I’m rather enjoying my new life as the oldest pupil in the Ecole de Musique. There are other adult pupils, of course, but I think I am the only one in my seventies. As well as my lessons with Jennifer – almost young enough to be a grandaughter – I am now taking part in the school’s group activities
Last Saturday I joined the newly established orchestre – if you can call it that. As well as string players, it includes guitarists, flautists, clarinettists, a boy playing the trumpet (quite well), and a girl playing left hand only on the piano. Natalie, the recorder and flute teacher and now directrice of the école is an excellent conductor and teacher. She is skilfully introducing musical theory and the practice of playing in ensembles. The children are incredibly well behaved, and backed up by one or two other adults, like me, who are a bit further advanced. Actually not all of them – as well as the teacher of our local primary, the clarinet section includes her mother – the now retired estate agent who sold us this house and land and has only recently started learning the clarinet.
The music is very basic but still great fun. We are divided into four groups or voices, and the bass voice was played by me, another cellist, a girl playing the guitar and the left-handed pianist. The other cellist – a pretty Martiniquan – is the mother of one of the girls playing the violin, very much a beginner but clearly enjoying herself.
Then on Wednesday I played in a trio with two earnest little girls, perhaps about ten, who have been learning the violin for about four yearsl. Together with the violin teacher, Gita, we have started playing a trio by Gluck, which we will perform at an ‘audition’ in April. And next week I am apparently playing with another group, a trickier syncopated piece of gypsy music by Lyonel Schmitt. Gita is absoutely charming and nicely appreciative of the presence of a bass line. She has asked if I am happy to play with other groups and I have said I would be delighted.
The two girls were intrigued by my cello – the first time they had really seen one – and one was happy to have a go. Typically of children here they are very much at ease talking to adults and Eve, the first violin, rushed to assemble chairs to support my very heavy case while I unpacked the cello.
As we finished, Gita’s next class trooped in – a group of little girls of about six (adorable and also serious), whom Gita calls her ‘chicks’.
Today I reflected again on the courtesy of children here. I was walking up a narrow lane in town when a boy of about twelve came by. He automatically said ‘bonjour’ as he passed me. Would that happen in Britain? Maybe in the country?