Singers Show What’s Entertainment And What’s Classical Music
The BBC Proms offer many different routes to enlightenment, but this is a new one to me. A listing of events for August tells us that some singers are ‘singers’ or ‘vocalists’, and others are sopranos, mezzos, tenors, basses or, indeed, ‘voices’. A look at the particular concert programmes suggests why this may be…
The clue lies in expressions like ‘An evening with..’, followed simply by the names of ‘singers’, or, alternatively, a long and detailed list of exactly what is to be performed, by whom and in what capacity.
These are the discourses respectively of popular performance / ‘entertainment’ and on the other hand of ‘high-classical’. The one is awash with generality, the other with detail and implicit demands that we already understand what it’s all about.
Traversing the barriers
Occasionally of course the most-acclaimed performers of ‘high-classical’ cross the boundary to ‘entertainment’; but crossing substantially in the other direction rarely occurs. ‘Entertainers’ may offer a selection of classically-inspired songs; they don’t do full operas.
Is this huge distinction between genres necessary? Perhaps in the performers’ terms it’s inevitable, but in audience terms I’d like to see a bit more effort in general to ‘take’ classical music to people – not pre-concert talks necessarily (to some, an acquired taste) but much, much earlier in the average person’s artistic experience.
Starting early and comfortably
Schools, for instance, need well-versed teachers feeling as comfortable with classical music as most feel with the more popular modes. (A few inspired teachers play music of all kinds to their pupils; would that more did so.) But acquaintance with ‘classical’ music is what’s missing as a result of the austere curriculum experienced by people who were schoolchildren themselves in the 1980s, when the arts were dismissed as almost frivolous.
Singers have it all
The BBC Proms offer an excellent start, but classical music has so much to offer at any time. It’s a real shame that many people find themselves mystified or out of their depth with it.
There are growing numbers of top professional singers, labelled however you like, who enjoy good music of all kinds. These artists would surely agree that, alongside the genuine excitement and glamour of a good popular-music-based ‘show’, classical music also is far too good to miss.