Classical music shop Prelude Records is to close after more than 30 years in Norwich
Copyright: Archant 2017
It started off with a lively allegro, built up to a thundering crescendo and is now moving towards its final coda.
The remarkable life of Norwich’s Prelude Records, one of the country’s few remaining specialist classical music shops, is drawing to a close.
Andrew Cane, proprietor, plans to shut the doors of the St Giles Street shop for the final time on March 30, after more than 30 years.
Mr Cane said the decision followed a slow, but steady decline in business as download purchases and streaming music services have boomed.
He said: “It’s not a sudden change, it’s been a gradual erosion. The people who are still regulars are wonderful, but sadly, that’s not enough.
“It has been a very enjoyable and demanding experience running the shop and I have loved it.
“It has been an amazing three decades and the reaction of the customers has been fantastic.”
Prelude Records first opened in Bagley’s Court in 1985.
Thanks to healthy sales, it moved to larger premises at 9 St Giles Street in 1987, and four years later relocated to its current home at 25B St Giles.
Mr Cane said: “I had worked in a sheet-music shop and I liked the idea of running my own music shop.
“That was just after the introduction of CDs and certainly the demand was there. That demand grew until the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“That was when the internet started to make an impact and the writing was really on the wall.”
Mr Cane said the expertise and friendly guidance he and other staff have offered customers were part of the shop’s success.
He said: “We do our best to get to the bottom of what people need. I think that’s our strength and why we have survived as long as we have.”
Mr Cane said although classical music had always been at the heart of the shop, its range had expanded to include jazz, folk and world music.
As well as the likes of Vivaldi, Stravinsky and Bach, the shelves hold everything from sea shanties to Iranian folk music and Bing Crosby.
The shop has also been also an agent for concert sales.
Mr Cane said the development of a “cottage industry” of small classical music labels had been one of the nicest things to happen over his years in the business.
He said that although there had been a resurgence in the popularity of vinyl, far more people were choosing to skip retailers all together and listen to music through streaming services, such as Spotify, and YouTube.
Mr Cane said he wasn’t happy to be closing the shop, but it would at least give him more time to devote to his own music. He plays the viola with the Norwich-based Orchestra of Academy of St Thomas.
Mr Cane said: “We have explored every possible avenue to avoid this, but increasing costs and huge changes in the record industry sadly have made closure inevitable.”
One loyal customer, Michael Pollitt, of Chamberlin Road, Norwich, said the shop’s closure would be “a great loss” for the city.
Mr Pollitt said: “I first bought classical music from his former tiny shop off Pottergate in 1985 and have been a loyal customer since. If I couldn’t remember the name of a piece of music, he would ask me to hum the tune and he’d always know what it was.”
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Mr Cane has sold thousands of records over the years but there are a few which stand out in his mind. He said the first album he ever sold was a casette of Elgar’s Cello Concerto featuring Jacqueline Du Pre. Mr Cane said: “That’s still one of the biggest sellers – it’s a fantastic cello performance.” He said The Three Tenors in Concert release in 1994 was another memorable moment.
“I used to have a pile of their LPs on the counter,” he said. “I must have sold 50 of them in a single day. Everyone wanted one.” Another strong seller has been Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs. Mr Cane said: “That’s more obscure but it’s been consistently good and it’s one of my favourite CDs.”
Nigel Kennedy’s version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons has also been a standout album.
Mr Cane said: “That’s been hugely popular.”
A record of fine customer service
The shop’s original opening was marked with a concert by the Geschwister String Quartet outside the Bagley’s Court premises.
It was an event covered in the Norwich Evening News, and one Mr Cane remembers fondly.
“It was happy days,” he said.
Mr Cane said the shop would continue to receive new releases and process customer orders as normal over the next few weeks.
He said: “However, please note all Prelude Records gift vouchers will expire on March 30. We are also investigating the possibility of operating a mail order service after we close.”
Mr Cane said it had been a privilege to have been able to share his deep love of music with so many people.
He said: “Norwich is one of the few places in the UK to have kept its specialist classical record shop for so long, and that is thanks to you – our amazingly supportive customers.
“Thank you all for your custom and encouragement over the years.”