In this blog, our General Director Michael Volpe discusses our new film, What Music Means
Music permeates our daily lives. Yet what defines its centrality to each individual depends largely on the moments when it has punctuated our lives: moments of great joy or distress, celebration or reflection.
In recent years, Opera Holland Park has made films that demonstrated the power of opera on people who were new to it: from football fans to a group of inner city teenagers. Our new film, ‘What Music Means’, is more simple. The way in which most people experience music is often in social situations – OHP patrons certainly weave the enjoyment of food into their visits – but this in no way lessens the effect that music can have on us.
We invited a diverse group of friends to lunch to discuss music from the season ahead, and more generally to explore how the people around the table had been affected by specific pieces during their lives. Not all of the guests were opera aficionados. Our conversation embraced pop, psychedelia, rock and roll, jazz and folk music, as well as opera. It was a fine lunch, too.
When you embark on projects like this, you never know how they will turn out. The looseness of this concept – combining music, memory, food and wine – became an advantage. Across the afternoon we gathered enough conversation to make several films on different topics. Our finished short film is really just a summary. Over coming months we will publish further vignettes focusing on some of the issues that we discussed.
Our group was articulate, self-aware and happy to discuss openly the personal importance of music to them, but within half an hour a story emerged that brought us all up short. Jason Cundy, a former Premiership footballer – who we discovered had a famous opera singer grandfather – explained tearfully how one particular song had made him appreciate the love he had for his father.
Nihal Arthanayake, who presents radio programmes for the BBC, told a story of how one piece of music that had appeared on his radio show led to series of events that were so dramatic that we were unable to include the story in the film. Allyson Devenish, artistic director of Nitrovox, spoke about the way in which the pulse of a particular song would make her stop in her tracks, which drew an emotional response from the other mother at the table, Anna Picard.
Literary agent Natalie Galustian chose a song from the psychedelic era, ‘Alone Again Or’. Kenny Baxter, a window cleaner, talked about how ‘Reet Petite’ always made him dance. I chose John Martyn’s ‘Spencer the Rover.’ We listened to music by Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Cilea, and talked about our impressions of it. Best of all, we continued talking long after the cameras had been switched off and the table was cleared. As the lyrics of Natalie’s chosen song say, “People are the greatest fun.”
What Music Means is available to watch on the Opera Holland Park YouTube channel. Watch now.