When I nervously unpacked my violin case at Highworth School in early April, it was the first time I had played in an orchestra or ensemble for nearly forty years. And it was the first time I’d ever sat next to my younger sister – Carole Collins-Biggs – and done it. We reflected how pleased our long dead father, Ken Hillyer (1922-1997), himself an accomplished semi-pro folk fiddler, would have been to see us both there having a go.
My violin had languished in the back of a cupboard for decades until January this year. I once scraped through Grade 7 and Grade 8 but no one hearing and seeing my weak efforts now would believe it. It all ebbed away years ago when I had a young family, a full-time job and got Very Busy.
But I am improving. I made the decision seven months ago to have my instrument restored and to try to play it. I now practise between assignments. The children have long since grown up and gone but I am still Very Busy as a full-time journalist and author. Nonetheless if I keep my fiddle available in my office I find I can do half and hour here and there and it seems to pays off.
I re-awoke my fingers (and ear) via some of my father’s old folk tune books – lots of rapid arpeggios and scales in easy keys. Just what I needed. Then I found a teacher and he’s helping me to learn some of the current Grade 5 pieces – just for practice and fun. I’m not going back to exams at this point in my life. I’m booked on a string course at Benslow in the autumn too,
And I was persuaded by my sister to come along to Ashford Sinfonia. At my first attendance we hammered right the way through the first movement of Beethoven Piano Concerto number 1 in C under wonderful, encouraging Wes Carroll who played the solo line. What an experience. It might well have sounded dreadful (better I hope at the concert on July 13) but I shed a tear at the end. As a life long music lover, concert goer and Radio 3 listener, I know the concerto so well. I never dreamed that I’d be able to be even a tiny part of playing something like that – wrong notes and all – ever again. So exhilarating and moving. I was really quite blown away.
And hooked. So I’ll definitely be back next term for another fix – with like minded people who are warmly welcoming and never judgmental even when I make mistake after mistake.