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Trish Wheatley gets inspired at DaDaFest / 19 August 2012

What a cracking night for DaDaFest! One act from the Olympic Opening ceremony and one from the closing ceremony, it was as if it had all been planned! Ruth Gould, CEO of DaDaFest introduced it as the biggest night in the history of the twelve-year-old festival. Hosted by the iconic Liverpool Royal Philharmonic and sitting in anticipation to watch Dame Evelyn Glennie, Britain’s most successful percussionist, I totally agreed.

I'm not going to detail the actual performance here, except to mention how well programmed it was with the Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra and the Liverpool Signing Choir. An excellent introduction to an event that had at it’s heart the intention to inspire people to try something new, realise the possibilities for inclusion and that “we can all participate in making sound”. Glennie’s programme of percussion pieces was excellent. It was an encyclopaedic exploration of the senses that left the audience spellbound.

For me, it was the second part of the show that was the real revelation.  We were treated to a fascinating insight into Glennie’s musical process. She started by explaining the very beginning of her journey as a musician when at twelve she had her first percussion lesson. She was given a snare drum to take away with her, no sticks, beaters or instruction. What an inspired way to teach.

She had a whole week to explore the instrument, placing it on different surfaces, getting to know the feel of it. This word ‘feel’ was central to the whole talk. Glennie, through working with her teacher, eventually rejected the use of hearing aids because they would only boost the sound levels but not the clarity which is so key to accomplishing the level of musicianship Glennie aspired to and has since without question achieved.

As a current student of the cello the most insightful and helpful advice that she gave was in explaining that the room in which she plays is part of the instrument. Where you sit, your posture, the number of people and importantly how you listen all affect the way in which the music is experienced. Rather than simply practicing the notes, rhythms and phrasing, she rehearses. By that she means that she imagines the space in which she is going to perform and plays for that space whether it’s a cathedral, concert hall, outdoors or chamber setting.

In answering a question about how performance techniques might be applied to other situations such as a job interview or presentation she explained that when she plays, in that moment, that piece and that instrument are her favourite, she puts everything into them. This really interested me and I’m keen to apply the knowledge that she shared to my own musical and professional journey. For me, the intentions of the evening were brilliantly achieved and I hope that many others in the audience left feeling as inspired as I did.

Keywords: music,opening ceremony of olympics