It all started 35 years ago in France...
In 1982, staff at the Ministry of Culture dreamed up an idea for a new kind of musical holiday. They imagined a day where free, live music would be everywhere: street corners and parks, rooftops and gardens, store fronts and mountaintops.
And, unlike a typical music festival, anyone and everyone would be invited to join and play music, or host performances. The event would take place on the summer solstice, June 21, and would be called Fête De La Musique. In French, the name means both “festival of music” and “make music”
Amazingly enough, this dream came true. The Fête has turned into a true national holiday: France shuts down on the summer solstice and musicians take over. Almost 8% of the country (5 million people) have played an instrument or sung in public for the Fête de la Musique. Today, Make Music Day takes place in over 120 countries and 750 cities across the world.
It was about time that the UK joined the party. In 2016 I was invited to meet with a group of people representing music making across the country, our job was to organise an annual UK wide, free day of music held in public spaces, from squares to libraries, bandstands to school halls and arts centres, held on the summer solstice, 21 June. Make Music Day UK aimed to turn the country into a stage, and offer a full spectrum of performers the opportunity to display their musical skills.
Naturally Westminster Music Library would be holding some sort of event, but we just cannot do things by halves. So it was that on the hottest day of the year, 25 would-be musicians joined our “Learn to play day” to learn the basics of playing a musical instrument for the very first time. Guided by a workshop leader and professional tutors, our fledgling orchestra learnt a surprising amount in such a short time. They delighted our invited audience with a grand finale concert featuring well known classics from Handel to the The Kinks, and clearly the particpants enjoyed it just as much:
“Inspirational, a fantastic opportunity for all to learn to play an instrument and enjoy music”
With the mercury rising ever higher and our budding musicians heading for home with dreams of performing at the Albert Hall, we had a swift turn-around for an evening recital featuring a talented oboe trio – Oboi. A tremendous performance by students at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, who played repertoire from Beethoven to Mendelssohn arranged for oboe trio. They played brilliantly and even managed to look cool, we could only marvel at their professionalism.
Our audience loved it:
“It was brilliant. Well arranged and an excellent opportunity to be aware that this is a fantastic Music Library and supports the enjoyment and education of music for all interested.”
And from the Director of Make Music Day UK:
“Yesterday was the first Make Music Day UK and there were nearly 140 events taking place all over the UK, from Aberdeen to Swanage, Swansea to Norwich, and everywhere in between. Thank you very much everybody for getting together on this, we certainly feel we’ve made a good start!”
Roll on Make Music Day 2018.
Ruth Walters, Westminster Music Library