Booked my holiday at last this morning – the usual week of music and food (in approximately equal quantities) in Dunster, near Minehead. I’ve been going to ‘Music Week’ for, I think, 11 years, which compared to some of the other regulars, makes me a newby! We’ve been resident at the Yarn Market Hotel for five years now: it reminds me a bit of the time Doctor Who’s Tardis was stuck on Earth and he couldn’t travel the universe (the BBC were going through one of their regular lean periods). In the good old days, Music Week was held at a different venue each year. By the time I started going the Countrywide Holiday Association (who ran the event) had sold off a lot of the suitable locations, and we could only use two sites: Whitby Abbey House and a place in the Hope Valley in Derbyshire. CHA eventually merged with Shearings, so we lodged at an activity centre near Scarborough one year, and then the Yarn Market, before Shearings decided not to carry on with it. So we went independent, or rather, the Yarn Market offered to run the holiday themselves. Hence, that is where we stay.
So why do I keep going back? Apart from anything else, it can’t be said that we achieve the highest musical quality, and I think we’ve visited most of the local tourist attractions at least twice. I suppose one reason is that it was Music Week that got me back into playing percussion after more than 15 years break. The first time I went it was as a singer in the choir, but the orchestral conductor wanted to do some numbers from Walton’s Facade, and there were no percussionists. So I trotted down the 199 steps (we were in Whitby, as I said) and across the swing bridge to find the little music shop, just up the street behind Woolworths. They had a second hand side drum for sale, which I bought, along with a few other assorted bits and pieces, and Facade could go ahead. The seed was sown. By the following year, I had a pair of timps and some cymbals; by the third year, I had all I needed to play Malcolm Arnold’s Concert Piece (which I think I might perform again this year). Nowadays, I take pretty much a full orchestral selection, although I have to make do with the small bass drum for space reasons in the car.
The other reason is to have an annual get-together with a lot of really nice people, some of whom I don’t see from one Music Week to the next. We listen attentively and appreciatively to each other’s party pieces, and the stronger players and singers help out the weaker ones in the end-of-week concerts – it’s true communal music-making of the best kind. Our performances may not be perfect, but they’re always given in the right spirit.
I’ve resisted posting a blog entry reviewing last night’s prom performance of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, partially because I’m not sure how much I can usefully say on the subject, but mostly because I don’t really want to turn this blog into a critic’s column. Sorry to disappoint! However, I think I might find it rather more difficult to resist a few words about tomorrow night’s concert, so watch this space.