EVELYN GLENNIE, one of Scotland’s most prominent musicians, has issued an urgent call for all music industry figures to rethink how classical concerts are performed to stop audiences dwindling away.

In an open letter to music professionals, the solo percussionist, profoundly deaf since aged 12, raises “huge concerns” about the experience that orchestras are offering 21st century audiences.

Urging the need for debate, Glennie questions the traditional concert presentation, claiming that, while orchestras have all the right ingredients to make a great “cocktail”, they have remained “sitting in a glass, needing to be shaken or stirred”.

Comparing pop concerts with their classical equivalents, she asks why “a questionably talented teenager can fill a 50,000-seat stadium with top priced tickets when a hugely talented 100-piece orchestra struggles to fill 1000-2000 seat venues?”

RTWT here

Hmmm. Here we go again.

I just don’t like comparing what we do to what a pop star does. We don’t do pop music. Big whoop. We aren’t going to appeal to everyone. And I doubt we will ever have a crowd cheering and standing and flicking their lighters (or whatever it is they do) while we play. I can live with that. I don’t look down on a great rock performer, but I don’t want to become one. That’s not what we do.

Sure, I want to introduce “my” kind of music to more people. Sure, I’m excited when someone new joins the “classical” music crowd. But I’m just not all that into trying to turn what we do into pop music.

Other Glennie Concerns:

Glennie wonders if our black is “relevant”. Sigh. I hate that word! Give me a break … please! I want black, thank you. It is less distracting to have us in black and, besides, I don’t have to think much when I dress for a concert! I’m fine with nixing tails. Tails are old and out-dated and, I’ve been told, not terribly comfortable. if you ask me, they are entirely unnecessary.

No warming up on stage? Well, the woman doesn’t play a reed instrument, that’s for sure. We prefer to get out on stage and see what our pesky reeds are doing that day. Will we find that the ones that behaved well the day before have decided to rebel? It can happen.

I do believe we can be less raucous that we often are (when I feel as if I should plug my ears perhaps we are a bit out of hand. Ya think?). Glennie says that opera, ballet and theatre folks don’t warm up on stage and perhaps we shouldn’t either. It seems to me that that comparison is a bit weak. We are presenting music, not a drama. We aren’t characters, merely musicians. But as I said, I could go with a gentler warming up. I’d be fine with that.

Then there’s this:

Lighting and sound effects, like those used frequently in the pop world, could enhance performances, insists Glennie, who is frustrated by the classical music industry’s sense of superiority.

ARGH! Sound effects?! I can’t even imagine! I’m sure a composer would just love that one. And lighting? I remember doing some pops concerts where they tried changing light colors as we played different styles of music. To me it just came across as totally corny. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I was embarrassed by the whole thing.

As to a sense of superiority … sure … some folks think we are superior. Me? I think we are different. I used to think pop and rock singers really thought they were superior to us too. And I’ve certainly been told by some who love that music that they are superior to us. Let’s face it; very often folks think what they love is superior to what someone else loves. That’s life. But mostly I just think we do different things and because of that they are done differently. (I do crack up when a rock concert decides to hire some of us classically trained folk; we are told to dress in our best black and they usually put us in some kind of prominent place behind them. No one can hear us, but they can see us. And I suspect some think it adds “class” to the show. I don’t mean to sound harsh here, but that’s how it has looked to me. (No, I’ve not played a lot of these, but I’ve done a few. And, I’ll be honest and say I really love doing them even while feeling merely like a visual aid. No superiority here. Just puzzlement over the all of it—if they can’t hear us why are we there?)

Another person quoted in the article says:

Some people say it’s just about the music – but if it was they could stay at home and listen to a CD.

I know some people who feel that way. I seem to recall that Terry Teachout has said he’ll never attend concerts of certain composers ever again. I respect the man, but I have to say that a live performance is just so different than a CD, and while he won’t miss a live performance, I think a number of people would. There is a difference. If you’ve not attended a live performance please go to a few and then tell me if it was the same as sitting and listening to a CD. If so, you will join the TT camp. That’s okay. I’ll deal. 😉

But anyway, I just found the article a few minutes ago and I suspect a few other readers (bloggers) who will have a fit when they read it, while some will be rejoicing.

Even we old stuck-in-the-mud classical folk can’t seem to agree on things. Go figure.

See … here’s the thing. I think some people are allowed to be absolutely fantastic, unbelievably incredible, out of this world oboists. Really. (I don’t count myself in this realm; I’m good, but I’m not at the top.) And others are allowed to be beatifully drop-dead gorgeous people.

But I think to be both is simply wrong.

Wrong, I tell ya! 😉

My love-hate affair with the classics gave me a valuable lesson about life in general. I learned that if you want someone to like something, the only thing you can do is bring them together, once or twice, and then back off. If you try to force them together again and again, or try to play cute games to encourage familiarity and acceptance, you’ll probably end up creating dislike.

This article talks about one man’s experience with his music appreciation class, sixty five years ago or so. It’s just an interesting read.


Ahhh … Memories! (Warning: slightly lengthy, most likely boring stuff ahead)

When I was in elementary school I don’t believe we listened to any classical music there. We did sing, though. We had books that had old songs in them and we had some sort of music time when we all sang, perhaps once a week or so. I can’t even remember if we had instruments to accompany us, although there’s a vague recollection of an autoharp. I liked to sing, so I was fine with this part of school. We also had music lessons on an insrument of (sort of) our choice if we so wished, once we reached fifth grade. I played (poorly) flute in fifth and sixth grade. I think I ended my flute career after playing “American Patrol”. Exciting, eh? (Oboe came between sixth and seventh, and it was clearly “mine” … so different than the way flute felt.)

In my last two years of elementary school I even sang in a choir and then a smaller group that included something like four boys and four girls. I remember dressing up in a flapper dress (remember making that for me, mom?) and singing “Tea for Two” and “Baby Face” among other songs. The smaller group was supposed to be specially selected (I have to admit I am no great singer, though, so I’m not sure why I was in it), and we even had our own little end of the year party. (I mostly remember collecting pollywogs from a nearby creek, as well as getting all dreamy-eyed over one of the cute boys when “Cherish” was playing on the record player.) Fun times, really.

My family sang a lot as well. I remember singing in the car to and from church. Hmmm. I wonder if that’s just a dream or if it really happened? No, I’m sure it did; my family still likes to sing, and we do the harmony thing and all. I particularly remember “I’ve been Workin’ on the Railroad” for some reason. I sang with a good friend, too, and her family sang together a lot as well. We sang “Barney Google” so many times I’m sure it drove her family nuts, and the entire family sang “The Yosemite Village Store”. I remember music almost always being played in our family car. I remember my father driving me to my (extremely early) Saturday morning piano lesson and I think on the way home we’d listen to some classical program that talked about music and then played it. Such a blur, though. (So much of my life is rather blurry!)

I guess my love of classical music just grew as I grew. My parents took us to California Youth Symphony concerts. I don’t remember much from them, aside from having something to keep us quiet—Lifesavers perhaps, mom? I remember a conductor, Aaron Sten, would sternly turn around and glare at the audience or, more likely, reprimand us if we clapped in the wrong place. But other than that it’s sort of a blur.

I think my deep love began when I began playing oboe myself. It wasn’t so much listening as it was being in the thick of it all. There is nothing like being IN “surround sound”. Being in and a part and feeling as if you are being wrapped in music … or soaked in it. Listening came, I believe, much later. At least that’s the way I’m thinking right now. I can always change the story later, eh? Maybe if things unblur a bit. We’ll see.