St Petersburg to Brighton (via the Opera and Teacher Live)

Dear Colleagues

I do hope the term has started well.

I have the privilege of posting the first in a series of regular blogs from members of the leadership team. The aim of these is to keep you in touch with service developments and tuned into our collective successes as well as perhaps some personal insights.

Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to visit St Petersburg as part of a significant birthday celebration (not mine I hasten to add!). As the city has such rich musical traditions – think Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky and Shostakovich amongst others – attending something musical was a priority. Tickets were duly booked and suddenly I was on my way to a Shostakovich opera at the world renowned Marinsky Theatre. I was both excited and apprehensive - would I adopt the correct audience etiquette, did I have the right dress code, would I clap in the right places and be able to follow the plot, or would I be seen as a culture starved tourist? Being concerned to arrive at the time stated on my ticket I took my seat just before 7pm and settled back to enjoy the experience of a lifetime and waited. And waited. And waited…

At about 7.20 the string section shuffled casually into the pit followed by some of the woodwind players. By 7.30 the brass and percussion players had decided to turn up, shortly to be followed by Maestro Valery Gergiev. He duly acknowledged the packed audience and we were off, (albeit 30 minutes later than advertised). Need I have downed my glass of merlot so quickly? Actually I could have squeezed in another...

The opera was incredible and we left our seats some two hours later following well received curtain calls only to find that this was the interval at the end of Act 1! Fast forward via three more acts, two more intervals (and a few extra merlots along the way) and we find Maestro Gergiev and the stunning cast taking their curtain calls... at 15 minutes to midnight. We certainly had good value from our rubles!

What relevance is any of this to me, I hear you ask? Well, I have reflected that my first and possibly only experience of a night at a Russian opera had at its core everything I had hoped - incredible music performed to the highest standard imaginable in a truly amazing opera house. But what surrounded my musical experience was quite different to anything I had previously encountered - from the start time to the finish time, the seemingly casual attitude of the orchestra, the clientele, the ritual of the curtain calls and the spacing and duration of the intervals.

The relevance of this is that whilst the core purpose of our work continues to be providing high quality music opportunities for children and young people, some of our experiences and working practices to support this will change and develop over time. For instance we have undergone a significant change in the use of the building in recent months, we are exploring the future governance of the service and the introduction of Teacher Live will have an impact on how we all do our jobs. Additionally we have staff turnover, and have recently said goodbye to valued colleagues (Nadine, Louis, Lucy and temporarily Francesca) and welcomed new members to the team (Peter, Natalie, Louis, Rosanna, Rachel and Bethan).

So what else is new? Well in addition to these regular blogs we will also provide fortnightly email prompts regarding key dates and deadlines to help support you in your work. Just as the audience feedback was undoubtedly important to the musicians and cast at the Marinsky Theatre, we continue to value your views. Please therefore do feedback on what you read in these blogs and the type of content you would like included in the future as well as on how your work is going. We know of the tremendous impact of your work on the lives of children and young people and are particularly keen to hear of success stories. Please do share these with any members of the leadership team so that we can celebrate all that music brings and continue to build a compelling case for music education in our city.

Best wishes for the term ahead,


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