I have been playing the violin for 10 years, and have participated in many concerts. But by far, the best of them was the concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Easter Sunday in 2016. Even though it was almost two years ago, wonderful memories of the concert are still fresh on my mind and I’d like to walk you through all that happened there; and the preparation that led up to the concert.
The invitation to our teacher, Mrs. Rama Chobhe, to have some of her Violin school’s students participate at the Royal Albert Hall was from Mrs. Helen Brunner, the director of the British Suzuki Association. Helen has visited our school and taught us multiple times and is a wonderful teacher. For years Mrs. Brunner had dreamt of Suzuki students, from all over the world, playing different instruments in perfect unison at the Royal Albert Hall.
We were all extremely excited when we learnt about this. The Royal Albert Hall! On the Stage! It was a once-in-a-million-years opportunity to participate on that world famous stage. But we had to work very hard for this concert. Everyone was practicing the pieces daily, either alone or together, every day. Lots of work, here and there; formals were being purchased, pictures were taken. We were interviewed by the local Marathi news channel and also by a Times of India reporter. Everyone was happy to know that we were representing India in such a grand place.
When we went to London, we had to register ourselves for the Royal Albert Hall performance at the Imperial College. This was the also the first day of practice for all of us, but it was a practice session where all the instruments were played separately. Oh, there were so many violinists – even though our own school in Pune can bring a hundred violinists together, this was just a small drop compared to during these practice sessions.
The next day, we all went to the Royal Albert Hall very early in the morning. It was very cold that morning as we waited to be brought into the Hall. From the outside, the Albert Hall is a beautiful dome shaped structure, but we were just huddled up trying to stay warm. The program was supposed to start in the evening and this was the first time that all the musicians were playing together in the Hall itself. From the inside, the Albert Hall is very huge, very red, and it was completely lit up. The entire central portion of the hall was emptied out for us violinists. We went through an intense practice here with all of the instruments played together. After this practice, all 12 of us from the Pune Violin School got a chance to hang around in the hall and take some pictures.
When the final Gala program started that afternoon, every seat in the Hall was taken – some of the seats had been booked months in advance. We must have also set a new Royal Albert Hall record! This was the first time that so many performers – 1300, from over 28 different countries – had participated at once. Even the amphitheater styled stage was not enough – many of the performers were standing where the audience seats were. The Harmony, the tone, the intonation – everything was just right. If felt as if the sound system didn’t have to do anything to further improve the sound. I even managed to spot my parents in the audience.
It was the first time that I’d played with so many people, and for so many people. The experience was just marvelous. At the end of the performance, balloons fell out from the ceiling to mark a dramatic ending for the Suzuki Gala concert.
The fun was not done yet. The British Suzuki Institute had also organized a 3 day workshop at the Royal College of Music that we participated in after the Royal Albert Hall performance. There were different teachers from all over the world who taught us in enjoyable and interesting ways. Even though we were playing for 3 days continuously, they made it seem so easy. One of the most interesting teachers was Koen Rens from Belgium – his sessions were extremely funny and very good – he made the most difficult pieces easy to play. We worked on improving playing techniques, we played group pieces (Concerto in G Major by Seitz, 1st Movement), I played a solo piece (Gavotte in G Minor by Becker), and I will always remember this trip as the place where I learned how to play a vibrato. It was a memorable trip for all of us.