I love classical music. I also love pop, folk, brass band, opera, some jazz….in fact my iPod looks like a collection of lots of different peoples’ iPods. Maybe your music collection does the same. We can now buy music far more easily than ever before, we can carry it around, share it and play it like never before. Despite the greater accessibility of all types of music, classical musical still struggles with the commonly held belief that it’s (a) for older people and (b) for posh people.
Last Saturday, I went to hear a concert in All Saints’ Church in York. It’s a fantastic little church – very old, quite ‘high’, ornately decorated with no sop towards modern-day expectations – not much heating and the toilets are over the road in the hotel. We were going to here Poeticall Musicke, which is an ensemble specialising in renaissance and early baroque music (1680-1710). There was a baroque guitar, three recorders, violin, harpsichord, harp, soprano, viole de gambe and a soprano. They played traditional Irish and Scottish music. And the average age of this group? Mid-twenties at the most. It was truly inspiring to watch and listen to these young, highly accomplished, classically trained, passionate musicians enjoying performing this intricate, delicate and moving music.
Not long ago I taught a class of GCSE Music students about 20th century classical music (expressionism, serialism, minimalism et al). At first they thought it was ridiculous. But, as they discovered the thinking behind the writing, the skill the composers used to take the listener on a journey, the sophisticated use of harmony, melody, rhythm, pitch and texture, their eyes and minds were opened to this musical expression. Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies’ ’8 Songs for a Mad King’ turned out to be one of their favourite pieces (click here for one version). Expressionist, dissonant and disturbing – far from the music they would normally listen to; but they loved the way the music impacted their thoughts and emotions.
Not all young people want to develop musical careers in pop music. You will find plenty who invest their time, energy and money in the pursuit of mastering classical music. From Poeticall Musicke and their love of early music, to classes of young students in GCSE Music classes, to the players in the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela who have escaped poverty and crime and become one of the best orchestras in the world, classical music continues to engage, challenge, fascinate and reward young, bright minds. Long may that remain.Tim Farnhill lives and breathes music and loves to engage and educate aspiring musician to grow. He provides professional music services from private tuition (flute lessons, piano lessons, keyboard lessons) through to conducting, composing and arranging for choirs and orchestras. To find out more about Tim and the breadth of services he can provide, please visit timfarnhill.com