Now that the brochure is in circulation you would think there might be a bit of a lull. In one sense there is but it’s full steam ahead towards planning the festival’s twentieth anniversary programme. In fact much of it has been put in place already.
There has been time however, to get cracking on a new project. This is to take teenagers with no prior knowledge of classical music to concerts as well as to the opera. In fact, the inspiration behind this arose when I noticed that English National Opera were putting on a production of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. There couldn’t be a more fitting introduction to opera than this!
How to set it up was the next step.
Having bought three tickets for two students and me, I got in touch with Exe Valley Rotary club to see if they would be prepared to sponsor the cost. They readily agreed. Then GWR gladly provided return rail tickets to Paddington. All that remained was to find the teenagers. Easy you would think!
Quite by chance I met a charming person at the Devon County Show. We happened to be munching a bun and some coffee in the craft tent and on making conversation discovered we lived in the same village. One thing led to another. I explained the project and asked if she knew of youngsters who would fit the bill. ‘My daughter’, she said. It turned out that not only would Anna like to take up the opportunity, but that her friend, Izzy would be keen to do so as well.
After having three preparatory sessions around my kitchen table, laden with gooey cakes, and armed with laptops as well as the DVD, they were not only well versed on what they were going to see, but full of excitement at the prospect of the trip.
So on a perfect day, we high-sped to London for what I can only describe as a magical experience. It was the most perfect way in which to immerse young people in a type of music about which they not only knew very little but also had been put off from being too involved through fear of being teased by their peer group.
Having watched the film, they knew that every production was individual and that this applied also to the human voice. As a consequence, they realised why a big sound was needed to penetrate across a full orchestra (although it was reduced on this occasion). They saw how monitors worked – vital as the orchestra was under cover behind the stage. They understood the necessity of having a conductor. They were aware that in order to become a professional musician it would take years of study and that discipline was required. One big bonus was on knowing Gillian Keith (Sandman) who took us backstage – an eye opener for them!
Here is some feedback:
…Firstly, I’d like to start by saying that I loved the experience and that my exposure to operatic music, performance and teaching has increased my appreciation for the arts; it was the perfect introduction to opera, whilst also giving an insight into classical music at the time this piece was devised. I have absolutely no doubt that due to this wonderful opportunity and experience I will endeavour to attend other such performances. It has given me a different perspective for opera and how it can be used as a tool for relaxation as well as learning about the history and context of when these sorts of pieces were composed…
From my own perspective, I found the day profoundly moving. To see such girls totally absorbed in an art form such as this and how it would remain in their memory for a long time, left me with a feeling of sadness. They appreciated the benefits of involvement in classical music; the joy it can bring to people’s lives, especially to the elderly and the infirm; the opportunities for learning to play instruments, sing in a choir and with constant study, it would impart a sense of purpose that would have impact on life in general.
I am determined we – the festival – should do more to help young people at this age. To this end, the LPO and the LSO have already offered tickets to concerts in the autumn.
If anyone who may be reading this might like to donate £100 towards the cost of taking someone to a concert in London, please do get in touch.
Oh – one of the tragic things I discovered was their telling me that many adolescent drug takers were largely subsidised by their parents. How truly ghastly…
30th June 2019