A Weekend with Bath Phil

It’s been six days since I last posted, which is I think the longest it’s been, so my apologies for that.

The last three of those five days have been mostly spent working with Bath Phil. On Friday, they had the last concert that I will be able to help out with, which was an entirely Bath Phil concert. What I mean is, the last two concerts have been with other organizations, the first with the King Edward’s School, and the second with the Minerva Choir. This concert was comprised of two pieces. The first was a Shostakovitch violin concerto, and the soloist was Nicola Benedetti who did an absolutely phenomenal job, if you are at all interested in classical violin, I highly recommend you look her up. The second piece was excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, which was just played by the Phil, and they did a wonderful job with that as well. My role for this concert was different than it’s been before, in that usually I am at the venue for most of the day helping set up, then I watch the concert, and help clean up. Instead, I wasn’t there for the whole day, I came an hour before the concert and served wine to our friends and patrons of the orchestra. I will say, they are a fairly homogeneous bunch of people. But all very nice.  And we had a ton of leftover wine so I got a free bottle of wine out of it.

This weekend, I was helping out with one of the Bath Phil’s Creative Learning projects (Creative Learning is the education part of Bath Phil). This project was with Young Carers, who are kids who are caretakers for at least one member of their family. For example, one girl who was probably about ten or eleven was telling me about how she sleeps in the same room with her infant niece and wakes up in the middle of the night each night to do things like change her diaper. A lot of the kids also care for people who are disabled in some way, either physically or mentally, or are dealing with severe mental health issues. Bath Phil has been pairing with Young Carers groups from all around the area for a while, and the Young Carers program is kind of the flagship program of the Creative Learning department, which is part of why I wanted to help with it. And with this particular project, the kids will get to perform the pieces they create at Bath Abbey as part of a larger concert which is part of a larger festival in the middle of May. Happily, I will still be around at that point, so I am going to continue going to help out over the remaining weekends that I have.

There are two parts to the performance that they will put on: a musical part and a visual art part. Throughout the course of the project, the kids create a bunch of art that Simone, the general manager of Bath Phil, then animates to create a movie to play on a screen behind them while they are playing music. The process for the music is similar to the process we used on the last education project I went to in the primary school. Basically, Jason, the conductor and founder of the orchestra, finds a topic and gets feedback from the kids about that topic, then uses that to create a melody and multiple rhythm patterns for the kids to play over the melody on various instruments. And multiple members from the orchestra are there as well, who can come up with lovely music at the drop of a hat. I mostly was taking pictures and generally assisting with things depending on what was happening.

I really loved what I was doing this weekend. I would be there for like seven hours a day, but I think that it’s something that is really necessary and powerful for these kids. As well, the people running it have a philosophy that’s much more in line with how I think about leading these kinds of programs, which is not to make kids take part in anything they don’t want to do, but to let them do what they want over the whole course of the program, so if they want to participate in making art then they can, but if they don’t, then they’ll find something else to do. For instance, there was one kid who very clearly has done the program before, but didn’t want to take part in any of the group conversations and would do his own thing for them, like drawing, but was really into playing a tenor drum when we were working on the music. And no one forced him to be a part of a conversation he didn’t want to be a part of, whereas in my experience, there’s often been this idea that the kids taking part in it need to be a part of everything rather than just what actually interests them.

I think it’s also just really important to foster creativity in kids and give them a very clear outlet and way of expressing their experiences, especially since these kids have very different experiences from most people. They also clearly love doing it, there are kids who come back time and time again, and I would see them smiling and having fun picking up the music and getting to create something. So I’m really looking forward to working on the rest of the program, I think it’s gonna be really great.

*A fun little side note. If you don’t know, I have synesthesia, which primarily manifests itself by me associating color with sounds, so for example, my fire alarm at my elementary school sounded pink with white polka dots. On Saturday, I was painting the sides of some boxes as part of our art project and the musicians from the orchestra were fooling around with figuring out melodies and stuff and it was actually kind of hard and discordant for me because the color I was painting wasn’t the color of the music they were playing, so it felt really off, which I’ve never experienced before, partially because I don’t listen to music when I paint. I told Simone about this yesterday, and she evidently told Jason because I was sitting in on a sectional to take pictures and he told the kids that I have synesthesia and would tell them the color of the music they were playing when they finished it. When they played it all the way through, I told them it was a dark navy blue with flecks of pink, which it was. Then a little who is six looked up at me and said “Can I see?” and I had to explain to her that it was all in my head, but it was very very cute.

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Author: iprefershowers

I (she/her/hers) am originally from California, and a third year double majoring in Psychology and Arts Management, a major I created, at Oberlin College. A lot of my interests lie in the arts, at Oberlin I help run a student dance company, stage manage both departmental and student theatre productions, and teach dance classes. I am continuing this interest and involvement while on the Advanced Studies in England program by completing an internship with the Bath Philharmonia in addition to taking three classes in the study of the arts. I am also volunteering at a toddler group and a youth theatre.

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