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NORFOLK MUSIC MAN - DAVID KETT

10th January 2018

Very sadly for all in Norfolk theatrical circles to report the sudden death of David Kett the ‘music man’ much respected and loved by all.

He had been working with a group of youngsters at Limelight Studios just a few days earlier, still encouraging and spreading his knowledge and experience at 87 years.

Accompanist extraordinaire with empathy in the fingers and encouragement for all, a friend in need at short notice, always pleased to be associated by all manners of musical theatre since the late1950s. 

Amongst many societies associated with in his talented way, he was Musical Director for Norfolk & Norwich OS, Dereham Theatre Company (previously OS), East Norfolk OS, Great Yarmouth G&S, Sheringham Savoyards, Thorpe Players, Limelight Theatre Company, plus the many Music Halls (including Maddermarket) and the Charity Concerts in groups with whom he worked: from big professional Theatre Royal in Norwich to the smaller venues and village halls, David was the welcome and reassuring presence. He was even known to take over as MD at a dress rehearsal when cold feet in the orchestra pit became too arctic (West Side Story).

It was always a joy to be in a production for which David was MD, his sense of humour and stock phrases that he would use always caused amusement. Two such come to mind. After we had rehearsed the lower parts of a four part harmony, David would say “Right sopranos, spoil it” or he would say “Let’s do that again with all seventeen parts”.  The first comment invariably brought a smile to the lower voices.

In the early days at East Norfolk rehearsals, two ladies would sit in the front row and would wink at a younger shy David when he looked in their direction and watch him blush. In later years, such actions would usually get a witty comment from David.  Because of the number of people David met, he couldn’t always remember their names. At one particular rehearsal he called one of the sopranos “Dewdrop”. A name which was adopted for her by other members of the company.

David was musical mentor to so many people. Whenever help needed with learning a piece of music, David was the first person asked. He was always ready to help out, give advice and put the music on tape.  If he was called to accompany at auditions, those involved breathed a great sigh as he was always on their side. He was always there to give advice or to accompany on the piano in the many concerts performed. It was very reassuring to see David as the MD in the numerous shows done and to know one was participating as a part of the same team. He was a true gentleman, reliable and punctual. There were times when at very short notice a pianist or MD was needed.  A quick phone call to David and if at all possible he would appear and do what-ever was required, sometimes without a rehearsal he would play the piano or take up the baton.

David also played for various soloists, duos, small and large groups of singers throughout Norwich and Norfolk and in fact accompanied some entertainment just days before his untimely demise. Seven years or so ago, he announced that he would retire when he reached his eightieth Birthday, but fortunately he was persuaded to continue tinkling the ivories, much to the relief of many singers.

David always gave of his time freely, whether it was an emergency call to help out at a rehearsal, if he was not already playing elsewhere on the date, he would oblige and always declined any remuneration that might be offered.

When Norma Wick (a true pro performer) formed a small Music Hall company, called “Rosie Glow and the Glow-worm”, David was asked to be the MD, which he readily agreed to. Music Hall players often perform under stage names and David was referred to as Mr David Dim-unendo.   When Norma retired from performing the Glow-worms continued to entertain with David playing for them.  This was so until earlier this year!

Other memories amongst many: Sweet Charity on missing the opening notes but a smile of encouragement from the pit and the vamp continued until needed and a successful beginning to the first night show.  From an orchestra member in an exam in which David said how terrified he was on accompaniment, but she passed of course.

At the service for David the large church in Thorpe St Andrews (village where born and apart from National Service, lived in all life and now buried), there was not a seat vacant with all his friends and colleagues from the many societies filled to capacity: Norfolk & Norwich OS, East Norfolk OS, Dereham Theatre Company, Great Yarmouth G&S, Phoenix Opera, Sheringham Savoyards, North Norfolk Chamber Opera, Claxton Opera, Limelight Theatre Company,Thorpe Players, the representatives of the many Music Hall groups, the entertainers for Charity who raised so much money for good causes, and so many players from the many orchestras who had worked in the pits, and fellow accompanists who had shared duties, so many were proud to call him a friend. An impromptu choir raised the roof during the service with ‘Hail Poetry’ sung ‘with all seventeen parts’ in great style as a true tribute.

A real loss and sadness for this ‘true gentleman of talent and musical fingers’ for all in Norfolk, how we shall miss you.

(Colin, Pip, Colleen, Zelda, Julie, Sue)