Friday, April 03, 2009

Mark Elder calls for musicians to stand together

In an acceptance speech to the Incorporated Society of Musicians, which presented him with its Distinguished Musician Award yesterday, the conductor Mark Elder made some pertinent remarks. Musicians, he said, must be ready to stand together and mount a passionate defence of their art as the credit crunch bites, not to mention the blasted Olympics [that's my adjective, not his]. Below is some of his text. The full text can be read here.

(Please bear in mind that I wasn't there, I've met him only a couple of times and I didn't choose his taxi driver!)

‘Our debt to the next generation is supremely important in these coming years. Before the credit squeeze jumped on us, we were all nervous and apprehensive that the wonderful ‘Olympic dream’ would drain the resources that might otherwise have gone to the arts. Now that the credit squeeze has joined that pressure, it is all the more important to stand together and be prepared to speak out. Not as ‘whinging luvvies’ (as the scribbling profession would have us be called), but as people who stand up for something that they passionately believe in.

‘Thank you all very much for your belief in me and what I do. I will end with a memory that I have of how important it is realise how far into the different corners of the world music can go.

‘One November night in the pouring rain in New York, I eventually managed to get a taxi. I threw myself into it – the traffic was crawling down the Avenue – and I found myself in the company of an enormous Afro-American taxi driver. He was listening on the radio to the BBC Philharmonic playing Korngold’s Sinfonietta. I said to him, “do you like this classical stuff? Do you listen to this often?”

‘“Man,” he said, “it’s the only thing that keeps me sane. If I listened to my music, with all the crap driving I have to witness, I’d go out of my mind and there’d be more road rage than ever.”

‘Isn’t that great? Music can reach into people’s lives in ways that we can’t imagine. All of us here believe in music. We believe in the power that music can give people to change lives, to change our hearts, and we must go on saying that and not be ashamed of it.

‘Who says the English are cold? Who says that they don’t understand musical things? Who says this is the “Land without Music”? They used to in the 19th century, but they sure can’t now.’