Friday, April 08, 2011

The sound of music

It’s been a while since I had the chance to set finger to keyboard, as we’ve been in transit. The end of March normally signals the first of our regular migrations, this time north to Scotland, and en route we spent the weekend of Mothering Sunday with DD and her family.

It’s always lovely to see them and to catch up with what our two older grandsons have been doing, but there was a special reason for choosing this particular weekend to do so. The secret is that DD and her two sons are all musical. Between them they play four instruments, each playing the piano and also their own particular speciality.

Almost 4 years ago, when he was 8, Grandson #1 decided to learn the trumpet. He came home from school one day, saying that his class had all been given the chance to try various wind and brass instruments, and as he was the only one who had managed to get a note out of the trumpet, he wanted to learn to play it. And learn to play it he has, with great enjoyment and considerable success, not only in school, but also, as he progressed, on Saturday mornings at the local Music Centre.

For those, like me, who hadn’t come across the idea of music centres, I should tell you that DD and her family are lucky enough to live in a local authority with a well-organised and proactive county music service. Not only does it supply peripatetic instrument teachers, who give individual or group tuition in school to those whose parents choose it for their children, but on Saturday mornings they come together in a number of towns to run bands and other music groups for young, and not-so-young, budding instrumentalists. And so began the family’s involvement with the Music Centre’s end-of-term concerts.

After a year or so of foregoing her Saturday morning lie-in to take her firstborn to the Music Centre for junior band rehearsals, DD decided that a better alternative to standing on the sidelines would be to join in herself. So it was that she finally fulfilled a longstanding secret ambition and began to learn to play the saxophone, making such good progress that within months she too was able to start playing in the band.

Not to be outdone, a year ago, at the age of 8, Grandson #2 began to learn the clarinet. Soon, as his elder brother graduated to senior band on entry to high school, he took his place in the junior band, leaving his fortunate father at home alone to enjoy his peaceful Saturday mornings.

Last Saturday was therefore not only the eve of Mothering Sunday, but the day of the end-of term concert at the Music Centre. It was a morning concert, a first for DH and me, and a total revelation to us both.  We know of course that DD and her offspring are musical.  We hear them practising whenever we visit and have seen videos of previous concerts, but this was the first we had managed to attend in person and, oh, how we enjoyed it!

We loved the numbers taking part and the variety of music and of instruments played. There were groups for junior and senior strings and guitars, there was a beginners’ group for woodwind and brass, plus the junior and senior concert bands. There was a children’s choir, which sang almost unaccompanied, and to round off proceedings with a truly rousing finale, there was the Big (or Swing) Band, which was (to use one of Grandson #1’s favourite words) awesome!

The standard of playing was remarkably high, but above all we loved the sheer infectious enthusiasm of participants and conductors. To see so many ordinary schoolchildren and a few adults who regularly give up their precious spare time to rehearse together and who so obviously enjoy doing so, was a delight. The memory of it has stayed with me all week and I just hope and pray that in this time of national austerity and swingeing spending cuts, this kind of life-enhancing activity for players and audience will continue to flourish. I for one can’t wait for next time.


  1. What a wonderful thing to be able to see -- and hear! It's great to know that a community can participate together in something so artistic and positive.

  2. How lovely, how proud you must have been of them all.

  3. Yes, it really was wonderful, Broad. DH and I sat there with great big grins on our faces most of the time :-) What is also impressive is that the players and teachers come from not only the town but (like DD and her family) from the surrounding villages) and have to travel to get to the rehearsals every week. Real commitment.

    Rosie, we were both proud as Punch! It's been so satisfying to watch their skill develop and really great to see youngsters of almost 9 and 12 (birthdays this month) and their mother taking such pleasure in a wide range of music from classical to jazz. I reckong the Big Band could have given Humphrey Lyttleton a run for his money :-)

  4. I'd rather pay for public services like these, which give skills, self esteem and pleasure, than for totally unnecessary 'consultants', 'think tanks' and 'advisors' by which device elected representatives and paid officials avoid making or taking decisions.

    It must have been a super morning for you.

  5. Oh, so would I, Fly! The budget the music services get to keep the cost of lessons reasonable is so small in comparison with what is wasted in other areas and yet it bears such wonderful fruit. I dread the possibility that a day will come when only the financially comfortable will be able to learn to play an instrument.

    You're right - it was a fantastic morning.

  6. It sounds so wonderful! I hope all of them enjoy the gift of music for life -- and that the budget continues to cover such excellent services!

  7. It was wonderful, Kathy. I'm quite sure the music will stay with them; in fact Grandson #1 is at present hoping to be a music teacher.

    I'm less sure that the service will survive untouched. Sadly the arts and humanities are being disproportionately affected by the cuts in funding for university teaching and this is bound to have a knock-on effect over time.

  8. I filled up a little reading this - I spent my young life playing in bands and loved it so much. Thus far in their little lives, my children have resisted our attempts to encourage their (obviously) latent musical skills but I won't give up. The joy of playing in a group can't be bettered (except by playing in a real orchestra!) and it's a wonderful social environment too. Glad your grandchildren have such a wonderful opportunity.

  9. Glad it brought back such happy memories, Annie. What instrument(s) did you play? I learned violin, but wasn't very good at it, so never had the depth of satisfaction you and my family obviously do.

    No don't give up hope that your children will want to learn. Botg
    h ours were fired by having the chance to try different instruments in a taster session, so perhaps something like that might catch their imagination?


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