Classical: On the Air: There's Nowt So Queer as Our Folk Music

By Maycock, Robert | The Independent (London, England), September 4, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Classical: On the Air: There's Nowt So Queer as Our Folk Music


Maycock, Robert, The Independent (London, England)


IMAGINE: A caravan rolls up in the town square and opens to disgorge a little concert platform. Out come an amplifier, a pair of loudspeakers and a grand piano. Soon a Prokofiev performance is in full swing - the locals look a touch nonplussed as they peer out of their windows.

No dream, this. It was happening around the Languedoc-Rousillon region, the caravan bore the name of Radio France, and the Arte television channel carried a report about it. We claim in Britain to be serious about "audience development". Could you see the same thing happening here? Either the project would be scuppered by hawkish purists who thought amplification destroyed the integrity of the music, or the townsfolk would be so patronised they'd leave the windows shut.

In another holiday encounter, a radio report investigated the new concert hall in Lucerne. State-of-the-art building work includes ready-made television facilities, so that broadcasters don't have to spend half the day setting up the basics. The hall has acoustic design by Russell Johnson, as in Birmingham's Symphony Hall - at least that's something we've got right.

Who paid? The city voted to provide half the cost, and now it gives free public transport to ticket-holders. This report was on the BBC World Service, so there is no excuse for ignorance. Future UK city mayors, please note. Which way the vote would go, of course, is another matter.

If we really were developing audiences, instead of planning to throw money into cheaper seats for people who already go, there might be grounds for hope. But a lot of us hate sharing privileges. Look at the rubbishing Ken Russell got for making popular films about classical composers. There he was again on Bank Holiday Monday, safely hidden away in a late-night Channel 4 slot in case anybody got ideas.

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Classical: On the Air: There's Nowt So Queer as Our Folk Music
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