Classical music at the Diamond Jubilee

Here at the Two Moors Festival, we had a brilliant time up in London to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last weekend. Not only did we quaff champagne and eat lots of cake at a Notting Hill street party, but we were lucky enough to be one of the 12,000 people in attendance at the concert outside Buckingham Palace on June 4th.

It really was wonderful to see some musical legends – Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Grace Jones, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones – take to the stage, but we were rather disappointed with the lack of representation from the classical music world, and the reactions from the crowd to the few classical artists who did make it onto the billing. And given that the concert was meant to be a celebration of the Queen’s 60 years, it may have been wiser to focus more on music that she would enjoy. A bit of Brahms, perhaps?

Alfie Boe, pianist Lang Lang and soprano Renee Fleming did their very best but they couldn’t really hold their own when playing to a crowd who, firstly, had never heard of them and, secondly, were far more interested in Cheryl Cole, Robbie Williams and Jessie J. Of course, everybody has different tastes and the audience can’t be faulted for not having come across these artists before but Gary Barlow would have served the classical music-lovers in attendance and watching it at home much better if he had perhaps selected classical artists that were better known – or even just English, given how much talent we have in our little island.

As soon as the evening turned a little classical, the audience’s attention was immediately diverted. When Renee Fleming – who has an undeniably amazing voice but received less attention from the crowd than Cheryl Cole, who sang spectacularly out of tune – came on stage, the people to the left-hand side of the stage were far more interested in playing keepie-uppie with a big red beach ball than hearing her sing. They even let out an incredibly audible ‘awwwww’ when the ball fell to the ground halfway through her number.

Sadly, this is a sign of our times. People seem to place good looks and clever marketing above actual talent – and classical music definitely has a rough trot of things where the masses are concerned. Regardless of the efforts of people immersed in the classical world to rid the genre of its elitist, ‘uncool’ image, it seems modern audiences still aren’t that receptive. Perhaps transient pop artists who flood the market and won’t be remembered in 25 years, let alone 100, will always be the flavour of the month.

What did you think of the classical music in the Jubilee concert?


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