It is easy to take music for granted when we are surrounded by gadgets that can connect us with any musician or genre of music in an instant. However, last Friday evening at the Gatehouse in Oxford, I saw the power that music can play in a way I should never forget.
Gatehouse is a service for the ‘homeless, vulnerably housed and those currently on a low income’. It is free, well managed and run, and enables individuals to come from 5 to 7pm six days a 6 week to eat, drink a coffee or tea, get access to the internet, take a shower, pick up some supplies, such as jackets or socks, and speak to staff with training in counselling. Anyone can come and be the centre of attention as a guest of Gatehouse. I volunteer to help out about once a week, most often washing dishes or serving coffee.
Yesterday, an orchestra appeared to play music for the guests. Called ‘Orchestra Vox’ they filled one of the side rooms, which normally houses the computers and a few tables, with as many members of the orchestra who could fit in that space. I’ll post a photo of them during their warm up, before their 5 pm opening set. They then played two sessions of live music by Mozart and Bartok, literally filling the Gatehouse with the magic of a live orchestra.
My sincere thanks to the orchestra and the managers of the Gatehouse, like Zoe, who seized this opportunity. They probably knew how special this would be for the guests. But they were also brave to play in front of an audience that did not pay to listen. They did advertise their appearance and did a fantastic job.
Their music transformed the hubbub of conversations over baked potatoes and sandwiches to the atmosphere of a concert hall, while giving the guests ample time to converse and order their food and drinks. It certainly broke a certain routine in a very positive way. I thank them not only for their music but also for being with us for a time. An amazingly uplifting start to the weekend.
The Gatehouse: see https://oxfordgatehouse.org/