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Holt launch for centenary celebrations of composer Benjamin Britten

20:44 25 September 2012

Benjamin Britten centenary launch at Gresham

Benjamin Britten centenary launch at Gresham's School, Holt. Guest speakers, left to right, Philip John, Sue Phipps, Sophia Haywood, Tony Britten, Caroline Jarrold and Nathan Waring. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012

The first notes of centenary celebrations for one of the nation’s most celebrated composers were sounded at his old school.

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Benjamin Britten was a pupil at Gresham’s in Holt from 1928-30, when he wrote 160 pieces of music, during his fledgling career.

On the same Big School stage where he used to perform, a major programme of events was launched that will lead up to the 100th anniversary of his birth at Lowestoft on November 22 1913.

Students played pieces of his music and head Philip John said the school was proud of its association with “one of the country’s most treasured composers.”

Caroline Jarrold, chairman of the Familiar Fields steering group coordinating more than 180 performances of 88 works in the coming months, said Britten’s “greatness is not yet recognised by the world - but his time is coming.”

Sue Phippps, niece of Britten’s partner singer Peter Pears and their concert agent for many years, also praised the composer’s talents as a natural pianist, who used to read novels while practising his scales as a youngster, but also found performing in public an ordeal.

School head girl Sophia Haywood, also a talented musician who played during the evening, said it was a privilege to be surrounded by Britten’s legacy at Gresham’s.

Film director Tony Britten, who has been shooting scenes for a film about his namesake’s pacifism in younger life - including scenes at Gresham’s involving students - said it had been a spooky experience hearing boys saying things he culled from 1920s school magazines. His film Peace and Conflict will be premiered at the school’s Auden Theatre next February.

The launch also featured a display of items relating to Britten’s schooldays including music scores, concert programmes and pupil records which flag up Benjamin’s interests as solely “music”.

Details of centenary events, set in places that inspired the composer, are available at www.familiarfields.org/events

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