Arts appreciation

I have attempted to learn to play various musical instruments over the course of my life. At a young age my father taught me the basics on the piano. Although I enjoyed playing, I did not practice enough to progress much. I still enjoy tinkering on this instrument, and still do not play often enough to improve.

In primary school I learnt to play the cornet. Playing in the school band was fun, but carrying a heavy, brass instrument on the walk to and from school put me off continuing to learn when I moved to secondary school. Instead I chose to take up a small and light woodwind instrument, the oboe. I continued with this for seven years, passing all of the graded exams as well as music ‘O’ level. I considered working for my diploma whilst at university but was advised by my music teacher that, although I was technically competent, I showed little musical talent. This feedback was enough to persuade me to give the instrument up.

As a teenager I was involved in a lot of church groups. I learnt the basics of acoustic guitar so that I could play along to the rousing songs that we sang at meetings. Once again, I enjoyed taking part but showed little aptitude for the instrument. By the time I moved to England my career in musical performance, such as it had been, came to an end. I left the cheap guitar at my parent’s house where it warped and fell apart, traded in the beautiful French oboe that my father had bought me for a keyboard, and used this to encourage my children to learn to make their own music. My boys now play the piano and viola; my daughter listens more than performs.

My father’s beautiful piano playing was the soundtrack to my childhood. This, alongside my own experiences of playing in various bands and orchestras, led to me gaining an appreciation of classical music. My elder son is now showing a similar interest in this genre and we have managed to attend a couple of concerts this year together. My son often gets exasperated with me so I welcome these opportunities to spend time together doing something that we can both value and discuss.

As well as classical music, my son enjoys many of the books that I read and has recently shown an interest in theatre. I love the theatre. Again, I have my father to thank for introducing me to the variety of shows available when I was a teenager.

When my children were younger I would take them to see the popular musicals being performed in London’s West End. My sons showed little interest at this age, but my daughter enjoyed the outings and we went to quite a number of shows together over the years. She attended a weekend stage school when she was younger, has taken part in various school productions and studied drama for her recent GCSEs.

My trips to the theatre have sometimes been in the company of an old friend of mine who is a theatre critic for one of the national newspapers and editor of a magazine that publishes theatre reviews. It is quite a different experience attending a show on press night with an expert rather than for pure entertainment with family. It can, however, be frustrating being unable to discuss the performance afterwards as my friend will not share his views prior to having them published!

I do not attend as many shows as I would like due to the cost of the tickets. When I took my children to see the critically acclaimed ‘War Horse’ in London, which we all enjoyed immensely, it cost over £200 before transport and food. Such an outing can only be a rare treat.

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be offered free tickets to a show at a more local theatre. I had been given two tickets and both my elder son and my daughter wished to accompany me. As I had taken my son to see an adaptation of a book we had both read and enjoyed recently (deadkidssongs), as well as to the classical concerts, I opted to have my daughter accompany me. The play, ‘Fifty Words’, was fabulous and made me determined to attend more theatre if I could.

With this in mind, I applied for a role I saw advertised to be a volunteer host at the theatre where the recent shows had been performed. I feel quite thrilled that I have been accepted and will attend a training session next week. I am also rather nervous. I do not normally put myself forward in this way, but the opportunity to become more involved in the running of a professional theatre is too good to miss.

My elder son’s reaction when he heard that I had applied for this role was rather negative as it is unpaid. He often berates me for not going out to work. My daughter has, however, been much more encouraging. I suspect that she observes how I spend my days and worries that she may one day be a housewife and mother, required to spend her time doing a lot of mundane chores rather than having fun. When I prove that I can do things just for me it gives her hope!

The cost of tickets for theatre shows and concerts is off putting for many and means that funding for the arts can be a controversial issue. When money is tight there is an argument that tax payers should not be subsidising endeavours that can only be afforded by the already wealthy. In many ways I have sympathy with this view but I also think that, as a society, we need the arts to nourish our souls. The industry generates revenue in terms of employment and spending both directly and in so many supporting sectors such as transport, accommodation and food provision (Arts and culture worth more than £850m to UK export trade). It is about so much more than just money though.

The arts are not a commodity, they are an experience that enrich our lives beyond measure. Drama may be enjoyed live, at cinemas or on television. The plethora of genres of music offer sustenance for all, from babies acting out ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ to the elderly reliving the happy memories triggered by a dance hall song or a Rodgers and Hammerstein soundtrack.

I look forward to the opportunity that I have been presented with to expand my knowledge of the arts and to experience the drama that a theatre can provide both on and off the stage. In taking on this new challenge I am stepping outside my comfort zone, but look forward so much to entering the periphery of a world that I have long admired from afar.

A trumpet, foreground, a piccolo trumpet behin...

2 comments on “Arts appreciation

  1. Good luck with the volunteering work! It sounds so exciting. I look forward to your stories with this theatre work.

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