I don’t normally watch award ceremonies, in fact I don’t usually watch much TV. However, a friend phoned last night and asked if I was planning to view the Classic Brit Awards (or Classical Brit Awards as they used to be known). When I answered negatively she remarked ‘and you call yourself a classical musician’. I thought about this and decided she was probably right so I switched on.
I totally understand the need for classical music to be ‘sexed up’ for general appeal and I have no problem with that. I played really famous classical piano works in my recitals on cruise ships for years and loved it. I did however play ‘real’ pieces meaning that I played compositions in their entirety as they were written by the composer rather than ‘easy to digest’ arrangements as some may think would be required for this type of venue (cruise ships audiences are often harsh and demanding).
What appeared strange about this award ceremony was the juxtaposition of serious outstandingly talented classical artists with quite obviously non classical musicians. It seemed incongruous. There is no doubt that classical stars such as violinist Nicola Benedetti, pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, composer Paul Mealor and guitarist Miloš Karadagli, who are all wonderful in their chosen fields, deserve recognition. I just don’t see how they can be compared to the Phantom of the Opera cast, Gary Barlow, Russell Watson, and the Military Wives, who whilst extremely popular with the nation, aren’t ‘classical’ at all. It feels dishonest; trying to make the public believe they are enjoying classical music when they quite clearly are not.
Is this the new way forward when trying to promote classical music? By all means dress it up if need be but don’t proclaim it to be something it isn’t. I enjoyed all the artists on the show but feel that we don’t do classical music any favours when we try to make it conveniently fall into a more popularist box.
Sometimes classical music requires a lot more from the listener than other genres (like musical theatre or film music) in order to be fully appreciated. However, the pay off is huge. Perhaps one way forward would be to convince those who are sceptical, to really listen to bona fide classical works rather than arranged or watered down versions such as the genre ‘cross-over’ (a mixture of classical and pop) has introduced. ‘Cross over’ really is little more than easy listening fodder. Why not have several award ceremonies? One for cross-over or musical theatre and another for the genuine classical music industry? In my humble opinion this would at least be more truthful. Last night was a celebration of light entertainment, something which classical music is most definitely not.
Ending on a lighter note!