Royaumont, Part One

Yesterday's discovery was that there is cake at 4pm in addition to the mouthwatering displays of patisserie at lunch and dinner. A taste for you of the paradise that is Royaumont - where are you left wanting for nothing. Fresh air, good food and excellent company are all in abundant supply, and when you step into this remnant of the 12th century it really is possible to leave the outside world behind. B****t and T***p need not cross my consciousness for this fortnight at least.

After breakfast and the occasional motivated morning run or yoga session, the day begins with dedicated one-to-one coaching. A chance to take musical and technical issues to our experienced mentors, to discuss ideas and to experiment. I have the great privilege of working with Juliet Fraser for this sacred hour every morning, and through her gentle encouragement, kindness and commitment find myself brimming over with ideas by eleven o'clock - ready to tackle the day ahead and make increasingly bold artistic decisions. 

The other regular feature of my Royaumont day (apart from the oh-so-important food) is rehearsing the piece we will premiere next week. This is a wonderful learning experience for both conductor and ensemble, and together we are feeling our way through uncharted waters - discovering under the guidance of Léo Warynski, and through consultation with each other, what these thirty pages of music have to offer. 

The remainder of the day is mine to practice, study scores, discover repertoire, reflect, exercise, socialise and eat. And to keep practicing French! My new words so far are stamp (le timbre) and music stand (pupitre) - and I am using them at every opportunity. I am delighted to be part of such an international course, where almost everyone seems to speak two or three languages and have moved halfway around the world at some point. Through music we have not only a universal language, but a reason to gather all these different nationalities in one room to collaborate. 

This collaboration particularly comes to light in the composer seminars - sessions where each student composer presents their work. Not only does each person have a unique set of cultural influences, but the cross-examination of their work from such a diverse room throws up fascinating results.

Tonight is our first concert: a chance for each performer to offer a solo piece. I will be sharing Knussen's Rilke settings, which Juliet and I have been unpicking over the last two days. I cannot wait to discover new works, new composers and to experience the performances and talents of my colleagues. Already after two days I feel excited about what this group of people have to teach me, and hope to have generated friendships and ideas that I will carry throughout my life.