Launched in 2015, 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 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! The ethos of La Balie is to play serious music in a relaxed environment: the day starts with breakfast served under the cedar trees in the garden and class starts at 9.30 with 4 students playing prepared pieces in a Master Class environment. A lazy lunch is served 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 an “Aperitif concert” given by the course participants or for a formal recital given by James. The opportunity to perform at the Aperitif concerts has been a great attraction on the La Balie courses and most evenings we’ve been lucky enough to hear two recitals. The second of James’s recitals this summer was held after dinner in the studio, lit only with candles. It was extraordinarily moving, no talking to the audience, no applause between pieces – just beautiful music and a chance to reflect. 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 converted barn 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.
A course for the advanced amateur (Grade 8 and above) and professional teacher with the focus on in-depth study of prepared pieces. This is an intensive course structured as a series of morning masterclasses, afternoon lessons/practice and evening recitals. The course is limited to 8 students to allow maximum participation for all.
Participants may choose three pieces (free choice of repertoire) to study in their masterclass sessions (each student’s chosen repertoire will be circulated in advance of the course). Additional pieces may be selected to perform in the evenings and at the end of course concert.
Class numbers are limited to 8
The Advanced Master Class course costs £1,750 and includes:
- 3 x 45 minute Master Classes
- 2 x 35 minute Private Lessons
- 15 hours of observable Master Classes
- The opportunity to give an “Aperitif” concert (which can be recorded)
- Sight-reading and ensemble playing sessions
- Two recitals from James
- A personalised follow-up report from James
- Accommodation, meals and wine
Much more than a “piano holiday”, La Balie offers participants expert tuition in a beautiful and convivial setting, all combined with luxury accommodation, gourmet food and a chance to explore the sunny Lot-et-Garonne.
Watch a short film about La Balie
For further information and booking, please visit http://www.labalie.com/about-2/
More photographs and video clips can be found on the La Balie Facebook page
What people are saying about La Balie:
“I had the most wonderful week at La Balie. A stunning 5-star venue, and the ultimate piano experience. I learnt so much from James’s truly remarkable teaching and performances, but also from all the other players. Hard to imagine a more supportive, warm and encouraging atmosphere. A wonderful group of people, gourmet food and wine, and a lot of laughter. But most of all, on cold winter days to come, I shall remember standing in the middle of beautiful La Balie in the heat of the afternoon, just listening to glorious piano music pouring out of every window and door. A very special place.” – Colin Winter
“An exceptional course with inspirational teaching”
“A wonderful time in every way – great people, great teaching, gourmet food and wine and a lot of laughter”
“The best master classes I’ve ever had”
“An incredible chemistry of place, people and learning”
“La Balie has been created with taste, expertise and passion” – James Lisney, concert pianist
“Beautiful place, surroundings, food & owners…wonderful to retreat to!”
“The Advanced Piano Course was a great inspiration and it was a real privilege to listen to so much wonderful playing.”