Earlier in the week Robin performed at our youngest son's school.
This was all part of an excellent scheme, 'Parents at work week', when parents of the school are asked to talk to either a class, year group or the whole school, about their work.
As you can imagine this proves a popular and interesting diversion for the children.
The letter mentioning the project arrived whilst Robin was away on a lengthy trip, so I took the executive decision to put his name forward, to perform for the whole school.
After all, Robin is always keen to talk to children about music and to demonstrate the guitar. Here are three previous posts related to promoting classical music to children: 'The Halle Orchestra, Sarah Connolly and a Meeting with Mark Elder', 'Return to Islay and the need to Promote Classical Music', and 'Arrival in Peru and the Liverpool Philharmonic'.
He is also very aware that sometimes this may be their first experience of classical music, so it's a role he takes seriously.
Plus, he did the same for the eldest son a few years ago...
The fact that the audiences ages ranged for 4-7 years didn't stop Robin treating it like any other concert, albeit a short one.
He prepared in the same way he would for for any concert.
He also gave a great deal of thought to the programme.
He wanted to demonstrate to the children the versatility of the guitar and allow a little time to talk to them about each piece.
All 200 children were seated in the hall when Robin appeared from the music room where he had been warming his fingers up with some scales and arpeggios.
He started by asking them what the instrument was he was holding.
Thankfully they all knew it was a guitar, except for one child who thought it might be a large violin...
However they didn't know the term classical or Spanish guitar. This gave Robin the opportunity to briefly talk about the origins of the guitar in Spain and led nicely into the introduction for the lively flamenco dance, Malaguena.
They loved it and I think many were surprised by the sheer power of Robin's guitar in the large hall.
After some enthusiastic cheering Robin decided to play them a piece in a very different style, and explained that this was an Italian Renaissance Lute piece, over 500 years old.
This beautiful 'Preludio' was also very well received and paved the way for the next item which was the prelude from the first Cello Suite by Johann Sebastian Bach. Robin explained that Bach was born in 1685, which was a very good year for composers, as small children, and in fact adults, like this sort of detail.
One thing Robin has realised over the years, is that when performing to children, one shouldn't underestimate them. Maybe consider the length of pieces played, but not the content.
Children are ripe for inspiring, and introducing them to what could potentially be a lifetimes enjoyment of music, is a heavy responsibility.
All children need to be given the chance to at least try.
After the Bach it was time to demonstrate the guitar's versatility even further.
A bit of rock and roll.
A basic rock shuffle and then, naturally, a little Deep Purple, with 'Smoke on the Water'.
Initially Robin showed them how an electric guitarist would play it, as if he was using a plectrum, then as a classical guitarist, plucking strings individually and introducing a bass line.
Cheers and shouts followed.
As time was rapidly passing there was a quick demonstration of some film music, with the Pink Panther...which they all recognised.
Then a little discussion on the great art of the tremelo.
An ideal way to show this difficult technique is through the piece, 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra'.
Many people often think that it is two guitars playing, but in fact it is one, with the bass line accompanying the melody on top.
Robin started by showing the children, firstly very slowly and then faster and faster until he reached the desired tempo.
Finally it was time to call upon the duties of son number two.
He had been waiting patiently amongst the audience for his stage debut as engineer.
Robin asked if the children knew that a guitar could play with an orchestra.
They either didn't know or weren't prepared to say...
So Robin was able to tell them that he had an entire orchestra here in his computer, which doesn't replace a real orchestra but that would give them an idea of just how fantastic guitar and orchestra can be.
The 'Adagio' for Rodrigo's 'Concierto de Aranjuez' followed, beautifully executed by both musician and engineer. Given that only one rehearsal had taken place this had been rather a worry.
Obviously we were forgetting that the poor child has heard this piece, pretty much constantly, since before he was born.
Even though the school bell rang in the middle, a hazard of performing in schools, the whole event was much appreciated.
The children love the whole thing and have continued to tell youngest just how fantastic his Dad is, ever since. Gaining extra kudos in the playground has been a nice little extra.
The teachers also enjoyed it and the head mistress said she wished they could end every school day listening to such beautiful music.
It's so important to allow our children to hear music of all styles, and to give these children the opportunity to see a musician live is a chance that schools should take when offered.
There isn't a better way to stimulate interest and inspire these young minds.
Since then, many parents have approached me to say how much their child had enjoyed the music and a few have said their child now wants to learn the guitar.
One poor parent however was dismayed.
His children had gone home and told him just how much they had enjoyed hearing Robin play and how this was going to be a hard act to follow.
Given that they are the children of the senior school headmaster, and he was scheduled to speak later in the week, it did make me smile.
'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman