Art & Culture Spotlight: Classical Music Appreciation

By BRG Staff24-annaguil

Tuesday morning, 10 o’clock. About ten people are assembled in a cozy room, eager to hear excerpts of works by a European composer of classical music. Some of them have been coming to Anna’s class for a few years, some are new, having heard about the class from a friend. Some are residents of the Beaverton Lodge, where the class takes place, others come from outside.

The instructor is Anna Guillemot, a French-born Portland resident, who has, in her own words, “tried to retire a few times, but it never worked.” So, at 76, here she is, sharing her love of classical music and her other love – knitting – with anyone ready and willing to learn something new and to enrich their lives.

It all started a very long time ago, this love of music. When she was 15, her father sent her to England to perfect her English. One of the places she stayed had a corner café which dispensed fish n’chips, beans on toast and other comfort foods but more importantly, they held musical evenings once a week. She still remembers the program, and the fact that two different recordings of Brahms’ piano concerto No. 2 were played and that a lively discussion followed to compare the two interpretations.

She thought she had landed in Heaven! Subsequently, her host parents (who had by then had become “Uncle Jack and Auntie Edna”) corresponded regularly with lengthy accounts of the concerts they attended and the recordings they had listened to, and Anna vowed to find a way to bring such joy into people’s lives if it ever became at all possible.

Eventually, she moved to Oregon and married, went back to college to earn an M.A. in German, then another one in French and media and ended up teaching French at a local public school.

After her husband died of cancer, she remained in Oregon and continued for a few years to teach French, art, knitting, and eventually music and opera at the Elsie Stuhr Center.

Now happily remarried, she spends most of her time preparing her music lessons, which takes “all the time there is” because it is necessary to write biographies that are not too lengthy but still thorough enough, and to compare recordings to select the best one to present to the students.

She encourages discussions and exchange of opinions to liven up the class. People like to comment on what they hear and to offer their reasons for their preference when they are confronted with two or three different interpretations of a short piece of music or an opera aria. A lot of DVD’s are used for visual enjoyment.

Anna also shares her love of knitting in two different classes at the Beaverton Lodge, a wonderfully welcoming environment. When she isn’t working on music classes, she is knitting –or cooking, or reading mysteries, or tending to her few roses … or going crazy over a jigsaw puzzle.

All information about class schedules may be found on her website: annaclassica.com.