New Works and Young Musicians/Les Oeuvres Nouvelles et Les Jeunes

By Babin, Louis | The Canadian Music Educator, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

New Works and Young Musicians/Les Oeuvres Nouvelles et Les Jeunes


Babin, Louis, The Canadian Music Educator


Abstract: The author offers reflections on the parallels observed in the broadening of both cultural and musical horizons when young musicians from different countries come together to learn and perform a new musical work. The context is the creation of Babin's work for orchestra, Saint-Exupéry : de coeur, de sable et d'étoiles and its performance by an orchestra comprised of youth aged 15 to 25 during the Eurochestries Festival held at Charente-Maritime (France) in the summer of 2012. The author's reflections prompt a rethinking of the approach to attempting new works in the classroom from the point of view of the composer.

Last summer I had the opportunity to live an experience that brought together the joy of meeting new people with the thrill of creation. I had the luck - and the challenge - to direct a group of young musicians in the preparation and presentation of one of my musical compositions. These youth are aged 15 to 25 and hail from several European countries, as well as from both North and South America. Although they were from a variety of cultures and separated by language barriers, they shared a genuine love of music and their chosen instruments. It all took place at the Eurochestries Festival held in Charente-Maritime in France1. This extraordinary event brought together orchestras and ensembles from Russia, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Canada (Quebec) and France2.

Cultural exchange and the pressure to perform

I am well acquainted with the practice in schools, choirs and amateur orchestras of welcoming visiting musical counterparts from other countries or cities. Everyone involved makes a big effort to make the most of these cultural exchanges. I have also participated at music camps, an experience that allowed me to play with musicians from different regions of our country. Such exchanges are exciting and enriching, both for budding musicians and the professionals who work with them. They become a source of invaluable experience, unforgettable memories and personal pride.

The Eurochestries concept invites a mix of cultural exchange that creates a true music festival - complete with the pressure to perform that is integral to such an event. The festival I was part of last summer was particularly intense. More than 40 concerts were presented by various ensembles at venues across the large region of Charente-Maritime in south-west France (home of cognac and Pineau). Participants are provided with room and board, and transportation to venues at the Festival's expense; travel costs to and from the event are the musicians' only non-musical responsibility.

Creating a work with a youth orchestra

There was also my role as composer in residence. The theme of this year's festival was "Saint-Exupéry: Hommage autour de son oeuvre". In keeping with this theme, festival president Mr. Claude Révolte instructed me to arrive with a symphonic work that would be a musical illustration of the writer's ideas and images. The piece I created in response to this challenge is called "Saint-Exupéry : de coeur, de sable et d'étoiles". It is available on the Internet3.

But my reflections here are mainly about the work and musical perception of young musicians merging their talents and efforts in the performance of a musical creation they have never come across before. Young performers are no different than members of the general public: they are naturally apprehensive of the unknown. And contrary to what one encounters with the preparation of Massenet, Mussorgsky, Strauss and other composers deeply rooted in the collective memory, it is always more difficult to propose a new work. The harmonic, melodic, and even the rhythmic vocabularies can be daunting for many young performers. My creative experiences working with young musicians in schools4 served me well at the Eurochestries Festival. Following are a few observations:

Honesty in the work

It seems to me that honesty is the essential quality we are looking for in human interactions. …

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