10 things I learnt at the Verbier Festival

1. Not being defined by your employer’s name is as much a holiday as spending two weeks on a far-flung beach in the blazing sunshine.

2. You need to know your music inside out if you’re to succeed as a performer, an administrator, or a classical music journalist.

3. Proximity is everything. The more unfamiliar the work, the closer to the performers you need to be. That way it will feel as though you’re listening from inside the music itself. If you’re emotional core isn’t touched then, you’re a cold-hearted unsalvageable bastard.

4. The audience is as important as the musicians in creating a moment to savour. Musicians engage in a conversation with their audience. That’s why musicians need us there. Concert-going isn’t a passive process. A nineteen-year-old told me that.

5. Depressive states aren’t only to be found during periods of prolonged stress or anxiety. There’s a discernible route back to them even in moments of ecstasy. Depression is something which exists in a variety of emotional experiences, good or bad.

6. If you’re listening attentively, chamber music is intense. Sometimes you need to doze after it.

7. Verbier’s Salle des Combins is a ten minute walk away from the centre of town if you’re in a hurry. Leave 20 minutes or maybe even half an hour if you want to avoid the shirt on your back looking like a sodden rag.

8. Young talented musicians face difficult choices very early on in life. Sometimes those choices are made for them, but for a handful for reach dizzying heights of technical ability and musical expression, sacrifices need to be made.

9. Be warned, the seat numbering system in Verbier’s church is counter-intuitive. It defies detailed description. Factor in extra time before a concert to ensure you’re sitting in the right seat, or be prepared for an exchange in French when someone else discovers you’re sitting in their seat.

10. There is no such thing as a shortcut in Verbier. What you think you might save in time you end up paying for on the calves and the inner thigh.

Listen to Christian Thompson from the Verbier Festival Academy explain how the residential training programme is developing the next generation of exceptional young musicians.

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