As Mental Health Awareness Week begins on 16 May 2016, stress, anxiety and depression are the commonest problems we face in an ever-frantic world.
Study after study has shown the ‘Mozart Effect’ can help everything from a teenager’s concentration to Dementia sufferers, after scientists discovered patients listening to excerpts of Mozart had enhanced gene activity in the brain areas, including memory. Other studies show it can be more effective than anti-anxiety medication.
On June 1, one of Europe’s leading chamber orchestras, Manchester Camerata, will perform a very special all-Mozart programme with violinist Nicola Benedetti at the Royal Hall, as part of Harrogate International Festivals’ 50th anniversary celebrations.
Nicola is one of the world’s foremost violinists described as a ‘one of the best violinists of her generation’ for her passion, complexity, sensuality and beauty.
I think many things of beauty in life can go some way to helping with our mental health and general well-being. Classical music, no doubt, can be enormously helpful.
Teaching children to play is one of her driving ambitions; she was awarded an MBE for her services to music and charity in 2013.
Music helps us deal with all the invisible things in life – to communicate with each other, listen to each other, feel each other’s feelings and empathise. Music, if taught well, can help us deal with this complex part of human interaction in a very painless way.
The night also features a fascinating pre-concert lecture on Mozart and his own mental health, which Nicola believes will ‘enhance your experience’ of the concert.
Celebrating classical music and making it accessible to all is one of Harrogate International Festival’s trademarks. Previous Artist in Residence of the festival, pianist James Rhodes, performed in a local nightclub (Revolution) – although Manchester Camerata as a full blown orchestra demands the Royal Hall.
Rhodes too championed classical music as an antidote to modern life. His number one iTunes debut album, ‘Razor Blades Little Pills and Big Pianos’ reflects his struggle with mental health issues. Bach, Beethoven and Chopin became his solace.
There’s a misperception classical belongs to other people, that it’s hard. It can be extremely accessible…you switch off in a dark room and you’re not inundated with tweets, or Facebook likes, or ads, you can close your eyes and escape, which we all need to do from time to time.
28 year-old Nicola doesn’t believe it’s ‘a problem’ the music is predominantly enjoyed by an older audience:
I think classical music can take patience and is a type of music a lot of people grow into later in life. There’s no problem at all with that! In saying that, the music is truly vibrant and varied and mirrors all sides of life, and I’ve never ever experienced playing for a younger audience and them not enjoying it.
I love trying to share something I believe in so deeply with as many people as possible. The sort of deep-seeded satisfaction and emotional nourishment possible with classical music is something I wish everyone could experience.
In terms of passion, Nicola’s is infectious. When asked that theoretical question about what you would save if your house was on fire, she said:
Funnily enough, in my hotel here in Ottawa the fire alarm went off last night at 4am. The first thing I did, without even thinking, was to grab my violin. There’s your answer!
Manchester Camerata with Nicola Benedetti, Wednesday 1 June, 7.30pm, pre-concert talk 6.30pm, the Royal Hall. For tickets, visit www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com Box Office: 01423 562 303.