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Review of 'Introduction to Blow & Blast' held at Horsecross, Perth as part of the Luminate Scotland Creative Ageing Festival 2013
 

Intrigued by an unusual press release, I travelled up from Edinburgh on Saturday 26th October to attend and much enjoy a rather remarkable musical event which took place in the elusive Perth Studio Theatre. I eventually found an assembly of over thirty wind musicians who presented a varied programme consisting of short pieces taken from classical, folk and traditional music, following the leadership of tutors Tricia and Trona.  The afternoon was powerfully characterised above all by what I must describe as an inundation of enthusiasm.  There was the obvious enthusiasm of the eager players who had mostly travelled from furth of the immediate Perth area for this event. There was the infectious enthusiasm of the two tutor/conductors who set up and now deliver the Blow and Blast programme of musical workshops. There was the responsive enthusiasm of the audience who greatly enjoyed the carefully and attractively orchestrated pieces, and joyfulness and fun of the event.  The participants came to be playing from individual parts tailored to their playing abilities, and to join with other musicians, some of whom they were meeting for the first time, for an event which did not claim to be a concert; it was merely an engagement to make enjoyable music in public with fellows at a similar level in their musical development. When the music making came to a close, audience, musicians and organisers joined together in little groups, meeting fellow enthusiasts to share endorsement of the value of the Blow and Blast initiative and all that it offers.

 

There were two interesting breaks from the music. Trona and participant Dr Maggie Robertson spoke briefly and thought-provokingly of the value of musical involvement in keeping the brain active and resisting decline. Then, at another point, the players were asked for a quick show of hands on three questions:

1.

Who had started playing their instrument from scratch within the last five years?
A considerable majority proudly declared their relative inexperience, which for some was of less than a year’s duration.
2.
Who had taken a wind instrument up as an adult, or had returned to it after a gap of 10 years or more? Another overwhelming majority were in this category.
3.

Who had played in the beats’ rest?
No one was prepared to admit in public to that error, although I understand one or two have since confessed…

 

Tricia and Trona had a vision four years ago of providing workshops for mature people who have always, or even recently, aspired to play a wind instrument, but have never got round to it, and felt great apprehension about taking the first steps www.blowandblast.co.uk .  They thought of this activity, and formally describe it, as “group music therapy for frustrated adult learners.”  Their participants clearly regard these workshops as offering them a safe and encouraging environment to tackle the challenging demands of a wind instrument while enjoyably making music computer-scored in multiple individual parts by Trona, to be within the capability of each individual attender.  Thus tentative beginners can be given the opportunity to develop their musical skills, to make music with peers, and to find pleasure and fun in so doing. On Saturday, all concerned saw the effectiveness with which this vision has become a reality.

 

Surprisingly, relatively few of the musicians came from Perth itself.  It thus seems likely that the fair city can be a reservoir of recruits for further expansion of this admirable workshop programme.  If so, they will find, as Saturday’s players have done, that Blow and Blast brings an enthusiasm-generating opportunity for lifelong learning of psychologically proven value to prospective musical beginners in mid and later life.

Prof. John Cowan



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