August 28, 2011 at 5:42 PM
So far, my Dartington blog has consisted of a time schedule and an implicit promise: I'm going to write about all this. I'll do my best.
First of all, the surroundings. The School is held in Dartington Hall, Devon, UK, and in the buildings around it. The country has hills, some woods, and it is near Dartmoor: humidity is often high. There is a beautiful garden near the Hall. In the past, a School for the Performing Arts (music, dance, drama) used the premises during the year, but in recent years that school has closed, and the buildings are slowly being taken in use for other purposes. But still, there are a medieval courtyard, a Hall, and plenty of studios and practice rooms.
Most summer school students sleep at Foxhole, which used to be the dormitory of the arts school. It takes around 15 minutes to walk from there to the Hall. In the morning, after breakfast, one hangs one's violin, sheet music and music stand around one's neck and makes for the first course, to return to Foxhole after the last concert.
First course of the day: the string orchestra, open to all comers. First rehearsal was on Sunday, concert was to be on Thursday. Repertoire was British: Holst's St Paul Suite, Purcell's Chacony, and Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis. At first, there are 26 cellists, 26 second violins, hardly any first violins (Don't be shy!), and only the librarian has music. After about an hour we have a functioning orchestra. Some people obviously know the pieces; that helps. My desk partner is one of them; in later rehearsals he gets promoted. Caroline, my new desk partner, is a marvel of unobtrusive efficiency and great playing. I take her example as best I can. At another desk, a young player occasionally prefers his computer game to the goings-on of rehearsing. Up to the last rehearsal many of us doubt how this bunch of very good players, not-so-good players and everyone in between is ever going to give a concert, but on Thursday evening the miracle happens: we play better together than ever, we enjoy ourselves, and so does the audience.
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