Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baroque and roll

King's Lynn, at 60 miles away, is our nearest live classical music venue now that East Lindsey has pulled its arts sponsorship. Or was. Last night's concert by the City of London Sinfonia may well be their final outing to North Norfolk - victims of funding cuts thanks to slews of Government money being diverted into the insatiable Olympic maw.

It was a scrappy and disjointed affair, too. A couple of (deservedly) minor works for mandolin sandwiched between some indisciplined Bach (reports our Arts Correspondent, Tarquith Vonackle).

I found the whole thing dispiriting - not just the performance but the morgue-like ambience.... the audience being twice the age of the players, for one thing. I don't know whether it's because most people don't get into classical music until they're pensioned off, so that it's a rolling cohort being refreshed by newly-qualified bus-passers just as the ultra-oldies drop from their perches - or whether, worse, the age-group is getting greyer by the year because young 'uns aren't joining at the bottom any more.

Sitting outside a bar in Malaga, in Feb, I was thinking the Boho girl chatting at the next table looked familiar. Eventually (the flower behind her ear was the clue), I realised it was the soprano who'd sung in Mahler's 4th an hour or so before. Then, she'd been wearing a stately yellow gown - her friends, who I also recognised as orchestra members, had been in their white-ties and tails. Now, in their jeans and teeshirts, laughing and smoking, you'd never take any of them for the stiff-shirted automatons who had earlier complemented the elegant formality of the Teatro Cervantes so perfectly. They came onstage. They played. They took their ovation and went off - with never a word and barely a smile.

Kids like these come out of music college full of zing and verve and must feel flattened by the dead hand of 'the way we've always done it'. The music deserves better than this.... It'll never have enough of an appeal to generations hooked on the trappings of immediacy - but I'm having a String Quartets craze on my Mp3player at the mo... the notes pop and fizz around inside the head in a way that even Beethoven could never have dreamed when he wrote them, so....

It needn't be for the few. I hope lessons can be learned from the queues of people killing for tickets to see the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra - that it
can be cool, it can thrill, it can pull the crowds in when it's done with enough energy and enthusiasm. Otherwise, oblivion awaits.

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