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‘I am happy to be alive’ Composer to hear his symphony performed after battling serious illness

PUBLISHED: 16:59 24 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:04 24 January 2020

Composer Geoff Cummings-Knight, who is set to hear his self-penned symphony performed in public for the first time in 36 years.
Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Composer Geoff Cummings-Knight, who is set to hear his self-penned symphony performed in public for the first time in 36 years. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Archant

A symphony set to be performed at St Peter’s Church, Sheringham, on Saturday (January 25) will be music to the ears of its composer, who thought he would never hear the piece again after battling life-threating kidney failure.

Composer Geoff Cummings-Knight, who is set to hear his self-penned symphony performed in public for the first time in 36 years.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLComposer Geoff Cummings-Knight, who is set to hear his self-penned symphony performed in public for the first time in 36 years. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Welsh-born Geoff Cummings-Knight, who lives at Northrepps, near Cromer, began writing music after learning to play the piano aged seven.

But a career as a teacher beckoned and, after taking his first post at a North London primary school, Mr Cummings-Knight went on to work in the profession for more than 30 years.

However, music was never far from his thoughts and, when, in 2001, he was forced to take early retirement after suffering a breakdown, he rebuilt his life around his childhood passion, eventually studying for a master's degree in film music.

"It started out as a more of a hobby, but I gradually began to get commissions and I carried on from there," he said.

As well as writing his own music, Mr Cummings-Knight carved a successful second career devising and presenting more than 1,000 music and history shows for BBC local radio, also working as a music teacher and accompanist after moving to Norfolk with his wife Jennie and their three children.

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But, in 2016, a routine appointment with his optician turned his life upside down, when a haemorrhage discovered behind his eye was found to be a symptom of kidney disease.

Told by doctors that, with less than 40pc of kidney function, he was at risk of organ failure, he received a second shock when they discovered that his kidneys had been damaged by the scarlet fever he contracted at the age of six.

"It was a revelation to me as it explained the weariness and lack of energy I'd felt for so long," he said.

Over the following weeks, Mr Cummings-Knight's kidney function plummeted to just 10pc and he became desparately ill, but, after spending 18 months on dialysis, he was given a kidney transplant two years ago.

"I was taking 14 tablets a day but unfortunately, within three months one of them had destroyed the new kidney," Mr Cummings-Knight, 72, explained. "And because my immune system had also been destroyed, I then caught a cold and up in hospital for 14 weeks with full-blown pneumonia."

Now pinning his hopes on an operation which will allow him to have dialysis at home, rather than at Cromer Hospital, Mr Cummings-Knight, who spent another five months in hospital last year, says that, in spite of everything, he has a "glass half-full" attitude and will be "over the moon" to hear his symphony performed in public for the first time in 36 years.

"I play piano in Northrepps church most Sundays, my life is filled with love and I am happy to be alive," he said.

Geoff Cummings-Knight's second symphony will be performed by the North Norfolk Sinfonia at St Peter's Church, Sheringham, on Saturday at 7.30pm. Tickets, priced £12, are available on the door or by phoning 01263 579196.

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