Do you have to be posh to like classical music?

This is the second of Lady Eff’s Rants which are being broadcast as part of the Classics From Scratch programme on Secklow Sounds, an online radio station which  brings people and communities together. Classics From Scratch is presented by Catherine Rose and is broadcast at 2 pm on Thursdays. It is available to listen online a few days later.

Now, first of all, the number of people in the UK, or even in the world, who are actually, certifiably posh is tiny. It’s minuscule. It’s so vanishingly small that if you stood them shoulder to shoulder on the Isle of Wight you’d still have room for the entire population of Hong Kong.

The other thing about posh people is that they don’t necessarily like a specific form of music. Some are rock fans. Some are acid jazz devotees. Some (though I bet not many) like folk music. You get the picture. So, it follows that if classical music relied on posh people for its living, it would have disappeared long ago.

At this point it’s common to bring into the argument the Italian working-class’s love of opera and the adoration of the Russian general public for the ballet. Both are true, but neither is much use here. It’s much better in the UK to look at the grand choral tradition, the great history of brass band playing, the Welsh Eisteddfod movement and the massive and intense weight of the amateur orchestral and operatic sector in British society. That’s where you find the seeds of a love of classical music.

Let’s look at the people who actually do classical music for a living. Haydn was a blacksmith’s son. Mozart and Beethoven were musicians’ sons, but they were jobbing musicians, dependent on yer actual posh people who would pay for music and music lessons back in the late 18th century. Composer Sir Edward Elgar’s mum was a farm-worker. Or take the current music director of the Royal Opera House. Antonio Pappano’s mum and dad worked in restaurants for a living. The great baritone Bryn Terfel is the son of a farmer. Of the thousands of musicians and singers working in the UK today, a tiny proportion are what you might call posh. Most musicians are not marquises.

So what DO you have to be in order to like classical music? Well, first of all, you have to listen to it a bit – just like trying a new kind of food. There’s a huge range of types and sounds, so you can range far and wide before deciding that what you really like is the 16th century motets of Vittoria, the 18th century symphonies of Haydn or the 20th century Sequenzas of Berio. You have to open your ears and be willing to experiment a bit. But you don’t have to dress up, spend a lot of money or push yourself too hard. There’s a whole world of sound out there for you to get to know and enjoy.

I think a spot of Haydn would be perfect. How about this? Click here to play the last movement of his Symphony No 22, The Philosopher.

The episode of Classics from Scratch in which this rant appears can be heard on Spreaker by clicking here.

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Published in: on May 2, 2013 at 16:02  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “Well, first of all, you have to listen to it a bit ” – so true! I was listening to Classics From Scratch (Secklow Sounds) today, and was amazed to find myself loving Bartok’s Allegro pizzicato from the String Quartet No 4.
    Great show Catherine!

  2. I really loved that loud and terrifying overture from a modern opera that Peter made you play. He said it rocked and it did. I quite see why you felt you had to fade it out though…


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