ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 01 MARCH 2015
This year, for the first time in several years, I'm not going to be migrating south in June to attend the annual Lot piano camp. At the time the redoubtable Anne Brain was taking her bookings last winter there was too much uncertainty about the future shape of my working life (much clearer now: I step down as editor of the Guardian after 20 years and became Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, in October.
So, with a massive pang of regret, I'll miss this year's courses with two excellent tutors, Simon Nicholls and James Lisney. And, as much, I'll miss the course's new home at the gorgeous little family hotel, Le Vert, which is taken over for a fortnight by the dawn to midnight sound of rehearsal, teaching, performance... and drinking.
Not far away there's a new kid on the block - the first summer piano school at La Balie, a newly-converted set of stone farm buildings with its own spectacular mini-concert hall. It's the brain child of Fiona Page, a high-flying British former CEO and amateur pianist who bought the property a couple of years ago. She found the inspiration to start her own piano courses in Anne Brain and Lot Music - she started popping in on the courses two years ago and was incredibly excited. And (immodestly) I think reading Play it Again may have played a tiny part in reawakening Fiona's passion for music in general, and the piano in particular. I drove over to see the building works at Fiona's farm last summer (it's about 25 minutes from the Lot Music Course) and can testify to its elegance and ambition.
Such is James Lisney's reputation as a teacher that he's also leading this summer's piano courses: there are, I believe, a few places still available.
Good luck to players on both courses this year. I feel hugely envious.