The last big classical concert we had in Mayotte was with the Nomad Baroque group who had come for a few days to play. They had invited the music school classical orchestra as well as several other musicians to play with them, including me.

This time, it was OUR concert. I remember playing in churches before as a music school pupil, along with all the other music school pupils, but this was the first time I took part in a concert as a professional musician.

First of all, please bear in mind that we knew the date of the concert roughly three weeks before the concert itself, and that we met to talk about what we would be playing two weeks before said concert. Then, cue a few rehearsals. But as the other musicians were particularly overbooked, these rehearsals took place at odd times with little or no time to prepare. For example, I would receive a phone call on Sunday at 5 p.m. asking for a rehearsal at 9 p.m. that evening. On Friday, I received a text message asking for a rehearsal, so we rehearsed at 8 p.m. directly in the church where we were to play. And finally, in Saturday's midday rehearsal, I was told what we would be playing that evening.

I knew we would be playing a Telemann sonata, which we had rehearsed previously. I also knew we would be playing variations on "Greensleeves", but I only had five out of eleven planned variations. Yesterday, I was given the names of the remaining five. So in total, we had: theme, ornamentation, spinner variation, Spanish variation, echo variation, neo-tonal variation, Bach second-canon variation, Mozart variation, Irish folk variation, Scott Joplin ragtime variation and ricercare final variation. Half of which do not seem to come with sheet music, so would need improvising on stage. Wonderful.

I also learnt that the Mozart variation, which was intended for the violin, would have to go on the recorder after all as the girl on the violin hadn't worked on the piece, didn't know it well enough to play it on stage and didn't feel she had enough time to work on it before the concert. Whereas it was considered perfectly fine to get me to sight-read it fewer than 24 hours before the concert and then play it on stage.

Enter the church. And the other musicians. And us. And a good handful of colleagues, musicians and the odd adult pupil whom I had persuaded to come.

The concert started off with ten minutes of the school classical orchestra. This orchestra comprises the odd pupil from the school as well as some good amateurs who just want to play with other people. There were five of them, of whom three played the flute.

Then the fun started.

There were four of us: Fred, who plays the clarinet extremely well and directs the classical orchestra as well as giving clarinet lessons at the music school. Elie, who was one of the main organists in Paris and who used to teach at the Sorbonne before coming to Mayotte. He is now a music teacher at the music school and at a middle school. Cybèle, Elie's ex-girlfriend, who sings and plays four instruments as well as speaking several languages, and who is now a teacher in Mamoudzou Lycée as well as in the music school. I was the odd one out.

Cybèle and I played the Telemann sonata. Elie, Cybèle and I played variations on Greensleeves. Elie played Vivaldi and Bach on the organ with me turning pages and changing the sounds on the organ when necessary. Elie and Fred played a Mozart concerto. Everybody clapped.

There were 95 adults and 26 children in the audience, which is a pretty good turnout for Mayotte. It's enough for the music school to keep us on as professional musicians and to let us have more concerts. The next concert is on the first of February... and I've already got the pieces I'm going to play, which is wonderful news when you think that I had some of yesterday's variations a few hours before the concert. And then had to improvise another three. Now, we're just waiting for Fred (clarinetist) to say if he agrees with the pieces we've chosen so that we can begin working on them... or start over.

After a week-end rehearsing and playing on stage, I don't feel like going back to school tomorrow, somehow.


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