Programming Classical Music for a New Audience

“One thing I like about it is that it doesn’t make me picture powdered wigs like most classical music.”

The above quote was one of the first things I noticed when I went to you tube to hear a portion of a rehearsal of Higdon’s On A Wire. 

Jennifer Higdon is one of the most performed American composers living today.  eighth blackbird (whose name is deliberately spelled in lower case), is an ensemble formed in 1996, one which is in high demand.  The striking thing about that simple phrase is, it did not come from the pen of a marketing person, a set of liner notes, or a review.  It came from someone who listened to the same video I did and stated their first reaction.

According to critic Greg Sandow, this is what classical music needs to do to survive…sound like it comes from our time, rather than evoke thoughts of powdered wigs and pianofortes.  Don’t get me wrong, I love classical music, but it is easy to forget that, what we in the 20th/21st century have locked in place was a fluid, living, changing entity when it was written.  A new Mozart or Beethoven piano concerto performance was an event.  London and Paris audiences clamored for the next Haydn symphony.

To paraphrase violinist Charles Weatherbee, if we expect people to step into our musical world, we have to be willing to step into theirs. If we aren’t, I fear orchestras go from relevant, to quaint, to antiquated.

Sandow has posted a  series of writings on this subject, which I will offer up over the next few days.  Here is the first.

Read Programming Classical Music for the New Culture (Gregory Sandow)

Underground Orchestra

In pop music, the story of how a band or a writing team came together is fascinating to me.  John Lennon and Paul McCartney were introduced by a mutual friend at a dance in a church hall in July of 1957.  In the classical world, Mozart and Da Ponte were introduced at a cultural affair in the home of a Baron, which would lead to three of Mozart’s best-loved operas.  There are many other examples of chance meetings or introductions leading to memorable collaborations.

Such has happened recently in London’s subway.  An orchestra has been formed by musician Shaun Boswell made up entirely of people he has met on London’s Underground.

 Boswell is creating an Underground Orchestra whereby the whole orchestra (30-100 piece)has to be made up by musicians he meets on the London Underground – they have to be complete strangers and not people he has met before or already knows.

After performing at a number of area venues as a “warm up,” the orchestra must then perform at one of twelve top London venues on December 12th of this year…12.12.12.

With 148 days and counting, The Underground Challenge is a daunting task.

Read Going Down (Arts Journal)

Lost Vivaldi Masterpiece Found in Archives

From a report in The Guardian, “a development described by music experts as ‘a bombshell in the world of Baroque opera,’ a new version of Vivaldi’s opera  Orlando Furioso has been discovered, 270 years after his death.

The manuscript has been dated to 1714, 13 years before Vivaldi composed his later masterpiece. It contains as many as 20 new arias, never heard before – all composed around the time that Vivaldi was also working on The Four Seasons.”

Read Vivaldi’s Lost Masterpiece is Found in Library Archives (The Guardian)

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