British Residents’ Association of Switzerland


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As the opening notes of the Diamond Jubilee rang through the magnificent Victoria Hall in Geneva, we knew we were in for a special evening. This was no town hall ‘oompa’ brass band, this was the Geneva Arquebuse Brass Band under the expert direction of Jean Pierre Chevailler. The atmosphere in the hall warmed and the applause lengthened for each number, almost lifting the roof for the virtuoso performance of Variations sur Carnaval de Venise by trumpet soloist Francois Seigneur

The highpoint of the evening, however, was the guest appearance of soprano Marie-Najma Thomas, now studying at the Geneva Haute Ecole de Musique. Indian by birth, Marie-Najma, who is totally blind herself, was adopted when she was three years old by a French family and discovered her gift for music at a very early age. We invited her to visit the Richard Walsh Music School for the Blind in Arni, Tamil Nadu in February this year, her very first visit to India since she left as a toddler.. It was a very special and poignant moment when she performed at the Victoria Hall, to raise funds for that same music school.

The audience was genuinely moved by Marie-Najma’s rendition of Mozart’s Hallelujah, as indeed was the band. Director Jean Pierre Chevailler commented that it was the first time the Arquebuse Band had performed with a singer who had no need of a microphone and in a very unusual move, he invited her to sing again – to the delight of the audience.

Pam Walsh November 2017