The Visual Listening Guide at the 2018 Verbier Festival
In July 2018, I was thrilled to be Musicologist-in-Residence at the Verbier Festival, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary. It was my first visit to this special annual summer event, situated in the stunning surroundings of the Swiss Alps. The Festival is an amazing opportunity for musicians at varying stages of their careers—from the young members of the Junior Orchestra to the stars of the world’s concert stages—to exchange knowledge and ideas with one another, and come together for performances. The public gets to enjoy the fruits of these collaborations in orchestral and chamber concerts as well as an extensive programme of activities and events that are part of VF Unlimited. I presented three different Visual Listening Guides (to Mendelssohn “Reformation” Symphony, Mozart Symphony No. 40, and Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4) at several such events, including a “Les Petits Festivaliers” interactive kids’ workshop, pre-concert conversations, and the Les Gondoliers project. Overall, I had a wonderful and inspiring time. Thanks for having me, Verbier Festival!
Mendelssohn “Reformation” Symphony Visual Listening Guide
The Verbier Festival commissioned a new Visual Listening Guide from me for Mendelssohn’s “Reformation” Symphony, which was to be performed by the Junior Orchestra at two concerts. Prior to a rehearsal, I had the opportunity to speak to the Orchestra’s talented young musicians (ages 15 to 18) about the piece; we listened to excerpts while I took them through the Guide, to which they responded with enthusiastic curiosity (they each received a copy). A few days later, at Café Schubert, the public joined me for a pre-concert conversation about the symphony with the new Guide, before the Orchestra’s second concert at Salle des Combins.
The Visual Listening Challenge
For the first time, the Visual Listening Guide was transformed into an interactive activity for kids: the Visual Listening Challenge! After I gave participants an introduction to listening to sonata form (one of the basic forms of the symphony), using the Guide to the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 and with live music provided by Verbier Festival Academy musicians, the kids were challenged to listen themselves and put the elements of the Guide in the correct order. I’m pleased to say they did so successfully!
The télécabine is perhaps the most unusual “classroom” to date in which I’ve talked about music! As part of the Les Gondoliers public engagement project, I, as well as Academy musicians, joined people riding the gondola lifts to Les Ruinettes. While the musicians gave mini performances, I was armed with copies to the first movement of my Mozart Symphony No. 40 Visual Listening Guide, and, with my phone to play the music, I gave crash courses on listening to sonata form during the eight minute-long ride up the mountain.