Music Soothes the Savage Breast . . .

Music has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,
By magic numbers and persuasive Sound.   ~William Congreve


To say this is a hot summer in the south of France is an understatement.  We are at the Festival de Musique de la Vallée du Cougain, near the town of Limoux and the daytime temperature is around 37 degrees Centigrade (98 F) and humid as well.  We are sponsoring, through the charity Young Virtuosi, classical music concerts in six village churches over seven days.

The bad news is the concerts are in small, stone Medieval churches with now open windows and zero air conditioning. The good news is the performances don’t start until 9pm, a time when most of the south of France emerges from their houses after a very hot afternoon.

Digne d'AmontSo imagine, a small stone church, filled to capacity with 100 people, and the outside temperature now having dropped to 33 C  (91F), with no moving air inside the church.

After a rather long introductory speech by the village mayor and having being seated for the past 20 minutes, the crowd is madly fanning themselves with the programs, murmuring just loud enough to register annoyance, children fidgeting and pleading to go home. Somehow it seems to be getting hotter and hotter.

And then four young musicians mount the makeshift stage in front of the altar, arrange their music on the stands, quietly tune and pause.  They begin Mozart’s Piano Quartet.  Suddenly, the hot, stuffy, sweaty room is transformed, as if a cool spring breeze suddenly swept down from the vestibule. No more coughing adults.  No more complaining children.  No programs used as fans.  No fidgeting. The people didn’t just magically disappear, instead they were magically, and musically, transfixed.

A sudden stillness of awe and wonder descended upon this small country crowd.  For the past six years, on one very special day, the genius of Beethoven, Mozart, Ravel, Bridge, Brahms, Sarasate and Eunescu descends upon six small villages in the south of France, and magic happens.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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