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Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 17:09 UK
Jonathan Dove - world premiere
Lyn McKinney
By Lyn McKinney
BBC Norfolk

The world premiere of 'There Was a Child', composed by Jonathan Dove, was performed in St Andrews Hall, Norwich, on Saturday, 2 May, 2009,

The performance, by the Hewett School Choir, took place as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2009.

"I think it's a fantastic piece. It's very communicative, full of variety and delight, but still has a great deal of depth," said conductor David Parry.

"I don't often like classical music but this is good," said one of the choir.

Jonathan Dove
Jonathan Dove composed 'There was a child' especially for the N & N Festival

Jonathan Dove got me into opera.

Glyndebourne Touring Opera brought a modern piece to Norwich a few years ago called Flight - it was set in an airport, it was modern and it was funny.

I liked it so much I sent a copy of the CD to my friend who sings opera on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

He's written over a dozen operas and in 2009, Jonathan was commissioned, jointly by the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, to write a large-scale piece of communal music.

He came up with 'There Was a Child', which was sung by the Festival Chorus and children from the Hewett School Choir.

"Ten-years-ago a 19-year-old boy drowned whilst on holiday in Thailand. His mother, a friend of mine, 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," said Jonathan.

Jonathan particularly wanted children's voices singing about childhood adventures and he found a poem by Keats which he thought would be fun to sing.


He's collected a wide range of poetry for the piece, including work by Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson and Shakespeare.

"For me, just imagining a group of performers makes me want to write music," said Jonathan.

"Just seeing two soloists standing in-front of an orchestra with a huge chorus around them, I'm hearing music and of course as soon as I've found the right words, it's the beginning of composing.

"When you've found the right words, you really have a very good idea of what the music's going to be like," he added.

The children who took part in the world premiere at St Andrews Hall were all in their early teens and sing in the Hewett School Choir.

During a break in rehearsals, I asked them why they'd come.

"I enjoy singing and meeting people. I play guitar and I've done choirs before and thought I'd come along to this one," said on of the choir.

I asked what about Jonathan's piece?

"The thing about new work is that you have to learn it and you get bits wrong! It's going to be awesome," said another.

Jonathan Dove has used a poem by Walt Whitman called "There was a child went forth" for the ending.

It's a vision of a child going out into the world and everything he sees becomes part of him - Jonathan makes no apologies for using it.

"I thought that was incredibly comforting and uplifting, because it made you feel that it doesn't matter how long a life is, the thing is that you live it beautifully and it's full," he said.

'There was a child' world premiere, by Jonathan Dove, was performed at St Andrews Hall in Norwich on Saturday, 2 May, 2009, at 7.30 pm.

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