Day 8: Friday 28th October 2016
Today was bittersweet for the musicians as the students said their goodbyes to the place that they had come to know very well indeed in only a short space of time. The Ballanta, so different than the 'music academies' we are used to in the UK, encapsulates the point of a music academy- music making, working together, and sharing that music with the local community- and it's so much easier to access that once the trappings of concert etiquette and prestige are taken away. The students commented to me how much they valued this kind of music making and how much easier it had become during the week- I hope they have gone back to Wells enthused by the possibilities that they've seen here. There was one last trip to the bakery helped (or maybe aided and abetted) by the wonderful Ballanta staff- jam tarts have never tasted so good- and then we set off for the JT, managing to steal James from Groovy Colours for a short while to help us entertain the children at the school.
There we definitely had the hardest job in terms of a performance space- I felt like I was melting in the heat and I had to pried away from the one fan in the room! Everyone joined forces to do a variety of musical pieces in the apocalyptic heat and the children loved it and were a bit bemused in equal measures. The Ballanta crew have had a great week and have learned so much- they say that teaching is the one way to make sure you yourself learn, and I hope that the lessons this week are those that they will take back to the UK with open minds and hearts.
Today was an emotional day for the JTR crew as we knew we would be headed there for the very last time. We also knew that not much work as such would be done, as we had a full programme of celebrations ahead of us. After our final walk to the school in the excruciating heat of the morning, we arrived greeted by the cheers of excitement from over 500 children expecting us for the promised football game. In Salone football is king and a real contact sport, but our boys acquitted themselves superbly, leading by 2 goals to nil by half-time (30 minutes). Notably every time Mr Meally graced the pitch we leaked goals like a rusty sieve - no advantage of experience there. The JTR boys made a fantastic comeback in the second half, but with a little bit of luck, WCS murdered them 3-3!
We followed this with some games in the school yard during their lunchtime. This was all part of the big build up to the concert in the afternoon: JT Reffel primary and secondary students treated us to some poems in French, a play and a few songs (including I am told as it was hard to hear over the cheers, a very rude rap song) and the JTR team, with MC Angus at its helm, lead the round of singing. By then the musicians had joined us from their morning session at the Ballanta Academy of Music and lead us into an incredible end of concert, with nearly the whole school dancing! Thank God for Bertie's trombone, Hafren's trumpet, Verity's clarinet and Lindsey's saxophone... and the duo of ever joyful James and our own dexterous Dillon on the piano.
We left the school full of sadness but also with a sense of warmth, newly forged friendships and strong connections. It has been an absolute joy to share this experience with Angus, Joe, Rhodri, Freddy, Liv and Lydia - they have been full of energy, enthusiasm and have given a lot of themselves. They have survived a full week of sparkles, songs, story telling in French (chapeau Rhodri!) and hopefully will never forget their time at the school.
Until next year from me...
- Jules Desmarchelier