The weekly programme dedicated to all things choral has a regular feature, ‘Meet My Choir,’ and last Sunday, Dr Michael Hughes – lecturer in linguistics in the School of English and a member of the Cecilian Choir – introduced the Choir, its ethos and its place within the University community. The musicians can be heard during the episode performing Monteverdi’s Beatus Vir.
The feature is permanently on the Radio 3 website here: click here to listen.
The Director of Music came in to work buzzing this morning, having been to Draper’s Hall in London last night to hear the Brodsky Quartet celebrating their fortieth anniversary in their ‘Wheel of 4-Tunes’ concert, which was broadcast live on Radio 3.
The concert, which by the sounds of it was a wonderfully engaging affair, saw members of the quartet introducing the ideas behind this novel approach to concert programming – pieces performed in the concert are selected at random by the spinning of the wheel – and talking about each of the pieces played.
As will happen when they bring the concert to Kent in the autumn, members of the audience spun the wheel to select each of the works in last night’s concert; Stravinsky’sThree Pieces, the Lutoslawski Quartet in the first half, and Tunde Jegede’s warmly evocative String Quartet no.2 (chosen in a lovely touch by Holly, daughter of viola-player, Paul Cassidy) and Mendelssohn’s op.80 in the second half (the latter chosen by the presenter of the programme, Martin Handley).
The Brodsky will be bringing the wheel, and all forty pieces on it, to the new Colyer-Fergusson Hall in November for what promises to be lively, entertaining and excitingly unpredictable event. Not even the players themselves will know what will feature in the concert; you might hear Debussy, Ravel, Verdi, Beethoven, Britten, Barber – or even one of the pieces the quartet have themselves commissioned. Hopefully they’ll even bring the umbrella with them as well (you’ll have to listen later in the concert for the significance of that…).
The concert was broadcast last night, and is available on iPlayer for a week here.
And here are the Quartet performing another work by Jegede, Exile and Return, together with the composer himself, at the Bury St Edmunds Festival.
This weekend sees not only the all-day Sunday rehearsal with the University Chorus and Orchestra for next week’s concert (end of shameless plug…), but across the country, the cultural curtain-raiser event, ‘Music Nation,’ to the London Olympics.
A joint venture between the Olympic organisation committee and the BBC, as the webpage proclaims,
Music Nation’s programme will showcase the best of the UK’s musical talent through ambitious and innovative partnerships and musical performances.
Click here to find out more: there’s also a day of programmed events being broadcast on Radio 3 on Sunday. (Those of us in the rehearsal that day will just have to catch up on iPlayer!).
I was talking to a colleague over a lugubrious coffee recently – it happens – and we came to the conclusion that broadcasting music can be a dangerous thing. You see, when programmes such as Radio 3 play music, there’s a dangerous assumption that what’s being broadcast is automatically good, simply because it is being played on the radio. Lazy listeners to Radio 3 and Classic FM can easily assume that what they are hearing must be of a suitable standard, otherwise it wouldn’t be aired.
The same danger lurks around the printed word: readers assume that, if something is typed, or printed, it Must Be So. Newspapers have an aura of omniscience as a result of this. Wikipedia seems to thrive on this assumption, and how many people have taken Wikipedia’s information as factually correct, when it often isn’t ?
I’ve heard some pretty terrible performers on the radio: soloists with otherwise eminent, reputable period-instrument ensembles, whose performing I wouldn’t even sit through if they turned up at the local community hall. There’s a sense that the performance is condoned by the broadcasting company in the act of putting the music on the air: as though the act of broadcasting confers some seal of approval on it.
As listeners, we need to be wary of accepting that performances we hear on the radio, or sometimes see on television, are acceptable (I hesitate to use the word ‘good’ here, as the judgement of one person may not be that of another: but we can all at least (I hope) distinguish between performers who are in tune, or engaging, and those that simply are not). We are often too passive as cultural consumers, reaching readily for newspaper reviews to tell us what concerts are ‘worth’ attending, what art exhibitions are ‘worth’ visiting, what films are ‘worth’ seeing.
It’s time we listened (and watched) more pro-actively; time we stopped believing in the benign, assumed sanctioning by radio and television of mediocre, even bad music-making, and started making cultural decisions for ourselves.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.