Goldie and the social impact of music

Last year it was orchestral conducting, then it was being one of the celebrity wannabe ballroom dancers on Strictly Come Dancing. Goldie is certainly a very talented bloke, with some very influential connections, it turns out. His latest televised project has been assembling and mentoring a band for a royal concert.

The three programme shown on BBC2 over the past three Saturdays have been quite inspirational. The young people taking part were all selected on the basis of their musical talent and from a wide variety of musical genres, including rock, gospel, blues, classical, rap, jazz, a sitar player and even a beatboxer. But the other common thread was that all of them had had some kind of trauma or abuse in their personal backgrounds – and it often showed in the intensity of their performances. For all of them it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with a wider audience.

Goldie had also selected a number of other well-known musicians to help with the mentoring process, and it was what happened when the young people came together that fascinated me. Workshops were arranged for different combinations to make music together. For some of them, this was the first time they had really made music with other people. And when they were later encouraged to co-write or to allow their solo songs and pieces to be arranged (either formally or through jam session) there was a palpable air of unease among some of them at the prospect of losing a degree of control over their own work.

As time wore on, though, trust was established with the mentors and with the other members of the group and some firm relationships were established. Those who had been most suspicious of collaborating with others found that it had become an enjoyable experience. Towards the end of the process, some said it was like being part of a family – something that had been conspicuously absent from the lives of some of them.

The concert itself was a joyous affair. I watched the recording last night having returned from the last of my church annual meetings for this year. It certainly provided some inspiration an the fusion of different styles of music, different performance styles and personalities made some incredible musical moments. I particularly noticed the way in which just three or four notes gently played by the harmonica at a key moment added real colour to a particular song. Players who had their turns in the spotlight then selflessly, it seemed, stood aside to support their colleagues in their big moment.

The key to all this is, of course, relationship: the relationship of Goldie and the other mentors with the young musicians and the mutual trust that developed betwen the musicians themselves. There have always been the divas and prima donnas, but much of the best music-making arises from being part of something much bigger, whether playing in an orchestra, or a jazz combo, or singing in a choir. The social aspects of music have been well documented but are worth coming back to. My biggest concern is that this project does not just leave these young people to go back to where they were, but will help them move forward, to build on what they have been given.

Good job, Goldie.

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