. Interchanging Idioms: When a "Symphony of British Music" fails to include anything classical should classical music advocates be concerned?

Monday, August 13, 2012

When a "Symphony of British Music" fails to include anything classical should classical music advocates be concerned?

The closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London gave a celebration of British music, fashion and culture. Yet, none of the music was by a British Classical composer living or dead.


This isn't because the organizers don't like classical music. The London Symphony Orchestra played a large role in the creation of the music from recording all the national anthems, playing at both the opening and closing ceremonies. What this shows is classical music, and composers of classical music aren't even thought of, had no relevance when the creators were planning the production.

It amazes me that Benjamin Britten, probably the greatest opera composer in the English language (ever) wasn't given a node. Peter Maxell-Davis and Thomas Ad├Ęs are world wide recognized living composer and yet not mentioned. Film composers like Debbie Wiseman, Patrick Doyle, Craig Armstrong, to name just a few, all went unmentioned.

This oversight isn't the death knell of classical music, but it should cause orchestra musicians, composers and classical music lovers concern. Classical music is fading from the consciousness of the main stream. It isn't even a consideration when organizers of the largest viewed event in recent history is programmed.

And we wonder why funding for classical music is diminishing?

2 comments:

ChrisM said...

I couldn't bring myself to watch most of it because I knew that it would consist almost entirely of pop music. I forced myself to watch after George Michael had appeared.

I mean, I wasn't expecting Birtwistle (much as I would have liked to see the reaction on people's faces), but at least some acknowledgement there there is more to British music/culture than pop and rock music, and rap. Not that I have anything in particular against those forms of music, as I actually rather like a lot of it. But the side-lining of most other forms of musical expression by the British media and establishment - as evidenced in exemplary fashion last night - saddens and alarms me. It wasn't just classical music that was ignored - there was no real acknowledgement of these islands' rich folk music traditions, or of the contributions of British jazz musicians. And actually, what we saw/heard wasn't even particularly representative of popular culture: where was the heavy metal, surely Britain's biggest musical export of the last few decades?

But while I was dismayed by most of what I saw and heard last night, there was one exception: during the Brazilian section after the handover we heard a brief excerpt of Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No 5. So, perhaps there is some hope for Rio... :)

ChrisM said...

Well I watched the opening ceremony of the Paralympics last night, and to my surprise and delight it contained quite a bit of classical music. Britten's arrangement of the National Anthem (acknowledged as such by the presenter), Handel (sung by the exquisite Ellen Manahan-Thomas, from my home town of Swansea), Holst and even a bit of Michael Nyman. Oh, and Errolyn Wallen wrote a specially-commissioned piece. So, no Birtwistle again :(, but it would be hard to say that the British classical tradition (let's call Handel British, shall we?) was exactly under-represented. And much of the music was right at the centre of proceedings, not tacked on as a token gesture, as Elgar's "Salut d'Amore" seemed to be in that 'Cacophony of British Music' a few weeks ago. In fact I thought the whole thing worked rather well, and I probably enjoyed it as much - if not more - than the 'real' Olympics opening ceremony.