“Forte non Ignave”

The Unconventional Teenager daring to be different by exploring radical forms of art and music.

Vic Berry’s performing uncompromising “Plinky-Plonk Stuff” on the School Grand Piano 1976.

Forte non Ignave”, the title of music presented here is taken from the Batley Grammar School1 motto. Translated from Latin has “bravely not cowardly”; however, I did find online discussion which suggested that modern translators would interpret this motto differently 2.

The original composition score was written for the piano when I was in the last year at Batley Grammar School 1977. I simply named the piece “Période de quatre en trois” which seemed to make sense at the time with the music being divided into three sections with triple time for the outer sections and quadruple compound meter in the middle section.

The friendships forged in the latter years of my schooldays provided a support group for my interest in modern music to flourish. A subversive art scene developed being championed by a small clique of talented individuals interested in art, music, philosophy, writing. It was melting pot of enthusiasm and ideas that gave me the confidence to face the criticism and ridicule for my attempts at composition from elders and peers. I remember entering a performance competition with a piano piece which was described by my music teacher has “Vic Berry’s plinky plonk stuff”. A put down epitomised mainstream and conventional attitudes. This only served to strengthen my conviction and I responded by getting my next piece entitled “Plinky Plonk Stuff” published in the subversive sixth form art magazine “Erk!”3

“Forte non Ignave, act with bravery not cowardice”

Plinky-Plonk Stuff strengthened my conviction!

Vic Berry February 2022

Present day: The original music is renamed and rearranged.

The Corona Virus Pandemic lockdowns had created an opportunity to return to playing trombone after many years of neglect. A brass band with a unique combination of instruments produces an unmistakable sound that was very much part of my upbringing joining the Gomersal Mills Silver Band in my mid-teens.

I had the idea to arrange “Période de quatre en trois” for trombones the melody lines were relatively simply and would work well with brass instruments. Using digital recording the sound could be filled out to sound like a brass band by creating the illusion of Tuba and Cornets playing by changing the pitch doubling an octave lower or higher.

The middle section has been changed from its original tune with percussive driving rhythm provided by the left-hand accompaniment. Instead in keeping with outer section I have kept the original melodic lament accompanied with occasion antiphonal chattering of horns and cornets using different tempi and modulations. I have played all the parts on a single trombone using multi tracking and digital effects to create the finished piece which can be heard here.

“Forte non Ignave” for Brass Band by Vic Berry 1977, arr. 2022.

The originally melodies devised on my old out of tune second-hand piano took on a new meaning arranged for brass evoking memories of youth, place and 70s urban decay it was therefore appropriate to rename the piece “Forte Non Ignave”

Vic with school friend and writer, Stewart Ullyott on an urban decay photoshoot in Batley with photographer, Simon Fallows.

Batley was never considered a salubrious place filthy mills and its old Victorian factories crammed in next to small terraces with some sandstone buildings alluding to former the grandeur that delivered economic power wealth. These were now moribund, blackened by soot from years of smoke from the decades of thousands of domestic coal fires and giant mill chimneys. Much has now been destroyed over the years in favour of supermarkets and car parks.

Photographic illustrations of the period.

The late Simon Fallows was a keen photographer often brought his good SLR Camera into school. He had an excellent eye for framing action shot and set up a draft room to experiment in developing, enlarging, and printing. Making photographic prints is a difficult task fraught with risk for the beginner. Such was Simon’s talent that he became the unofficial photojournalist of the era. Being one his close friends I am lucky to possess a small collection of black and white prints from that period that I have used to illustrate this article.

  • 1Wikipedia – Batley Grammar School
  • 2Forte non Ignave (Bravely not cowardly): Mark Bradley, Professor of Classics at University of Nottingham and Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Curriculum Leadership at University of Nottingham says; “It does mean ‘Bravely not lazily’ (n.b. English cowardly is an adjective so it would have to be translated ‘in a cowardly manner’, which doesn’t roll off the tongue). ‘Ignave’ is definitely an adverb (lazily), and so it follows that ‘forte’ must be too. This is unusual in Latin: as many have pointed out, its typical meaning is ‘by chance’ (from fors, fortis), and ‘fortiter’ is the normal adverb meaning ‘bravely’ – BUT there are occasional uses in classical Latin (and, perhaps more commonly, in medieval Latin) of the neuter of third-declension adjectives being used adverbially – and so ‘fortis’ (brave) becomes ‘forte’ (brave thing, bravely). You get this once or twice in Catullus and Apuleius, for instance (dulce ridentem). So it’s really unusual (and frankly quite clumsy Latin), but it’s not an error: a motto-maker in 1612 wouldn’t have made such a mistake, of that we can be sure. It was principally chosen to sound euphonous in Latin and to be a little bit unique/quirky. Also normal in Latin phrases to elide basic verbs like ‘agere’ in adverbial phrases, so I would be tempted to render the motto in English as ‘Act with bravery, not cowardice’. “
  • 3“Erk!” was a short-lived underground publication only two issues were produced in 1976 before being banned and copies seized by the Headteacher.

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