Cambridge Union Debate -This House believes that classical music is irrelevant to today’s youth.

Thank you, Radio 4 Today programme, for mentioning this event  this morning, and to BBC 1 News in the East for the pre-debate interview with Kissy Sell Out and Stephen Fry. When did the ‘classical music debate’ last get such national publicity?! Breakfast on Radio 3 talked of it, of course, as did In Tune this afternoon. I suppose Radio 1 gave it a mention too…

So I watched some of it live online – sadly missing Greg Sandow, and Fry, owing to dog-walking duty – but I can catch up on what I missed soon on www.cus.org. The whole point of this well-publicized debate is to raise the profile and purpose of a new foundation, Vocal Futures, which will be introducing young people with no classical music background  to Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

Entertaining stuff. In a nutshell, although omitting two main speakers – Caius students Joe and Hugo opened eloquently on opposing sides of the argument. Kissy Sell Out is into Boccherini, and cellos, and played a remix of some of the Queen’s Christmas Broadcast. He spoke of music’s sometimes non-user-friendly tagging – eg ‘the third movement of Symphony no 5 by William Boyce, played by the Academy of Ancient Music ‘ – and how young people like to stand and move to music, rather than sitting still and listening. Ivan Hewett played some Monteverdi and made the point that ‘irrelevance’ wasn’t really an appropriate word; the motion itself was a bit flawed. ‘Beauty is the quintessence of irrelevance.’ Lord Eatwell spoke of opera-goers in seats paid for by corporate sponsorship, who are there to drink and to be seen. Lady Eatwell, aka Suzi Digby, who is running the Vocal Futures project, spoke of the soul.

And a lot more was said, and, no doubt, will be reported, blogged and tweeted. Excellent – such argument is healthy. We could answer some of the points raised by mentioning venues such as Le Poisson Rouge and the Roundhouse, labels such as Non-Classical, and events such as OAE’s Night Shift. John Adams’ ‘Short Ride in a Fast Machine’ might hit the spot more than a movement from a Boyce Symphony, for some. It does what it says on the tin.

Meanwhile, fellow music-lovers, let us play with conviction, teach with creativity and inspiration, support new music and new ventures with enthusiasm, and generally get on with it – as we always have.

And – let us explore new ways of engaging.

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