This is just a short one tonight. The OH has to get up at 5.20 in the morning so I can’t be long.
We’ve just returned from a concert at school – you probably know that our school has a theatre and concert venue and regularly attracts world-class musicians who usuallyy give a masterclass to pupils during the day and then perform for an audience in the evening.
Tonight was the turn of the fantastic trumpeter Alison Balsom, who invited her top-flight musician friends to give a varied programme and then introduced the Brass for Africa charity in the second half. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that tears were soon flowing: it was Alison’s performance of La Vie en Rose with the great Guy Barker that did it for me.
Brass for Africa brings music to severely disadvantaged children on the streets, in orphanages, in young offenders’ institutions. These children are often shunned by local communities even though their only crime is usually to have been born into poverty or orphaned. The brass bands that the charity sets up are invited to play at weddings, fairs community events and slowly these outcast children become accepted and reintegrated as part of the community. The charity trains them as teachers and they pass their skills to the next generation of children.
I strongly believe music changes lives, and this is why I am a strong supporter of our own excellent BYMT in the face of the constant threat from the Philistines at Bromley Council who seem to feel that they should not support “elite” classical music, despite BYMT’s community outreach and the fact that it reaches 9,000 young people every week.
But this concert was something else. Brass for Africa introduced two talented young brass players: a sassy jazz trombonist named Ronald Kabuye and Lillian Uwasse Nagawa, whose story particularly touched me.
Lillian was originally from Rwanda, where she was orphaned in the genocide there. She went to Uganda as a refugees and was found living on the streets at 13, and looking after her younger brother. Taken to the Mlisada orphanage in Kampala, she started to learn the trumpet and soon became a leading player in the orphanage brass band. The Brass for Africa project has now trained her as a teacher and she’s teaching a new generation of musicians.
Six years later she has come to London. It’s her first time on a plane, on a train and in the cold and must be such a shock for her. But here, at 19, she was playing with these glittering star musicians. Music does, truly, change lives.
The audience very quickly warmed to the performers and the aims of the charity and there was a wonderful relaxed but professional atmosphere to it all. I had a brilliant evening and left feeling inspired and grateful that my children have never had to suffer such hardship. I really hope that Brass for Africa brings music, and hope, to many more young people.