VERBIER, SWITZERLAND – With the world renowned Verbier Festival coming to a dramatic climax this weekend in the Swiss Alps, The Violin Channel recently caught up with a number of participants to get a better understanding of their time at the music festival – and the career-changing opportunities the annual event has presented.
VC Young Artist and 2016 Verbier Academy student, British violist Timothy Ridout guest blogs about his eventful experience:
“It’s coming to the end of my time in Verbier now, and so I thought i’d review just a few of the amazing things that have happened over the past three weeks…
I have many friends who have been here to the Academy before and of course have seen many photos and videos of the place, but still didn’t know quite what to expect… After the flight from London to Geneva I took the train to Martigny, and from there another Train to Le Chable, then finally a long bus ride up the mountain and finally I arrived in the most incredibly beautiful place!
The next morning was an academy meeting where we all got to know each other and were told about what would come over the next couple of weeks. What followed was fascinating though, and is one of the contributing factors to why Verbier Academy is such a special experience. We began working with some actors, starting with some simple warm up excersizes to get good relaxed posture and breathing, and then we started to make up some improvisations with a partner, and at the time I really didn't understand why. I mean it was definitely fun, but I couldn't see what it had to so with music. It all became very clear the next day though, when we started working with our chamber groups.
I was very lucky to be playing Mozart’s Divertimento in E flat major for string trio with two wonderful musicians; Violinist Thomas Reif and Cellist Amalie Stalheim. However before we started working on the Mozart there was something else to do first. We were given an opera, which we were to turn into a five minute play(In our case Puccini’s Il Tabarro). We started to research the plot and the characters and get to know the music a little before making our script and the acting began. A lot of hilarity ensued as we took on our roles and began improvising some lines to the effect of the story, and it all culminated with a performance a couple of nights later.
What was so important about this though? Well, to start with it was a brilliant way to get to know each other, which meant that we could get straight down to serious rehearsing. It also gave us a heightened physical awareness which helped us to gel as a group from the outset, and it made us free to improvise musically together. As we got to know the Mozart more, it became apparent that so many characters that we had explored in our Opera/Play were in the music and through this found greater means to express them. This was such a great experience for me and I would highly recommend some acting classes to any chamber group!
And that was just the beginning of the week… What followed was a phenomenal succession of inspiration from great musicians. I don’t know any other place in the world where in just two and a half weeks you can have viola lessons from Tabea Zimmermann, Lawrence Power and Nobuko Imai - some of the greatest viola players of our time - as well as a wealth of chamber music coaching and so much fun!
After three weeks of this, as well as going to concerts every day, trying to squeeze in some practice and walking up and down the hills I’m thoroughly exhausted, but it’s been a truly unforgettable experience.