Tuesday 8 August 2017

A Great Year - And Next?

Ever mindful of the way our Newent Orchestra might progress, I've been giving thought to what we can do next and how we might develop it (or not!).  Membership has continued to grow and, along with that, arise new opportunities and new problems to be dealt with. The question is how to maintain the best of what we have while allowing change to happen. During our last term we tried a new concert schedule with an extended season finishing in June, so that an additional concert could be encompassed. It was a successful move. But what next?

Everyone has their own ideas and wish list. Here's an outline of mine, including a little blue sky thinking. Personally, I'm more enthusiastic about the new than the old. I see the merit in introducing people who are new to classical music to the wonders of its classics, but my own penchant is for something I've heard less often and has more relevance to me as a creature of the 20th and now 21st centuries. Imagine my surprise as a fan of composer, Jonathan Harvey (look him up), when I became hooked on some old-time romantic song music.

Old Time Music Hall began in the middle of the 19th century and was a presence in entertainment for about 100 years thereafter, declining only with the advent of radio and then TV and superceded by the musical songsmiths, such as our own Ivor Novello, by jazz and the big band era. It had some great tunes and words that, I suppose, spoke directly to its audience about human emotion and relationships, about life. The serious classical composers, too, dealt with questions of the human condition but have been placed on a plane more to do with existential philosophy than raw emotion, love and laughter. However, those music halls were in some ways akin to classical opera with its rowdy, expressive audiences who were as likely to boo their villains as cheer their favourites.

When I first joined, Newent Orchestra would present traditional classical concerts, consisting of an overture, followed by a guest soloist, then a symphony. That was great music to play but, as an amateur orchestra, was not an audience magnet. Then we began to play shorter, more entertaining pieces from the classical repertoire, providing programmes of much greater variety. That worked well. The 'variety' approach would appear to be our strength and is probably the area that, rather than moving on from, we should develop. It's the direct communication that audiences like and respond to, the 'we're all in this together', loving and laughing, being touched by the music, the performance and the 'old-time' togetherness. Those are just a few thoughts. Make of them what you will.