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Christopher Norton

Christopher Norton was born in New Zealand in 1953. He began composing at the age of 14, and, by the age of 16, had an orchestral work performed and broadcast. Having completed an honours degree in music from Otago University, Dunedin, in 1974, he met with some success as a pianist in New Zealand, playing with the New Zealand Symphony orchestra and broadcasting on the Concert Programme. At the same time, he was teaching music in local high schools, beginning to freelance as a composer and arranger, and had also started to play keyboards in a rock band, having becoming interested in jazz and pop.

Coming to the UK in 1977 on a University Scholarship, Christopher Norton studied composition at York University with Wilfred Mellers and David Blake, writing a variety of pieces, including choral works, orchestral pieces, piano music and musicals. While playing in various bands, he started to experiment with combinations of styles that crossed the divide between his classical background, and more contemporary popular styles.

In 1983, Christopher Norton was signed by Boosey & Hawkes, and the first of the Microjazz series series appeared —music which appealed greatly to children and teenagers but was sufficiently rooted in the classical tradition to be useful as teaching material. The series has expanded over 20 years to include music for all of the major instruments with piano, ensemble books and midi file backings. It is now the biggest selling music series for Boosey & Hawkes, with over a million sales to date.

The success of Microjazz was followed by many other award-winning publications for Boosey & Hawkes. His bestselling titles include the Essential Guides to Pop, Latin and Jazz Styles; the Rock, Country, Latin and Jazz Piano Preludes; the Big Beats playalong series (called "Microjazz for the next generation" by Piano Magazine); and the Christopher Norton Concert Collections of original repertoire for solo piano.

Christopher Norton is now well established as a composer, producer, arranger and educationalist and has written stage musicals, ballet scores, piano music, popular songs and orchestral music as well as jingles and signature tunes for TV and radio. He lectures all over the world on aspects of his work and likes to integrate traditional teaching methods with aspects of modern technology. He has also found time to produce huge numbers of albums for the gospel market, with releases worldwide selling in excess of 1,000,000 units.

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How would you describe yourself?

A music fan who composes.

 

What makes you smile?

Seeing my grandchildren on my computer screen (and even better in real life)

What scares you the most?

Losing my (excellent) health

Are you a bathroom singer?

As it happens, no.

What type of music do you like to play the most?

Classical (Beethoven mid-period sonatas) and 20th century (Ginastera, Shostakovitch, Ravel, Prokofiev)

What type of music do you like to write the most?

Popular music for students, ideally late intermediate in standard

Do you have time to just noodle around and play for yourself or is it always work right now?

I do have time to noodle around but most of the time the noodling leads to a composition!

How do you describe what you do professionally?

Writing music to be enjoyed by young performers all over the world.

Are you doing today what you dreamed of when you were young?

I really am - I’ve been a composer full-time since 1980 but I always thought, from probably the age of 16, that I would like to write music for a living.

How did you get here?

By writing what I liked the sound of and combining a diverse range of influences (concert piano, playing in bands, working in studios) into a distinctive style that I can call my own. I’m living the dream, helped by the love and support of my wife, who is a fine published composer herself.

How do you describe what you do professionally?

I conceive of projects and then write them, often (like Connections and Microjazz) starting with piano books and extending them into other areas - violin and piano, recorder ensemble, wind sextet, classical guitar, lever harp. I have also, along with my wife, written 30 short musicals for schools.

What advice do you have for someone who wants are career doing what you do (or hope to do!)?

Write what you know and try to write every day - treat it like a job of work, but enjoy all of it as you are doing it.

Where do you think you will be after 25 years?

Since I am 67, I would expect to be retired at best!

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