Training | December 20, 2023

Hi, my name is Hélène Lust, I am MERITA project manager for ProQuartet – Centre Européen de Musique de Chambre, an incubator that offers support and development opportunities for young ensembles. We work mainly with string quartets, as you can guess by our name but also with piano trios. The young ensembles we accompany during a two-year residency come from all over Europe. The dimension of openness and European circulation are common goals that we share with MERITA.

In the field of outreach projects, which I’m responsible for, we’ve been particularly active in the area of mental health and justice. Thanks to our committed partners, the musicians have been able to propose artistic projects in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, medical-social institutions and some other unusual places for concerts. We are very proud to support these projects, which benefit both the participants and the musicians. I must confess I find it very joyful to see more and more young musicians getting involved in these kinds of projects!

For MERITA, we were naturally thinking of proposing a project focusing on inclusion or mental health, but during the launch of the project in Milan we decided, as a team, to develop a programme focused on young audiences. ProQuartet’s festival programming sometimes includes concerts specially designed for young audiences. We observed that there are still very few proposals in the field of chamber music, and therefore there is a whole field of creation to be explored!

Inspired by the legendary Leonard Bernstein “young people’s concert”, the ProQuartet team started dreaming of daring and audacious projects for the young ones.

We wanted our online training to cover not only notions that have to do with education specifically, such as child development and the different phases of learning, but also practical advice and testimonies. We chose to focus on more poetic concert formats rather than educational concerts. As Dominique Boutel said: “The concert is not necessarily a moment of education, even if it involves transmission, it is a moment of organised shared pleasure.”

Working with our two speakers was a real pleasure and to create a corpus with so many inspiring references was my favorite part. I’ve discovered many high-quality creations for young audiences, and I hope they’ll give the quartets plenty of ideas. In order to create their own show, the ensembles need to explore many projects and approaches from artists and collectives who are already experienced in the conception of artistic projects for young audiences. We have entrusted the first two units of our online training to Dominique Boutel. She worked for the publishing company Gallimard for many years, doing children’s book translations and supervising editorial works. She then entered the French national radio, Radio France, and started producing programs on France Musique and France Culture. She is still very interested in education and transmission and we thought she was the perfect speaker to introduce the notion of Young Audiences.

Units 3 and 4 were entrusted to Violaine Fournier. Working with young ones has always been at the centre of Violaine’s practice, in various forms: as a pedagogue when teaching piano and music theory to small children, as a music therapist in a psychiatric hospital for children, as a coach supporting children and teenagers to write their own show and as an artist and workshop leader in the cultural field in the young audience lyrical company: Minute Papillon.

“Children are the most difficult audience: they don’t like fake and concepts.” Violaine was able to give so much advice as she has already experimented with almost 20 shows for or with a young audience.

We chose to gather the artistic residencies in order to create a context where the European quartets can meet and exchange ideas on similar issues. We regularly organise masterclasses and have learned how important and inspiring moments of conviviality can be. A simple discussion in a corridor or over a cup of coffee can improve a project. Those interactions are actually very fruitful.

We are now in a particularly exciting phase of preparation for the artistic residencies! We’ve received the quartets’ projects, and our three tutors, David Chocron, Violaine Fournier and Francesca Bonato are working together on how to structure the residencies, combining their artistic views and areas of expertise. The first virtual appointments have now been taken with the quartets, and we look forward to discussing their ideas with them.

The next step will also be very exciting as it is to welcome the quartets to France and experience artistic residencies with our partners in the beautiful historic houses of Le Pressoir de Monceau and Ambronay Abbey. Stay tuned!

Hélène Lust, MERITA Project Manager
ProQuartet – Centre Européen de Musique de Chambre