Monday, January 26, 2009

On getting it right

Alex Ross has a New Yorker piece on the new affordability of classical music. Even in a notoriously expensive city like New York, a person can take in some of the best music-making the city has to offer on a shoestring. Among the economical options investigated are the Family Circle seats at the Metropolitan Opera, open dress rehearsals at the Philharmonic, free concerts by Juilliard students, and . . . organ recitals?

Most music journalists seem nervous about covering organ recitals - they seem to feel that organ music is a specialist interest only. Like most musicians, they don't know much about the technical operation of the instrument or about its repertoire. So until the local symphony orchestra features an organ concerto, it's safe to ignore the instrument entirely. After all, our concerts are easy to ignore - most of them are poorly promoted, advertised only through the church community, and take place at unusual times. I've been very pleased, therefore, to read Ross's writing on organ performances, which is unusually plentiful and often extremely perceptive. After interviewing James Kennerly, the recently-installed organist of St. Mary the Virgin, Ross sums his work up as follows:
There are many other similarly gifted musicians at churches around the city; they exemplify a fairly large population for whom musical life is not a pursuit of international fame but almost a kind of grassroots activism, with aesthetic rather than political transformation as the goal.



Andrew W. said...

I was going to write on this, but I felt there would be no need!

The question is - why is this somehow groundbreaking,? I don't mean with respect to Alex Ross's reporting, but to the fact that I continue to get into arguments with friends who talk about how stuffy and expensive classical music is?

One really does feel the sheer force of popular culture when confronted with these kinds of arguments.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of affordable classical music concerts, please allow me to hijack Osbert's blog in order to push a project of my own, which Torontonians might be interested in attending:

60th annual Inter-Varsity Choral Festival

It will be excellent and everyone should come.

End of hijack,

Anonymous said...

Oops, I ended my comment with a comma. How embarassing. Now everybody will think I'm up-talking.