Gresham’s honour Lennox Berkeley
17th August 2017
‘The Britten Building’, opened by the Princess Royal on July 1, is the culmination of a multi-million pound, five-year project to improve the musical provision at Gresham’s, and is the most significant addition to the school in twenty years. It features modern and comfortable practice, seminar and teaching rooms, a 140-seat auditorium, a fleet of Steinway pianos, a sophisticated recording studio; even a café. The Berkeley Estate and the Lennox Berkeley Society have donated a portrait of the composer to hang in The Sir Lennox Berkeley Room and Chester Music have donated a selection of Berkeley scores to the school’s music library.
'Music is the soul of Gresham’s’, the headmaster, Douglas Robb, said at the opening ceremony, 'and the school has a much-celebrated musical history and an exciting future.’ It is the intention of the school to make the new facility available not only to the boys and girls of Gresham’s but to music groups throughout North Norfolk. The school is the alma mater to several famous composers and authors including Benjamin Britten, W. H. Auden, and Stephen Spender.
Lennox Berkeley at Gresham’s
Lennox Berkeley was a pupil at Gresham’s throughout the years of the First World War. Through no fault of the school’s he was not happy away from home. When his parents brought him back to Oxford at the age of only fifteen, he left behind at Gresham’s a reputation for charm and kindness, fluent French and a ‘flamboyant’ style at the piano.
For its part the school’s former Director of Music, Walter Greatorex, nurtured Lennox’s budding talent for music, and introduced him to hymns and to Plainsong (which was later to influence not only his music but also his faith). The school also introduced Lennox to a part of England he never forgot. Attracted by the wild beauty of the North Norfolk coast and its flora and fauna, he and his wife Freda bought a holiday home in the village of Morston half a century later, and the family still has strong connections – and a sailing boat – there today.