La Balie is the brain-child of Fiona Page, a high-flying former CEO and amateur pianist. After a busy and satisfying career in finance, Fiona felt the tug of a change of direction as she approached a significant birthday. Here she takes up the story of how La Balie came to be:
I was CEO of another successful independent business that I’d really enjoyed building, but I was increasingly looking for other interests and a better balance – I’d started learning the piano and had been thinking for several years of buying a house in the sunshine. So at 49 I set myself the target of buying a house in France by the time I was 50. I thought I’d spend long weekends exploring different areas and looking for the perfect house: as it happened, I chose a few properties off the internet, went to France for one rainy, foggy, November weekend and came back with a house!
The house was La Balie – a collection of 7 stone farm buildings dating from the 16th century.
When I bought La Balie it had three little cottages that were used for summer rentals. I continued with that for the first summer but then started to think about what else I might use the cottages for. It was an easy process for me: there were four key areas that I was interested in and when I talked to other people everyone seemed to agree that music, well-being, cooking and some corporate stuff would be interesting and fun.
And that’s how it started!
Along my travels I met concert pianist James Lisney, who I was lucky enough to persuade to lead the piano courses and we were off! This summer we’re offering three weeks of courses – the first open to pianists of all levels and the second and third dedicated to advanced pianists. The ethos of La Balie is to play serious music but in a relaxed environment: the day starts with a breakfast of fresh hot croissants, local breads and home-made organic muesli, class starts at 9.30 with 4 students having the opportunity to play prepared pieces for James and the rest of the group. A lazy lunch is at 1.00 with the rest of the afternoon free for sightseeing, relaxing by the pool, practice or further individual lessons with James. We gather again around 6.30 for a chilled glass of something and an evening recital either from James or one of the course participants. The opportunity to perform has been a great attraction at the La Balie courses and there has been serious competition for the available slots! Dinner is either on the terrace at La Balie watching beautiful sunsets or at one of the many local restaurants.
All the classes take place in The Studio, a beautiful old barn, now converted and equipped with air-conditioning, an acoustic ceiling and audio visual equipment which we use to record performances and some classes. We are lucky enough to have two fine grand pianos in the Studio, with four further practice pianos located in each cottage and in the main house.
Piano Foundations – three, one-week piano courses or both intermediate and advanced pianists with the aim of consolidating technique
Advanced Master Classes – two separate weeks of offering in-depth study of prepared pieces.
All classes will be limited to ten participants, giving each student the opportunity to work closely with James Lisney to enhance, deepen and improve their musical ability as well as to share musical interests with the other members of the group. More than just a “piano holiday”, La Balie offers participants expert tuition in a beautiful and convivial setting.
For further information and booking, please visit http://www.labalie.com/about-2/