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Musician and Composer, Francis Shaw (MAA), gives pupil workshop and recital

Composer Francis Shaw, MAA (ex Hambro, and Damer 1956-59) returned to Milton Abbey on Tuesday 18th October to give a piano workshop for pupils and an evening recital in the King’s Room.

Francis was one of only sixty boys when he was at Milton Abbey School in the 1950s, one of the first cohort of pupils.  He remembers playing the organ in the Abbey at every opportunity, especially as a way to avoid having to play rugby which he hated.  This regular practice obviously paid off as he went on to study at the London College of Music and has gone on to enjoy an extremely successful career as a composer and musician.  
We were delighted to welcome Francis, and his wife Annie, back to Milton Abbey on Tuesday 18th October. He spent the afternoon giving some of our most talented pianists one-to-one help and advice in a piano workshop.   Leila and Rose, both in the Fourth Form, Laura and Enver in the Fifth Form and Chris in the Middle Sixth had an amazing afternoon and each played a piece as well as a composition of their own with the help of Francis.  Later in the evening Francis gave a recital to a wider group of pupils playing some of his favourite pieces of classical music before moving on to perform some of his own compositions.   One piece, inspired by Prokofiev, and written when Francis was a student, had only been performed once before in public, Ballade no.1 (1966); two pieces that Francis was commissioned to write for a film ‘Schubert’ and ‘Chopin’ were particular highlights.   Francis ended by improvising on a tune composed earlier by Laura and playing ‘Funky Fingers’, a piece he originally composed for the son of a friend who was learning the piano and has now become a firm family favourite with his children and grandchildren – it wasn’t hard to see why!
Director of Music, Shaun Pirttijarvi said, “The individual workshops with Francis were a wonderful experience for our young pianists; spending time with such a talented and successful composer was truly inspiring and Francis had a great rapport with all the pupils.”
Francis Shaw said, “It was a real pleasure to come back to Milton Abbey and spend time with these talented young pianists.  It was whilst I was a pupil here that my love of music really took off and I was able to spend the majority of my free time playing the organ in the beautiful Abbey.”    However Francis recalls falling  foul of the rather stricter standards of the time when: “I was forbidden to play the organ for a  week because I had played a popular tune of the time during an Abbey service, the theme music from a 1958 TV series called ‘The Killing Stones’.  I was firmly told that "this kind of music” was not appropriate in the Abbey.”
Milton Abbey has a termly programme of musical recitals; these are held in the King’s Room in the heart of the mansion building and are a fantastic opportunity for pupils and guests, including the Friends of Milton Abbey, to listen to and meet talented professional musicians at close quarters.
On leaving the Royal College of Music Francis Shaw studied composition with Goffredo Petrassi in Rome, Lennox Berkeley in London and Alexander Goehr at Southampton University. Yehudi Menuhin commissioned Francis’s DIVERTIMENTO FOR STRINGS, first performed at the Windsor Festival in 1971, which started his professional composing life.  He has composed more than 80 documentary & factual TV scores and for films such as THE COUNTRY GIRLS (1983) and co-orchestrated the music for A ROOM WITH A VIEW (1985): SHACKLETON of the ANTARCTIC (1982): IRELAND, a TELEVISION HISTORY (1980)  In 2006 his anthem for the Queen’s 80th birthday, BIRTHDAY PRAYER, was performed in her presence at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. His music for the Oscar nominated film EVIL won the best film score Ivor Novello Award in 2006. Francis's 2 Piano Concertos were released on the Lyrita label in October 2016.