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The story behind Moody Prawn Blues

4 months ago

Narisse Poynton

Young musician

 

With pianists now working on pieces in our 2017 & 2018 syllabus, here’s a last look back at one of the most popular pieces set for 2015 & 2016 from 10-year-old Narisse Poynton.

In the footnote to the mysteriously titled Moody Prawn Blues, composer Franklyn Gellnick writes: ‘Imagine a rather sinister beady eyed prawn, at a medium swing tempo, and the character of the piece should emerge.’ Narisse, a pupil at Nottingham Girls’ High School, got in touch to see if we could help her find out more. As Franklyn is one of our examiners it was easy to make this happen, and here’s the result.

Narisse: I really love this tune, it is very lively and jazzy and I am going to play the piece in my school music competition – the Windblowers Cup Final. Before we play we have to introduce our piece. I wondered if you could help by giving me any more information about you, your work or your prawn story.

Franklyn: I was examining abroad and a colleague had eaten a bad – or ‘moody’ – prawn omelette. My unfortunate colleague was hospitalised for about a week. I had an idea to compose a short piece to cheer her up on her discharge from hospital, and slipped the rough draft under her hotel room door for her to play in her spare time.

On my return to London, I submitted it to ABRSM's Syllabus Department. Can you imagine how many hundreds of pieces are reviewed before selecting appropriate ones for exam syllabuses? Well, it would be another four years before I heard that mine had been selected for 2015 & 2016.

Narisse: What do you like most about composing music and what did you enjoy about composing this piece?

Franklyn: I have to confess that I don't really consider myself a real composer, as I only occasionally put pen to paper. But, when I do get a musical idea - such as the tune for the ‘prawn’, which just came into my head when walking along the hotel corridor - I usually can't rest until it's been notated!

I particularly enjoyed the challenge of writing this piece in such a way that it would be playable for a typical Grade 3 candidate without having to compromise on too many jazz features.

I'm delighted you enjoy playing Moody Prawn Blues, and please allow me to congratulate you on reaching the final of your school music competition!

Moody Prawn Blues was set for Grade 3 in the 2015 & 2016 Piano syllabus. For jazzy options in the 2017 & 2018 syllabus take a look at the List C choices. There’s plenty to choose from across the grades.

 

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