The Transformative Power of Classical Music in the South of France

Rehearsal in the south of France

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.

outdoor market

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


Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

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John also writes thriller novels!

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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1 Response to The Transformative Power of Classical Music in the South of France

  1. Wonderful post John.


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