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Here Comes Treble: A Memorable Musical Moment

...Everyone settled quickly, the five musicians in a circle facing each other. We had plenty of music to sight-read. ‘Sight-reading’ is a skill which many musicians foster: it consists of playing music one has never seen before, while making as much sense of it as possible – particularly when doing so in the company of other musicians. The more one sight-reads the easier it becomes; and the more fun it is. It’s a wonderful way of communicating in the international language of music...

Isabel Bradley noticed a regretful note from Jean of Ashstead, England, in the Amateur Chamber Music Player's newsletter: “…Nobody has ever rung me to ask me to play, which I put down to … living on the outskirts of London.”

While on holiday in England Isabel visited Jean - and the result was a magical musical occasion.

In the Amateur Chamber Music Players’ newsletter, Ledger Lines, dated June 2007, Jean of Ashtead, England, wrote:

“…Nobody has ever rung me to ask me to play, which I put down to … living on the outskirts of London.”

Leon read Jean’s letter and prompted me to write to her; we found her contact details in the ACMP Directory and I sent her an e-mail, asking if she would like to gather some musicians for an afternoon’s flute and string quartets while we were in England on our ‘mammoth holiday’. Jean happily agreed.

We arrived in England and, after a fun-filled few days in Brighton, we drove to Jean’s home, where she came out to welcome us before Leon switched off the car’s engine. Jean led us to her music room, which was large and well-lit by big windows. It was furnished with a cupboard full of sheet music; a piano and its stool, from both of which sheet music over-flowed; five upright chairs for musicians and several music stands. All the pictures and ornaments had musical themes.

Margeurite, the ‘cellist, was there waiting for us. While we sat chatting to her, John, the first violinist and Gill, the viola player, arrived. Adaptable Jean played either the second violin part or the second viola part, whichever was required.

Everyone settled quickly, the five musicians in a circle facing each other. We had plenty of music to sight-read. ‘Sight-reading’ is a skill which many musicians foster: it consists of playing music one has never seen before, while making as much sense of it as possible – particularly when doing so in the company of other musicians. The more one sight-reads the easier it becomes; and the more fun it is. It’s a wonderful way of communicating in the international language of music.

Although I’ve played plenty of chamber music, not much of it has been with string players. It was a whole new genre of music for me. We began with a bit of Boccherini, then moved on to a rather complicated but glorious sonata by Kuhlau, which required a huge amount of concentration and several stops when one or other of us stumbled over a fast passage. We paused for much-needed tea and cake, presented on dainty bone-china.

Having satisfied our physical palates, we then cleansed our ‘musical palates’ with a second Boccherini before moving on to a richly romantic quintet by Romberg. This was another complicated work, in which everyone did very well – until we quite unexpectedly found ourselves playing variations on God Save the Queen! No, we did not stand to attention; in fact, the tune was so incongruous in that setting that we all burst out laughing, before gathering our dignity and doing our best to navigate the tangled notes on the page while keeping the underlying, patriotic, tune singing in the background.

Between pieces of music we chatted comfortably. As often happens when musicians congregate, we enjoyed each other’s company immensely.

All too soon – after about three hours – we had no more music to play. John, Gill and Margeurite each had some distance to travel through London’s peak traffic to get home, so we said our goodbyes, hoping that we’d meet again for more music in the future.

Jean cooked us a delicious dinner; she, Leon and I chatted on until the rush hour had passed, when we continued our journey in safety.

It was an unforgettable sight-reading session, a ‘delicious’ afternoon in many ways.

Once again, through the delights of music, Leon and I found some wonderful new friends.

Until next time, ‘here comes Treble!’

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Isabel Bradley

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