Regional orchestra piquing curiosity

Finding young people (that is, folks under 40) at a concert by any American orchestra is a challenge. More often than not, a gaze across the audience will show a tide of silvery gray heads, the dedicated season-subscription holders, the ones who go to every concert no matter how many times they nod off during the middle movements of Mozart's Jupiter.

The die-hard fans are getting older but the next generation, the so-called Junior Boomers or Gen-Xers, are not stepping up to replace them. That's the conventional wisdom anyway, like going to concerts is some kind of cultural obligation. Hence, their donations or their season subscriptions are also not being replaced. Among art lovers, especially among Boomers, there's a tendency to blame. But the problem isn't that Junior Boomers or Gen-Xers are getting coarser, more in thrall to popular culture, or less sensitive to the joys of high art.

The problem, from the perspective of American orchestras, is that there's more competition out there, more culture being created by more arts organizations. There's never been a bigger, more dynamic cultural menu to choose from.

That said, the Charleston Symphony is doing something right. Friday night was the second in a series called Backstage Pass in which the orchestra presented music you don't typically hear in mainstream Masterworks programming. The theme was music written by Hispanic composers or composers enamored by the sounds and rhythms of the Hispanic diaspora. The concert was just over an hour (a very nice duration, I think, quick and fresh). It started with Fandango by Spanish composer Roberto Sierra (the only one on the program who's alive). I missed most of this one and so can't say much about it (I got there late, sorry).

I suppose in offering a concert of music that you haven't heard before you're going to run into a few duds. That was the case of Darius Milhaud's Le boeuf sur le toi, or Bull on the Roof. I normally like Milhaud and his blending of a Brazilian vibe with a keen Parisian sophistication. But this one was dead in the water: a string of cha-cha motifs punctuated by thorny modernism. I appreciated hearing the piece, don't get me wrong. I just won't seek it out again.

Silvestra Revueltas' mariachi-style composition brought my attention back into focus. Scott Terrell, who conducts the series, noted a strong streak of Stravinsky in the composer's work. It was hard to miss. His Eight for the Radio (meant to imitate the sound of turning the radio dial, with sudden shifts in tempo and form) had a kind of laid-back Margaritaville feeling with a intoxicated avant-garde edge. Call it Rite of Spring Break.

My favorite was The Three-Cornered Hat by Manuel de Falla. It was written in 1917 and it had a wonderful blend of Mexican flavors and that Frenchness you find in the work of Debussy and Ravel -- tall harmonies, shimmering textures, dancing to a South-of-the-Border beat.

I counted at least a dozen or so young people (these being under 30) in a crowd of about 250-300 at the Sottile Theatre. It's small number, but the nature of the concert suggests having a dozen or so young people is advantage the Backstage Pass series has over the Pops series, where you'll find plenty of children and their parents and grandparents.

The nature is curiosity. Terrell curated the programming to entice your curiosity. For this series, you won't hear any of the Three B's: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. In fact, this series, and its indie-music sensibility, would quickly remind you that Beethoven is dead and has been dead for a good long time.

Having a dozen or so young people at this kind of concert means they actively sought out the music. They didn't go out of a sense of obligation (thanks for the pops tickets, Grandma!) or out of a sense that classical music is high-class stuff and I want to appear like a high-class kinda guy. No, they went because they were curious and I can't think of a better way for classical music to once again mean something in people's lives.

Cross-posted at Unscripted.

November 11, 2007 2:43 PM | | Comments (0)


Leave a comment


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by FlyOver published on November 11, 2007 2:43 PM.

Making Theater About the Midwest was the previous entry in this blog.

Gilbert & Sullivan's Radical Chic is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.