I think some London orchestras and venues are doing an exceptional job
at promoting classical music to the younger audience.
Two nights ago, I was at the London Symphony Orchestra's Tchaikovsky
concert. It was conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, and a part of the
Discovery series. The Barbican Hall was almost full house, with 20-30
somethings, boy scouts, as well older folks. I believe it was a huge
success because of the following reasons:
a)Student ambassadors send out emails to friends 2 weeks before the
concert. Peers sending out emails makes it cool, and it's up to the
ambassador to make it sound cool.
b) buying tickets is through text messaging to a number, and it is
automatically charged to the mobile phone bill.--no money exchanged,
and is COOL.
c) Complementary drink during intermission
2)The concert format is contemporary.
a) MTT talks to the audience explaining the material in the program.
About Tchaikovsky, about the pieces themselves, and his own experience
and feeling about the pieces.
b) selected members of the orchestra are also asked to talk about what
certain passages mean to them. The percussionist was fun, an eloquent
speaker, and his funkily quirky personality came across and definitely
reached the audience. This perks up the ears of the audience so that
they feel a certain attachment to the members of the orchestra, which
in turn draws their attention to the various sections of the composition.
So many things happen within a piece of music, if the audience knows
what to listen to, there is no problem of short attention span!
c) The two large screens on either side of the stage either focuses on
MTT, or the fabulous looking orchestral members, or Tchaikovsky at 23!
or pictures of the highly romanticised Romeo and Juliet.---This caters
to the visual age.
3) friendly atmosphere. High quality performance, and is NOT dumbing
Last year, the Discovery Series featured Pierre Boulez and the Rite
of Spring. The first half of the concert consisted of Boulez being
mock-interviewed by a BBC presenter, speaking about various parts of the
Rite. The second half was the piece performed in its entirety. It was
an exhilerating experience. Even for someone who had to memorize the
piece in Undergrad days for history class, it was still very useful to
see the pictoral queues on screen since it is still pretty hard to keep
track of which movement the piece is on.
I don't believe that Classical music has to go the way of Vanessa Mae,
the Bond Girls, or the Planets, in order to reach out to the younger
generation. One just need to be more creative. The Orchestra of the
Age of Enlightenment (OAE) has done an excellent ads campaign with their
"Attitude" series. I love their posters with "Beethoven had Attitude",
and a quote saying silly things like "Only the pure in heart can make a
good soup."---"Er yeah, 'whatever'.
The Mozart poster says: "I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise
or blame. I simply follow my own feelings." And out of Mozart's head,
flows the thought bubble "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".
It's irreverant, cool, and endearing. As someone on the list had
mentioned, this is portraying the composers as rebels, approachable human
beings, as well as being educational.
I think one should not become too pessimistic about the future generations.
There are lots of amazing minds in the classical music world. And as
long as we are actively seeking new ways to make music accessible, I
don't see why we cannot survive!