Long live the classics!

Monday, June 23, 2014    

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Dear Editor,

I am happy to see what seems to be moves to revive classical music in Jamaica. Classical music is a great art form, spanning many styles of the genre, and is perhaps, as a whole, the greatest conglomeration of musical art forms of all time.

Also, I see that there is now some urgency about getting The Ward back in shape, and now we also have a visit from the Orchestra of the Americas. But two swallows do not a summer make.

The Ward is what we have, but it is woefully in need, and perhaps too small for the staging of large-scale works as well. It also needs to be equipped with a large concert acoustic organ. Many countries are generating interest in all adult age groups by staging works such as Beethoven's 9th Symphony. South Korea recently had a performance with 10,000 singers drawn from across the nation. This is more than the capacity of our National Arena itself. One year this could be a fitting Independence Day tribute, and to forestall objections it could be pointed out that Beethoven's father was of African descent.

Anyway,the Spanish-speaking countries of this region have, in general, been more pro-active in having thriving groups, conservatories and academies to train the young who so desire. In the English-speaking territories, classical was, as is typical in colonies, and in England itself, overladen with notions of class and status, and so more or less patronised by the top one per cent. These outdated class distinctions are dysfunctional and so it is a good thing that we presently have genuine organisations such as the National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica led by Nigel Coke, and international grade performers now resident in the island such as pianist Orrett Rhoden and organist Kaestner Robertson at NCU. They should be encouraged to make recordings in Jamaica and to perform more so as to add to the musical tapestry.

Though the elegance surrounding the art still exists, the days of rigid elitism in this art form, outside of the European continent, have gone. In Venezuela, for instance, even former gunmen have been rehabilitated by the Government's hands-on strategy of getting music to the depressed areas (via "el systema"), and one such formerly violent youth has amazed the world of classical music by conducting a symphony played by a leading European orchestra.

Jamaica has much it can achieve.

Cathy Brown






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