Eileen Norris’ Notebook


Duration: 12 minutes

1) Solo Piano
2) Violin and Piano

1) first performed by Richard Heyes, November 2007, Leighton Buzzard Music Club
2) first performed by Charles Turnham and Richard Heyes, 22 June 2001, Great Hall, Bedford School

Programme Note

The idea for this work arose when sitting in the Bedford School Music Common Room in May 2000, whilst the school sportsday was taking place. One of the piano teachers suggested that I should write a piece called ‘missing sportsday’ since I seemed to be the only person in the school who was not there. Using this as a starting point, I wrote six piano pieces over the course of the summer that might have formed a set of teaching pieces used by Eileen Norris, the piano teacher at the school in the 1940s and 50s, and after whom my composition fellowship from 1999-2002 at Bedford School was named.

The titles of the seven movements refer to fictional scenarios conjured up by various images that stuck in my mind during the course of the summer; ‘Lullaby’ portrays a half-slumbering baby in his cot; ‘Missing Sportsday’ depicts the furtive evasion of a School Sportsday by a group of schoolboys; ‘The Campanologist’s Dilemma’ imagines a troubled bell-ringer mulling things over after sounding the bells; ‘Afternoon by the Thames’ was inspired by the beautiful scene by the River Thames outside New Cottage in Cliveden, where Eileen Norris often used to sit; ‘Melancholy’ portrays a moment of sad reflection in the height of summer; ‘Secret Topiary’ imagines a team of mischievous topiarists, transforming hedges into animal shapes in the dead of night.

The pieces in the cycle vary considerably in standard, from approximately grade 3 to grade 8. While the pieces were originally conceived for students, the technically challenging nature of movements such as ‘Afternoon by the Thames’ and ‘Secret Topiary’ makes the set equally suitable for professional performance.