Monday, 22 October 2012

Where is everyone?

Malcolm Arnold
I've had a weekend of culture at the Malcolm Arnold Festival in Northampton. If you've heard of this composer at all, chances are you think of film music - St Trinian's, Bridge over the River Kwai, for example - but there is so much more to his repertoire. There's the nine symphonies for a start.

One of the key features of the weekend was the world premier of Arnold's opera The Dancing Master. Written in 1952 for the BBC, it was considered too bawdy and has only now received its first performance. I'll leave the critique to someone more qualified than I am. It was, shall we say, interesting.

Among the wide-ranging events were many performances by astonishing young musicians, not only from local choirs and orchestras, but also from further afield, including the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. And I mean young: school age through to students in their 20s. But the audience was predominantly made up of the middle aged and beyond. So what happens in between? Where are the folk in their 30s and 40s?

If there is such interest amongst the youngsters, why isn't there a wider mix of ages in audiences for classical musical events? It doesn't seem to happen in other genres. At rock concerts generations mix well in the mosh pit, and the folk scene has every age group represented amongst audiences and performers. Nor do I just mean this particular festival. I've noticed it before elsewhere. It can't be lack of availability, because there are classical concerts in theatres, churches and village halls throughout the land. Is it a babysitting issue? Is it just pressures of modern life? Is it considered elitist?

Anybody have a theory?


  1. I do love listening to classical music but to be honest would never consider going to a concert. I have tried to think why after reading this post but can offer no explanation. My sister in law and brother however are in their 40s and do go frequently.

  2. It's odd, isn't it? Why not tag along with your brother and his wife? There's nothing to beat a live performance, whatever it is.