North London Chorus perform new song written in tribute to former member

A piece of music commissioned to remember a solicitor who died two years ago was performed by his old choir at concert in a Muswell Hill last Saturday.

The work, called Out Of The Depths, was written in tribute to Bill Brown, who sang with the North London Chorus for several years until his sudden death in 2009.

Mr Brown’s widow, Helen, commissioned the piece and met with composer Matthew King to talk about her husband.

One of the causes Mr Brown was most passionate about was prison reform, so it was decided that Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis (Out of The Depths), which he wrote while in Reading jail, would be a fitting text for the new composition.

Mr Brown worked as a solicitor and law professor and served for 13 years on the Independent Monitoring Board of Wormwood Scrubs – a group of volunteers who make unannounced visits to the prison to monitor conditions.

He also served as chairman of the group in 2006.

Helen said of her husband: “He cared deeply about the big issues, the numbers of mentally ill people inappropriately placed in prison, the plight of foreign nationals detained beyond the end of their sentence.

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“He was compassionate rather than sentimental about prisoners.”

Mr King, who composed the work, was conscious of Mr Brown’s interest in the questions surrounding incarceration and how our society treats its prisoners.

He said: “Out Of The Depths is attempting to pose some of those questions through Wilde’s text.”

De Profundis speaks of the bleakness of being imprisoned and the humiliation Wilde experienced from a society that turned against him.

Mr King said when setting the words “a lot of what Wilde says has a contemporary ring to it, so I wanted to use genres which were quite contemporary”.

It is the second time that the North London Chorus, which rehearses at Martin Primary School in East Finchley, has sung a composition by Mr King after the choir premiered his The Season Of Singing in 2006.

The composer said that he enjoys working with amateurs because of their enthusiasm.

“Because they take longer to learn a piece when they perform it there’s more intensity, they bring something to it,” he said.