◦ Apologies for a lengthy gap since my last blog – illness got in the way for about two months, but I’m happy to report that I am greatly improved now!
◦ I’m thinking now about this gift-giving time of year – and there is no finer gift than music. As a child in the 1960s, and into my teenage years, I was introduced to music (of various genres) by my parents – this was an incredible gift. I found the classical repertoire particularly exciting, and I grabbed every chance to listen to as much as possible. It was the era of records – vinyl (with all their irritating problems) which were widely and cheaply available on bargain stalls in railway stations and markets, and even the tail-end of the old shellac 78s which could be bought very cheaply indeed second-hand, and were an exciting chance to delve into history, listening to great performances from the past. (The photo on this blog shows the wonderful HMV gramophone I picked up in a junk shop years ago, which enables me to play those wonderful old 78s). The record collection one built up in those days was something to treasure, appreciate and enjoy – discovering and learning so much music was so exciting! Somehow, MP3s just don’t have the same magic, and if you want to give a particular recording as a present, there’s no substitute for a physical disc which you can wrap and hand to a person!
◦ This made me want to experience live music-making. As a newcomer to the bassoon (and a not terribly talented pianist), I wanted to see and hear these performances first-hand. I remember my very first experiences of hearing a symphony orchestra live – I went to concerts given by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Groves, which was such an exciting and memorable experience. (Little did I know then that years later I would have the pleasure and privilege of working with Sir Charles in concerts and even some solo recording.)
◦ This is something that every young person should have the chance to experience, alongside many other musical genres – at the same time, I was also enjoying and exploring pop music (I grew up near Liverpool during the heyday of The Beatles), jazz, big band, traditional folk, Indian Ragas and Gamelan, to name but a few!
◦ Of course, nowadays with YouTube, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play and all the other channels available to us, it’s all so much easier with instantly accessible recordings and videos, and therefore the interest and knowledge must surely be that much greater amongst younger people. Sadly, this is often not the case – the lack of knowledge is sometimes quite staggering. My recent observations include a music undergraduate who didn’t know any of the Beethoven symphonies, a university music graduate (studying conducting) who had never heard of Herbert von Karajan, and a violin student at a London college who had never heard of Jascha Heifetz! Audiences are well down in most concert venues, with not many young people attending, and even when these venues host concerts by leading world performers and ensembles, very often only a handful of music students will turn up. Where is the magic – why are so many young people not experiencing this, or are not even aware of it?
◦ Well, there is a very simple, fundamental point here – you can’t fall in love with something you don’t know about. The key to this is EDUCATION – the age-old process that enlightens young people, giving them the chance to discover for themselves and find their own direction, whatever the subject. There are some education administrators and head teachers who now consider music, the arts to be unimportant and therefore not encouraged in schools – some even repress these subjects by withholding resources. This is totally unacceptable, as it is against a vital fundamental principle of education – giving pupils the knowledge and therefore the choice as to which directions they choose to take in life. Governments also need to be held to account in similar ways.
◦ I feel very strongly that it is the responsibility of all of us who know and care about this to ensure that music and the arts are taught and encouraged in every school. It’s not ‘someone else’s job’ to make these points – if we don’t do it, no-one else will. Food for a lot of thought and action, so that EVERYONE can share in this incredible gift.