Well, Asimo (the Honda robot) recently “conducted” a piece with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the sky didn’t fall. Chicago Opera Theater provided a live simul-cast of Don Giovanni on a screen in Millennium Park earlier this month and no one seemed to object. And this summer the Grant Park Music Festival will present a concert of Indian music performed with a screening of a vintage Bollywood movie. What is our classical music world coming to?
It seems to me that these are all great examples of the field seeking new and exciting ways of appealing to audiences, both new and old. I plan on attending the Grant Park concert on July 30th and am also very interested in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of The Inca Trail, an evening of Peruvian music scheduled for next October.
Yes, my tastes do run in these directions, but I’m wondering if there are a good number of people out there who also enjoy these types of performances. What do you, our faithful readers, think?
It has been all over the news since Monday, but the CSO is still buzzing with excitement after the announcement that Riccardo Muti will take over as Music Director in 2010/11. Andrew Patner was on WTTW talking about the appointment. Steve Lester from the CSO's bass section and chair of the Members Committee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also discussed the partnership on NPR's Performance Today. Steve also talked about how fortunate we've been to also have established such a wonderful connection with Bernard Haitink. His leadership has been and continues to be rewarding and enriching for the orchestra and institution overall and the recordings we've made with Mr. Haitink document that great legacy. The CSO goes on tour with Mr. Haitink to Carnegie Hall next week and he will also take them to China for the first time in early 2009.
While great things are on the horizon, great things are happening right now.
Last Saturday (April 5) marked the premiere of Introductions, a brand-new weekly program on 98.7 WFMT (Saturdays from 11:00am-12:00pm) which features Chicago-area pre-collegiate musicians doing what they love most; playing classical music.
"It's important to reach out specifically to this younger audience which is enthusiastic about classical music, that we hadn't tried to explicitly attract until now," said David Polk, the show's producer. "I'm excited that I get to expand WFMT's reach and pioneer new ways to connect with audiences via the airwaves and also the internet."
Read more about Introductions and Polk in this article in the recent TimeOut! Magazine.
I just returned from New York and had an opportunity to talk with my counterpart at the NY Phil about their performance in North Korea. While the general press has been great, they have been criticized in some circles, which is completely misplaced.
I lived in Romania for four years after the fall of communism. They had every bit as cruel a leader in Nicolae Ceausescu who in fact implemented many of his cruelist policies after a visit to Kim Il Sung, the former North Korean leader. I talked with many of my friends there about music and they shared stories about the bootleg Led Zeppelin albums among others that they kept hidden. It was to them just a taste of music and inspiration that was beyond their borders (a place very few of them had the opportunity to see).
I also had the pleasure of meeting many of the young musicians that comprise Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra when they came through Chicago. This is the youth orchestra of Arabs and Israelis that Barenboim established to bring together young people from these different cultures to show how music can truly bridge cultural chasms. Every one of them was delighted with the experience. To see a Lebanese violinist, a Syrian Clarinet player and an Israeli bass player play together in a late-night open jam session was something to behold. Making music together broke down all the perceived barriers and they all reveled in their new friendships.
I tip my hat to the NY Phil for reaching across the divide. Music can't solve the grand problems of our time, but it can be a way to bring people together, even if for a short respite.