I deplore the passivization of arts engagement that has replaced people doing amateur theater, or painting and making sculpture, or making music together, with listening to and looking at stuff done for them by professionals. Nothing wrong with the latter, but we have got the balance wrong. Here are two examples of what we need more of :
My wife has been singing with a really good non-audition community chorus this year. Every week, they get together and rehearse, and then they put on two or three concerts a year for friends, relatives and neighbors. They don’t quail at the real stuff; so far this year they’ve done the Vivaldi Gloria and the Mozart Requiem. Next spring, a program of music by New York composers, including the really ethereal Frost/Thompson Choose something like a star, hoo boy. Debbie comes home from rehearsals and tells me about all she learned about music and singing that evening; sometimes (not enough) we pull out some sheet music and fire up the piano and sing just for ourselves.
If you think about it, there’s not much nicer you can do for your friends and relations than make music for them: sending everyone a CD of a professional chorus doing the same numbers isn’t even close.
Life for an organization like this is sort of like being an elected official, constantly putting the real work aside for endless fundraising. They charge $10 for concert tickets, but the singers also pay dues. The fundraising doesn’t do a thing for the music, but the singers put up with it so they can sing together and occasionally have soloists and a small orchestra. It’s both inspiring and saddening to realize what a short financial leash enterprises like this have: the big splurge for the CCC this year was a set of risers so the singers can see and be seen over each others’ heads.
Last week we went to the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra’s last fall concert . This was a completely professional-level performance, including A flock descends by Toru Takemitsu (they always program at least one contemporary work); the Prokofiev 3rd piano concerto; and (part of the celebrations of our new organ, which university organist Davitt Moroney still can’t talk about without a really radiant grin) the Saint-Saëns 3rd Symphony. Continue Reading…