Music has a remarkable power for uniting people. Whether it’s club-goers getting down to drum and bass, musical-theatre lovers belting out show tunes or a bunch of ‘rusty’ and ‘not so rusty’ musicians coming together to play Sibelius’s Second Symphony.
The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) have been running ‘Rusty & Not So Rusty Musicians’ projects in various locations around the South and South West, giving amateur musicians of a variety of ages and abilities the chance to play alongside BSO professionals. The ‘Symphony in a Day’ Rusty Musicians project on Saturday 2nd February at West Exe School in Exeter marked the final day of the orchestra’s week-long Devon Residency. This week entailed a jam-packed programme with different sub-sections of the orchestra performing and leading workshops in a variety of locations across the county.
Generously, the organisers offered the day to University of Exeter students for free and I was among a group of students from the Exeter University Symphony Orchestra to attend the day. We were greeted by Chris Bell – the friendly member of the BSO team organising the day – and split off into sectionals to begin tackling the symphony. Sadly, the snowy weather the day before meant quite a few brass players couldn’t make the day. However, if anything this meant a more close-knit rehearsal where I felt like I really got to know the other musicians, BSO players and fellow ‘rusties’ alike. The easy banter between the BSO musicians created a relaxed and light-hearted environment and all their advice was supportive, constructive and well-targeted towards each of our abilities. Although I was by far the youngest person in the room, it meant a complete escape from the student bubble, interacting and sharing my passion for music with people I would never normally meet in day-to-day uni life.
The whole day was really enjoyable and the BSO were so friendly – it was so helpful having someone who knows what they’re doing next to you so if you miss an entry you aren’t completely lost! Having the sectional in the morning was so helpful and having tea and biscuits made the atmosphere seem really informal and friendly.
Emily- a second-year physics student and viola player from Exeter University
I managed to chat with a number of fellow musicians, many of whom had attended Rusty Musicians days before and who had come from a variety of playing backgrounds. Some were picking an instrument back up after many years leaving it untouched in its case, others had only recently taken an instrument up or played regularly and appreciated a chance to play with new and professional musicians. All were hugely positive about what the BSO bring to the community by engaging with amateur musicians on such days, creating such a cohesive, friendly and enjoyable project for all.
Another wonderful and unique music making day! Having been on several of the Rusties courses, I’ve gained enormously in my playing from each one, whilst also enjoying an amazing sense of camaraderie with so many amateur musicians of all ages. We are extremely lucky to have these opportunities in the South West.
Sylvia- a lovely clarinettist in her late 50s who is a member of amateur orchestra, the Dorset Sinfonia, and raved to me about her positive experiences of BSO workshop days
The whole day was really well organised with frequent breaks throughout to network and get to know one another over tea and biscuits. In terms of repertoire, Sibelius Symphony No.2 provided a challenge that, despite some tricky corners and not all instrumental parts being covered, was an achievable feat with the professional BSO players in our midst.
We united together to play the symphony as a full orchestra in the afternoon, conducted by the orchestra’s resident Bass Trombone player, Kevin Smith. Kevin found the perfect balance of stretching us and giving us useful instruction and guidance, while acknowledging our ultimate aim was to enjoy the music rather than achieve technical perfection. The informal concert at the end gave us the ideal framework to display our day’s work, with a real sense of comradery. Despite the eclectic mixture of musicians from the young to old, rusty to professional, we were all combined for forty-five minutes, sharing the thing we all had in common: a passion for classical music.