordsworth, Keats, Traherne and Emily Dickinson conjuring up different aspects of childhood – naughtiness, carefree playfulness, youthful adventures. Shakespeare evokes the grief of a mother for her child and Tichborne sings of death coming too soon. Walt Whitman’s poem There was a Child went Forth is a radiant vision of a child absorbing everything around him and connecting with the whole world.

I hope There Was a Child will be fun to sing and uplifting to hear, an affirmation of the wonder of life.

Booking details
2 May 2009, 7.30 pm at St Andrew's Church, Norwich
Tickets available from Norfolk and Norwich Festival website

Further information on Jonathan Dove

T: 020 7553 4033

Press information


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