I had planned to take things easy in the week before my course abroad but ended up playing the violin with a comedy show at the Fringe. Between tunes this involved long periods of sitting in a small dark closet, stage left and plenty of time to think about the week ahead. The night before setting off, my only worry about the course the following week was whether or not I would actually get there – it seemed such a different world to the dark caverns of the Banshee Labyrinth and comedy at the fringe.
But I did get there in time, and in one piece, travelling from Edinburgh to Toulouse by train (I was thankful that I organised this travel through Rail Canterbury, which took all the stress out of booking the right trains at the right times). Of course I had forgotten to pack some essential items but luckily I bumped into someone else who was going to the course and with his knowledge of French we did some clothes shopping. Then we were picked up by a taxi and arrived in the setting of Albignac at around 7pm on the opening night. To get to this tranquil, picturesque part of the world you had to descend down and down a valley until you thought you could go no further.
The course was structured around masterclasses and private lessons during the day. The first day, we all played to each other and a few comments were made – a kind of icebreaker. Throughout the week, I worked on Liszt’s 3rd Petrarch sonnet, along with a Bach Gigue, and Debussy. The lessons were inspirational, and gave me many ideas on how the music related to the sonnet.
The course is unusual, in that it brings together people from all walks of life and backgrounds. I have formed friendships with people I would not met had it not been for the course, and had the space and encouragement to explore and discuss all aspects of music.
The week was over all too fast and soon it was the final evening beginning with all the participants playing a piece they had been working on throughout the week. After the dinner, the barn was set up for the Cabaret, with candles on the table and jazz piano in the background. Then the cabaret began with various participants doing something other than classical piano – quite different in many cases! I played a set of Scottish traditional pieces on my fiddle.
It was sad to leave but I felt so inspired and that I had learnt so much. I travelled North with a fellow participant to Paris where I was lucky enough to spot a poster for a concert given that evening by a prize winning student from the Paris conservatoire. This was especially interesting to listen to after seeing so many talented musicians during the week.
I am grateful to the GoAbroad awards for giving me the opportunity to have this experience.