Welcome to the third instalment of Series 2 of Passing The Baton.
Each week, a member of the RBC community will interview a colleague to gain some insight into how the coronavirus crisis has affected their life, both professionally and personally. The interviewer will then “pass the baton” to the interviewee who will go on to present their questions to the next person along, until finally closing the loop with an interview with our first interrogator.
This week RBC Room Bookings Co-ordinator and BMus 3 Hearing Film Module Leader Connor Christie speaks to RBC Pianist Salomé Chitaia.
Connor Christie (CC)
How have you been keeping during the Lockdown?
Salomé Chitaia (SC)
I’ve been doing well. I do love having an active lifestyle but, at a time like this, it’s very important for every person to do their part in keeping this pandemic under control.
I was lucky enough to be able to come back to Georgia and be in isolation with my loved ones. I’ve been keeping myself quite busy – I’m lucky to be able to teach online, which has been an interesting experience. Communicating musical ideas online, where we don’t have the opportunity to hear and work on the sound, has opened up my ears and my mind in a different way. I’ve also been learning new interesting repertoire, which I will perform at the Conservatoire as soon as things go back to normal.
Systematic exercise has become a guiding force for me through this pandemic. I started Pilates as soon as lockdown began and became a huge fitness enthusiast. Also, our weekly mindfulness sessions at the Conservatoire have continued online and have once again proved to be incredibly helpful!
What part of a normal week at the Conservatoire do you miss most?
I miss absolutely everything about the Conservatoire, especially my chaotic schedule. I find that I thrive most when I barely have enough time to make things happen. I miss all the music-making that goes on - sitting in masterclasses or walking into professors’ studios and hearing their musical ideas. I miss being in an environment where music is the centre of everyone’s attention. Most importantly, I just miss the people!
I think one of the most special qualities of our conservatoire is the atmosphere. It is full of the friendliest people I know. The expectations and the level of music-making are very high, but in an encouraging way, not in a strict one. We always want to make our community proud and that’s the driving force for most students.
One of my absolute favourite things about the Conservatoire is practising late into the night. There usually aren’t many people at this time and there’s something magical about nighttime practising when all sorts of musical ideas surface themselves.
I’ve read that last year you had a successful recital in Paris. What country would you most like the opportunity to play in when travel is no longer an issue?
I’ve performed in many countries and cities across Europe; each town or venue has its own unique qualities that draw you in. I would love to go back to any country – Serbia, Poland, Italy, Germany, Ukraine, France and perform there again! It would be wonderful to go back to New York and give a recital there. New York is my second home, I lived there as a youngster and it’s where my love for music really took its shape. I haven’t had a chance to play there yet, so it would be a dream come true to go back after all these years and play for many of my friends and teachers who have been awaiting to see how my musical journey has evolved.
What musician or piece of music has guided you through these tumultuous last few months?
I can’t put that much pressure on a single musician or piece of music. Lockdown has definitely been a time of discovery (or re-discovery). I’ve been going back to the old masters of piano – Benno Moiseiwitsch, Samuil Feinberg, Josef Hofmann etc. There’s something divine about great musicians - they had character and individuality, which is very difficult to come across in today’s world (and not just in music). Quality of character, dignity, unshaken values, and persistence are not present in today’s world anymore. I hope this pandemic can teach us a thing or two about going back to our roots and being the best version of ourselves that we can be.
Procrastination is inevitable in a time like this. Are there any films, books or TV shows that in particular have acted as a comfort blanket in this period?
If anyone has been using film and literature as a comfort blanket, it’s me. I’ve become a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki, so any film of his has a green light from me. Here are a few of my favorites – Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke.
I wouldn’t be a true Georgian if I didn’t mention a thing or two about our literature. The Knight in Panther’s Skin is a 12th Century epic poem by Shota Rustaveli. This work is a huge deal to my family. We have about 50 different editions in different languages in our home in Tbilisi. I have been diving into, reading and dissecting this work for the past three months. It’s an unearthly experience.
As for TV shows, I’ve watched a lot of them, so here are some of my favourites: The Kominsky Method - the writing on this show is absolutely brilliant; Colony– if you’re looking for something adventurous; Arrested Development, my favourite sitcom.
Have you managed to find the time to enjoy some of your other pastimes, such as writing and transcribing, during the lockdown? Or have you found new skills?
I started writing short stories about 50 times since lockdown began, but I can’t seem to find inspiration to keep going. I have been making arrangements of my favourite jazz standards – The Way You Look Tonight, When Sunny Gets Blue, Fascinating Rhythm, How About You – to name a few. As for my other skills, anyone who knows me knows that I love languages and have six of them up my sleeve. So, I’ve been using this time to make my Polish and Portuguese better.
What have you learned from the last few months and what are you most looking forward to doing next?
This pandemic has made us all pay attention to the way we live; it taught us how little it takes for things to fall apart. I am already much more grateful for the things I have in life and I try not to take things for granted anymore. I think a lot of people have re-examined the important things in life and I too will definitely be more mindful of the decisions I make.
I am really looking forward to coming back to Birmingham, seeing everyone and diving back into the chaotic world of music!
Next episode: Salomé talks to MMus student, tenor Jack Parry.