July has a special meaning for my family. For the past eight years my wife has organized a classical music festival in the South of France near the town of Limoux. While Limoux is famous for its sparkling wine, called Blanquette du Limoux, it is definitely not an international hub of classical music. And yet every year for nearly 2 weeks approximately 15 young classical musicians from all over the world come to the Young Virtuosi Summer Music Festival to perform the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Hayden, Handel, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Mendelsohn, Sarasate and other great composers in Medieval village churches.
And what’s not to like about great classical music in the south of France in the summer, with great wine, exquisite cheeses, vine ripened tomatoes, endless fields of Sunflowers and Lavender, tasty French bread and baguettes, strong coffee and wonderful people.
Imagine the Baroque classics of Mozart, Beethoven, Handel and Hayden performed under candlelight by enthusiastic young musicians, aged 15 to 30, in an 800 year old stone church in the middle of the vineyards of the Languedoc region of southern France. The effect is magical to say the least. And transformational for musicians and audiences alike.
One of the goals of the Young Virtuosi Summer Music Festival is to bring classical music to villagers in rural France, and the locals eagerly look forward to their dormant and decaying churches coming to life once a year. This year we have a talented young soprano, Jennifer Coleman, trained at the Royal College of Music in London, singing operatic compositions, supported by our young ensemble.
The logistics of performing eight concerts in different churches over an 11-day period are challenging, and what can go wrong usually does. For example, this year we planned for a piano to be moved into one of the churches by a professional piano rental company, but the narrow steps leading up to the entrance of the church were too steep for the mover, and the burly local church caretakers wouldn’t help because of health and safety regulations! (And this is a modern world?) So, flexibility is the order of the day. Revise the concert program and carry on.
At the Young Virtuosi Summer Music Festival, much like in many businesses, our aim is to never let a problem impact the audience (or customer). We just deal with it. The most important objective is to provide the audience with the best, most memorable experience of their year. And the young musicians feel very deeply about the quality of their performances, whether solos, quartets, quintets, or the full string and woodwind ensemble.
After a turbulent year of terrorist bombings and mass shootings all over the world, hatred, racism and non-accountability being preached by presidential candidates, not to mention a failing economy in Europe and the shocking departure of Britain from the European Union, topped off with major droughts in some areas, devastating floods in others and several massive natural disasters, it is a soul rejuvenating experience to see how ordinary people respond to the uplifting messages of classical music.
At the end of one of our evening performances, a slightly stooped elderly woman with a wooden cane came up and remarked,
“At this stage of my life I cry mostly out of sadness, but tonight I cried with joy. Thank you.”
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
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