Pupitre de violoncelles

Pascale, who sits next to me in the ‘orchestra’, took this photo while we were waiting to start yesterday’s concert (mine is far left).

I tend to put quotes round the word orchestra because it seems presumptuous to apply it to our motley band. Its members range from eight to nearly eighty year olds – with the emphasis on pensioners rather than schoolchildren. Ability levels are extreme, to put it mildly. But it is great fun.

Christophe (the brass teacher at the Ecole de Musique) has been building up our orchestra since last autumn. He works us hard – over two hours most Saturday mornings, but the results are incredible. Somehow, from being able to play virtually nothing, our band passes muster and we performed a programme which lasted about an hour. And that after a morning rehearsal for three hours. The wind players were complaining about the exhaustion of their reeds and lips; my dodgy right shoulder was seizing up.

Some of the music, like ‘Autumn’, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, was included so that the children were able to play. Others, like Shostakovich’s Second Sonata was a little more demanding. There were plenty of bits, like Albinoni’s Adagio, with well known themes. So a popular rather than strictly classical concert. And the audience of course was friends and families.

The cello section has grown – disproportionately to the violin section, where the little childen outnumber the adults (a good sign for the future). We are now four adults, of whom two are relative beginners, and one nine-year-old, Lilou, who is going to be very good.

We have to be optimistic about the future of music in the Pays Viganais. A new scheme – financed partly nationally, partly by the Pays Viganais – has been launched, and 162 primary school children will start learning instruments in the autumn, with lessons, groups sessions and instruments all provided free. This is really a novelty here, where parents have expected to pay for music, thus making it really a minority activity. But over the past ten years a national initiative has been growing and now it is our turn to benefit from this.

The village school in Bréau will have 33 children learning string instruments, mainly the violin. They will initially learn also to pay together in their school. Hopefully one day some of them will join us in the orchestre de l’Ecole de Musique.

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