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Patric Standford's latest on 'Class acts'


Patric Standford now 'provokes' us with matters of the classroom. As is to be expected, his latest 'thoughts', supported by historical fact, encapsulate a high proportion of good sense in the small space he customarily allots himself; indeed, his summarising sentence seems to me to be beyond argument. There is, however, rather more to the issues he raises than he offers us here.

Implicit as it is in what he writes, one matter that he omits to mention outright is that, in our 'PC' world (sorry -- no advertising intended!) of supposedly 'classless' multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-ethnic 'inclusiveness' and 'diversity', the term 'élitist' is almost invariably used as a pejorative, whereas Mr Standford inevitably uses it far more literally when writing of 'classical' music -- and his activity as a composer confers upon him especial authority to do so. One reason for this is that the composition and performance of such music require not only rare gifts but also immense and unwavering skill, patience, dedication and commitment that are likewise not for all to espouse; similarly, the sheer concentrative powers required of listeners to many different kinds of 'classical' music (if they are to derive the best from it) are not the province of everyone. But then, why should anyone desire or expect these things to be different?

Chatty informality of broadcast presentation, 'bite-size chunk' offerings and involvement in the kinds of 'outreach' educational projects so often expected of symphony orchestras and opera companies as part of their routine (as if they hadn't more than enough to do already) may well bring certain music to people who would otherwise not experience it and, in some cases, this is bound to exert positive and constructive influence. It is, however, less the principles themselves than the extent of their results that seem questionable; more existing 'classical' music aficionados may be put off by certain broadcasters' overly familiar, easy-listening 'nice' approach than may come to such music through it -- and the rewards of these kinds of 'outreach' are surely often disproportionate to the time, energies and money required to accomplish them, even assuming them to be necessary or desirable.

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Copyright © 27 October 2005 Alistair Hinton, Bath UK


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