Music to my Ears…

Guide dog 2.jpg

I was inspired to write this as a result of having two superb builders doing repairs on my house. David had been a photo/journalist in the ‘hot spots’ prior to setting up his business in Devon; the other has numerous interests including rowing at a high level. Their conversation and discussions have been such that I have wished to join in and therefore unable to attack much needed work.


One of the topics we touched on was background music.  The other was in greater detail focusing on the problems faced in attracting young people to take an interest in the vast choice of sporting and arts-related opportunities on offer.


As far as background music is concerned, I used to find that I couldn’t do any administration with extraneous noise (regardless of type) in the background. This has changed recently depending on what the music is. I can now press buttons tuned into Radio 3 but find I am not able to recognise instantly what the work might be – I am normally more on the ball. However, the moment a rhythm is out of place or intonation is amiss, my ear will pick it up. Then I lose concentration.


I fare better with Radio 4 depending on the programme. ‘Just a Minute’ used to have me in giggles (not any more) and the computer keys would lie untapped. On the other hand, Gardeners Question Time (how this shows my age!) is definitely no go where work is concerned. As for TV, I can pretty much do anything in front of it turning it off when I suddenly find East Enders has appeared without my knowing.


Of course, other people work in totally different ways. My youngest daughter  – an ex-Chorister and oboe player – always drives while listening to Heart. My eldest daughter now plays endless tapes by the acclaimed writer, Ann Rachlin so that her children get to know the magic music of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky Korsakov while the stories of Swan Lake and Scheherazadeare read simultaneously. By the way, it was in Oman and listening to these wonderful recordings that inspired her to become a harpist. We used to hear them as we bumped our way along the many dirt tracks into the desert.


Can I work with conversations going on in the background? Yes, is the answer and it doesn’t seem to matter what comprises the subject matter.


I am sure others would treat extraneousnoises in very different ways and I would be interested to know what they are. I loathe the tedious music one hears in shops and restaurants but I guess we have to live with it. What, for me,  is far worse, is the non-stop repetition of The Four Seasons that one hears on the phone when patiently waiting in the queue for someone to say, …’How may I help you?’


Now on to the subject of young people’s interest in hobbies, sporting activities and the arts….


I – and many others – have been conditioned to think that it is the arts that are not favoured by teenagers. It’s not cool to be attracted to classical music; nor to sports such as rowing. Drama. Again, this has been brought to my attention by my delightful helpers.


The rowing enthusiast says how the members of his club strive time and time again to interest teenagers to become involved in the sport.  Golf is perhaps different in that it has never appealed to the masses at a young age. It’s expensive for a start and seen as a ‘sedentary’ sport along with bowling. However, there used to be a lot of people in their twenties who enjoyed the game and now no more. Obviously this must depend on where you live and somewhere rural is more likely to attract older people than in urban places where the population is greater in number. Tennis, in spite of its broader appeal, is suffering too.


So this brings me to music… You can shoot me down in flames on this, but I believe there are many opportunities out there if you are prepared to look for them. Schools may not have the resources any more to include the arts in the way that they should do. However, people in this day and age now expect everything to be handed to them on a plate. Also, you can throw as much money at something and it won’t make a jot of difference to the situation. If, on the other hand, you have a person in charge who has drive, motivation, confidence, ability and who is not frightened of initial opposition, it’s possible to turn round a poor organisation into one that is highly sort after and in a short space of time. I remember reading a feature in the Daily Telegraph supplement in which a new head had been appointed to a very poorly rated school in south London and who turned it round almost overnight. The first thing she did was to insist that all the pupils wore uniform. The school now ranks higher than most.


In Devon, where I live, there is a huge amount of music on offer. The Devon Music Education Hub is very active as is South West Music School. There are jazz orchestras, choirs, three Devon Youth Orchestras and Exeter Cathedral Choir operates a top-notch Outreach programme. The Two Moors Festival offers school workshops, a high-quality Young Musicians Competition and the opportunity for young instrumentalists to play alongside a professional orchestra. Private schools embrace students from the state system. Courses abound (Dartington for instance). Visiting orchestras offer tickets at student prices (the festival charges £5).  Is that enough…


What’s the saying?… ‘You can take a horse to water’…


Penny Adie

August 2019

PS If you wonder why the guide dog is in the photo, it’s because he was listening to a concert at Tiverton Parkway’s station. I wonder whether it was music to his ears…



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