Sunday, 17 July 2016



It was so inspiring to perform again with Daniel Hope and Sebastian Knauer on July 8th, this time in the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, as part of Daniel's concert series "Familienstücke" in Lübeck. We did Walton's thirty-minute Sonata for Violin and Piano and it went like a charm, with a lovely togetherness and synergy. I found that the music was thoroughly coursing through my veins and this confidence provided space for the occasional improvisation.

Then we did Maurice Ravel's Kaddish, one of his Deux mélodies hébraïques, a Jewish prayer of mourning and praise. Daniel introduced this work with a poignant story about his dear friend and mentor the late Yehudi Menuhin. After performing in Düsseldorf together on March 7th 1999, Yehudi encouraged Daniel to play an encore and he spontaneously chose the Kaddish. Yehudi listened sitting in the orchestra. It turned out to be their last concert. Five days later Yehudi passed away. 

I had long wanted to create and perform a piece in honour of Yehudi, in memory of a dear friend, the first great musician to invite me to perform together. Daniel gave me the perfect opportunity in Lübeck and as I painted this mournful and agonizingly beautiful work, I found it difficult not to be overcome with emotion, as my kinetic colours flowed gently away, for ever. Then a very slow fade out, to a hall in total silence. We had created a worthy tribute.
Here is the five minute video of my studio rehearsal, using Daniel's passionate recording with Jacques Ammon.   

Friday, 24 June 2016



Eighty-three years ago today I came into the world blue in the face. (No, not because of the political situation in Europe in 1933). The midwife had to untangle the umbilical cord from around my neck before I could gasp for my first breath. It was a home-delivery and she then gave me sips of brandy from a spoon! Ah, there you are then, my family likes to joke - with the characteristic Perryman sense of humour - that explains the brain-damage. That first struggle to make myself heard and seen was to be one of many over the years and I haven't finished yet! That's an artist's lot.

So I'm still breathless, racing against time, to give creative form to so many more ideas before my time runs out, yet I'm also pleasantly surprised that I'm still going strong. Happy to have found my form in time-based art: in live kinetic painting, cradled in music. It's quite a challenge, but I love it. But why do you make life so difficult for yourself, they say. Um, I was born that way, ha, ha. Actually, kinetic painting is probably the ideal therapy for me. Not only does it boost my dopamine levels. As any Asian calligrapher will tell you, it's your breathing that gives every stroke of your brush beauty and power.

My own performing art-form is, by its very nature, continuously moving on, passing by, short-lived. Afterwards, there's nothing left, just like music. What a pity? Not at all. Life is like that. Those audio-visual sensations will live on in the hearts and memories of thousands who have watched my ephemeral art form. Yes, I do love it when a viewer (usually a woman) comes up to me after the concert and says: "you just took my breath away!"

Here's the link to some fragments (perhaps not the best) from the exciting Berlin Konzerthaus performance on April 25th, the first with Daniel Hope and Sebastian Knauer, introduced here in Sarah Willis' reportage on Deutsche Welle TV . You can catch me at 3.09 mins into the video and again at 9.49. 

Our next performance is at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Lübeck on July 8th.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Four great milestones

Four great milestones.

Birmingham, Amsterdam, Geneva, Berlin. Four different projects in quick succession. Each a significant milestone that made me pause, look back thankfully and marvel at inspiring friendships - and at the closing of some great chapters in my life. 
In Birmingham Andrew Jowett retired as Director of Symphony Hall, where he commissioned thirty-two of my paintings. On stage for the unveiling of my painting of Andrew, as described in my previous blog.

Back in  Amsterdam I shared the Dutch TV music programme Podium Witteman with Lis Perry and Liviu Prunaru, both former students of Yehudi Menuhin and now concertmasters of great orchestras, to speak of our friendship with this wonderful man, then join in an audio-visual extract from Bach's Double Violin Concerto. Here's the link - it's in Dutch.
Norman Perryman & Lis Perry celebrate Yehudi Menuhin at 100.
Then it was quite nostalgic to re-visit Geneva, where I lived, exhibited, taught art, set up the Visual Arts programme of the International Baccalaureate, collaborated with left-wing journalist friends in NGO activities in the 1970's and made film around my kinetic painting with music for Télévision Suisse Romande in 1976. Wow, a significant period of my life.

Now, forty years later, I'm invited by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), an agency of the United Nations, to put on a performance of kinetic painting at a major conference in their beautiful new hall. How fulfilling. But was it a little bit of the devil in me to propose l'Histoire du Soldat (composed by Stravinsky on the Lake of Geneva in 1918)? How appropriate for this city of wealth and power, the story of how the soldier sold his violin (his soul) to the Devil, in exchange for a book that "tells you things before they happen" and provides "wealth untold"! Alas, the soldier become millionaire realizes that after all, in reality he has nothing. Terribly familiar? It was great to share the stage with the Ludwig Ensemble, but especially with my son Chris King Perryman, playing the Narrator. His mother Vivian King, whom I met in Geneva in 1974 when she was studying with the cellist Pierre Fournier, would have been so proud.

From Geneva I flew straight to Berlin, for a performance with Daniel Hope and Sebastian Knauer, one of the wonderful series in honour of our dear Yehudi Menuhin, who would have been 100 on April 22nd. There I met many old friends and his daughter Zamira, with whom I was able to share memories of my friendship with Yehudi, illustrated in my memoir "A Life Painting Music". Two of my paintings of him were illustrated in the Konzerthaus Festschrift.

The banner on the facade of Konzerthaus Berlin announces "Music heals, brings comfort and joy". That's what Yehudi lived for. What joy he and Daniel brought to me as I shared in this great festival! Our performance to a packed hall and discussion with audience was received with enormous enthusiasm - they just wouldn't let us go! Warmest thanks to the whole production team. The concert was recorded for television by Deutsche Welle and hopefully will be screened later this month.
Konzerthaus Berlin
Rehearsing with Daniel and Sebastian in the Kleine Saal.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A great Director retires

Andrew Jowett in Symphony Hall Birmingham

Last night was a momentous occasion, as hundreds from the world of classical music gathered on the stage to celebrate the achievements of the retiring Director of Symphony Hall Birmingham. This was a milestone for me too, a celebration of my long friendship with Andrew Jowett, going back to his first commissions in 1990, for what was to become the largest collection of my work in the world: thirty-two paintings of great musicians he programmed to perform in this great hall - Simon Rattle, Valery Gergiev, Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Bernard Haitink and more.

During the last twenty-eight years Andrew Jowett and Symphony Hall became inseparable. So I’ve portrayed Andrew standing with disarming modesty, proud yet relaxed, as he warmly welcomes us into his second home. His gaze betrays the understanding and wisdom of his long experience as Director. I see him as a pillar of strength amidst the music that swirls around him in the renowned acoustics and beautiful colours of ”his” concert hall. The free brush-strokes of this watercolour also reflect an imaginative and dynamic entrepreneur, still full of ideas, even as he retires. The background is a reference to my painting The Mahler Experience - perhaps the most popular of all the paintings he commissioned me to paint for the Symphony Hall Collection. See you around, Andrew - we know that you have much more to offer the world.

Andrew Jowett in Symphony Hall Birmingham
Watercolour 70 x 52 cm, Norman Perryman, 2016.