Seen on the Green - Michael Nyman CBE

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is an area centric biography on Michael Nyman, one of many famous people to come from Chingford, North-East London.

This article was originally published in The Chingford Directory in December 2010.

Submitted: October 23, 2015

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Submitted: October 23, 2015




Seen on the Green

Famous Faces From Chingford

by Thom Goddard


This Month: Michael Nyman


To write operas, concerti, string quartets and BAFTA Award nominated film scores you need inspiration. So where did composer, pianist, librettist, minimalist and musicologist Michael Nyman find his passion? You guessed it: Chingford!


Michael Laurence Nyman C.B.E. was born on 23rd March 1944 in Stratford, East London. The Nymans owned a fur making business that became successful after the Second World War and the Jewish family moved to Chingford in 1946. Young Michael was enrolled in local bar mitzvah classes but instead of going to them he liked to ride buses through war torn East London, collecting the bus tickets as he travelled. But it was not all fun and games as while attending Yardley Lane School, Chingford, he was rejected by the choir as a “tuneless growler”.


Luckily Michael Nyman’s musical talent was spotted later in his childhood when he moved to Sir George Monoux Grammar School, Walthamstow, and he won a place at the Royal Academy of Music in 1961. The Howard Carr Memorial Prize for Composition was awarded to Nyman at the Royal Academy but he chose to become a music critic rather than a composer. Although this too proved successful as Michael is generally accepted to be the first person to apply the term “minimalism” to music.


In the 1970s Michael Nyman started to create music for motion pictures, starting by working with childhood friend, another Chingford old boy, director Peter Greenaway. The early films did not bring fame and fortune but brought back his passion for composing. In the 1980s the Nyman name achieved critical success while working with Greenaway on The Draughtsman’s Contract and The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover. Michael hit global fame after writing the score to Jane Campion’s multi-award winning film The Piano. The album topped the classical music charts and sold over 3 million copies. The Piano won 3 Oscars and although Nyman’s music was central to the film and was nominated, he did not receive the award. Nyman was also nominated for a BAFTA and Golden Globe.


Michael Nyman’s true passion is writing operas and he didn’t have to look far for the 2003 critically acclaimed hit Man and Boy: Dada. Although it does not mention Chingford directly, the story focuses on a boy growing up in war torn East London who rides the bus and collects the tickets. So keep a look out (on the bus or otherwise) for anyone you meet in the Mount or have seen on the Green!


If you spot anyone contact:

© Copyright 2019 Thom Goddard. All rights reserved.

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