Georgia 2013

Posted in Blog on 12th October 2013

So it’s my last day here in Tbilisi, Georgia, and I’m only now getting around to writing this. I’ve been here for a week visiting Public School #200, observing music sessions and having some discussions with staff about how they might continue to develop their work... How do I summarise?

Well the sun has been shining and Tbilisi looks beautiful. I soon remembered the few Georgian words I knew and learned a few more, though I still have to spell out written signs to myself letter by letter like a child before I understand them. The underground trains are just as stinky and airless as ever, the driving just as wild – I feel brave every time I cross a road – and I see, or imagine I see, a sadness in faces here sometimes that looks like a distillation of several life times of trouble.

I arrived accidentally in time for Tbilisuri, a festival celebrating the city. There was a street party happening just around the corner, the road lined with makeshift barbeques sending up curls of smoke, and families and groups of friends gathered around trestle tables to eat, drink and make music. The typical band seems to be made up of three men – one demonic accordionist, accompanied by a drummer and a clarinettist, playing gipsy-ish ragtag music, and sometimes singing in close harmony. Sometimes there would be an old woman dressed in black, singing alone and accompanying herself on the panduri. I had forgotten the way music is a part of the fabric of life here. These musicians would play and sing up a storm together, as if they were directed by a single mind, then casually stop to chat, drink, eat a sandwich, while everyone pretty much took it in their stride – no cheers, no applause, no big deal.

It has been two years since I was last here, and eighteen months now since Alastair’s last visit, so really the most heartening thing is to hear that sessions have continued at the school – five weekly groups, each run by two members of staff. Some of the original staff have moved on and some of the children too, but a core of the staff we originally worked with remain, some working with pretty much the same groups of children. I was happy to see everyone! It’s clear that many of the children had become more confident and able to participate in the groups. Staff involved in the programme are just as passionate and talkative. We spoke a lot about what has gone well, and also discussed some difficulties and questions. One of my absolutely favourite things was when one member of staff said she learns a lot from the children in her group; children are better able to communicate their emotions in a direct way through the music than adults, she said.

Staff told me the music programme has made a real difference in the school and has given them a new way to interact with children. I was impressed and touched by their seriousness and commitment to the work, and by their ability sensitively to consider the needs of children in their groups. They were also glad to have a good collection of instruments to use, they said. Many thanks to all who have contributed instruments, money, and time to make the project possible. We hope it will continue to develop over time... Sarah

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