Matthew Freeman: From Great Yarmouth to the Royal Albert Hall
- Credit: Trine Thybo
When Matthew Freeman takes a bow on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, he looks at the top row and remembers when he used to sit up there as a teenage visitor.
The platinum award-winning conductor for productions such as Planet Earth and Abbaphonic began his musical career as a schoolboy in Great Yarmouth.
Mr Freeman was a student at Alderman Swindell, North Denes and Great Yarmouth Grammar School and while still a child, the would-be conductor began piano training after being set off by his mother.
It sparked a lifelong passion for music and a career that would take him to the very top.
"I immersed myself in music through my teens," he said.
"When I was at the grammar school, the head of music - Benjamin Angwin - was retiring.
"And he was very keen for some enthusiastic students to get involved with music at the school.
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"I also had a neighbour, John Norris - who taught English in Norwich - who had music as a great hobby.
"He had a collection of instruments he would love to play.
"I got roped into accompanying him at the piano, while he jumped from French horn to oboe to crumhorn.
"Finally, another teacher - John Roper - was extremely encouraging and gave me the confidence to pursue music.
"Ben Angwin, the music master, would sometimes be walking along the other side of the road and occasionally I'll pluck up the courage to go on the walk along and chat with him and one time I said 'I want to go study music, sir. What do you think?'
"And he just said, 'don't'."
While some people may have been put off by such advice, it had the opposite effect on Mr Freeman.
"It was good advice to harden my resolve to do something which was going to be hard work to succeed at," he said.
"But anyway, I went ahead, and the music teacher John Roper put me up for this music competition and I was very fortunate to get accepted at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music.
"I went back to Ben Angwin and said, 'please sir, I've been accepted on these two courses which one did I should go to?'
"He said go to the Royal College - and I was there for three years."
While Mr Freeman was a student at the Royal College of Music, he would walk past the Royal Albert Hall on a daily basis.
And now he has returned there, on stage, to lead a celebration of one of his favourite acts.
On Friday, October 1, Mr Freeman was on stage at the venue for his Abbaphonic show.
"It was a homecoming of sorts," Mr Freeman said.
"I used to go to lots of concerts there in my teens and sit at the very top and when I'm on stage now, I take a look up there before my final bow and acknowledge that little journey."
Mr Freeman was last in Great Yarmouth during the summer. He made sure to visit one of his favourite places.
"Walking over Barnard bridge and straight down to the water's edge remains one of my most favourite sports on the planet," Mr Freeman said.
"You have the sea, the horizon and the sky. It's just so complete."
Mr Freeman shared a fond memory from his childhood in the town.
"I remember playing on Breydon, me and a friend used to try and build something we thought was going to float," Mr Freeman said.
"But of course, it never did."
The conductor also has fond memories of the Easter fair, chips on the market place and St Nicholas Church.
Mr Freeman's next big project is Planet Earth 2 Live in Concert, which is touring the UK and Ireland in March 2022.
The conductor is also involved with the Seven Worlds - One Planet concert which premieres at the London 02 on March 31, 2022.
Photograph of Matthew Freeman was taken by Trine Thybo - www.trinethybo.com.