“Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best.” ~ Henry Van Dyke
I spent the first week of July in the Laurentians, immersed in listening to and learning to perform early music as a participant in the CAMMAC summer program (http://cammac.ca/en/). I am not sure how to describe this experience properly and yet it is one that I really want to share. While in the midst of such extraordinary musicians, I felt awe-struck, inspired, intimidated, frustrated, envious, challenged and motivated – all at the same time! Throughout the week, I was an audience member, student and performer, helping others when I could, while learning from the expertise of more skilled musicians. I had the opportunity not just to play my recorder, but to explore early music in a more holistic way…to listen, to discover music history, to interpret musical notation, to feel music physically through trying to learn some baroque dance steps. In many ways it was, for me, a glimpse at a music education so different from the one I received as a child, a view of the kind of music education that I believe every child - every person - should receive.
I was struck by the collective passion for early music, as well as the skill and dedication of each of the artists and educators there. I found myself wondering about just when it is that a person knows that s/he possesses a musical gift, and what it takes to transform that realization into the habits, practises and studies that produce a well-rounded musician. It seems that an individual with musical potential and/or the desire to make music also needs a family that recognizes, encourages and supports that potential, and a community and education system that values the arts and provides opportunities for artistic expression. I wish things had been different with my musical upbringing and education, though I have no regrets about returning as an adult to the love of music I know I had as a child. I am grateful for the time at CAMMAC – for the time to be immersed in a unique musical culture, and to think further about what I need to do to experience and appreciate music more fully. Through observing and making music with many gifted people I received new motivation to continue my musical journey and to be open to the possible places it will take me.
Thank you to Matthias Maute, Femke Bergsma, Vincent Lauzer, Geneviève Soly, Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière, Olivier Brault and the many teachers who were so generous with their knowledge and love of early music. I know I am not the best singer in the forest, but your example has encouraged me to keep singing anyway. I look forward to next summer!