…of potential classical musicians
Over the last two weeks we have all been inundated with praise for the organisers of the Olympics, the determination of the athletes, and the hard work of the volunteers involved. The Olympics have undoubtedly been a success, and despite the somewhat debated outcome of increasing competitive sports in schools, the profile of sport has been raised and celebrated.
But how was it celebrated? With a party of pop music. For the opening ceremony we were promised an ‘isle full of noises’ and for the closing ceremony, a ‘symphony of British music’. Instead, both occasions resulted largely in a cacophony of loud, uninspiring noise. For the closing ceremony, old stars were welcomed back as Sebastian Coe took us through all the sounds of the last 50 years. Except, he didn’t. Yes, One Direction, the Spice Girls and Take That were crowd-pleasers (despite some blatant miming) but what about all the rest? Emeli Sandé, for instance, had trouble with her tuning yet was given two solo opportunities!
Apart from making the athletes stand through all of this, the main problem with the closing ceremony was the distinct lack of classical music and showcasing of our classical musicians. Admittedly an extract from Thomas Adès’s opera The Tempest wouldn’t have been suitable (although Caliban’s aria could have been spectacularly appropriate given Adès’s London heritage and prominence of this particular Shakespeare work), but it seems unfair that among two hours of almost continuous music, classical music was only featured for three minutes and 20 seconds, less than three percent of the entirety of the evening.
Even ballet, which is widely accepted as one of the strictest and purest art forms, had a leading role, yet the token piece of classical music – Elgar’s Salut d’Amour, arranged for cello – was drowned out by Stomp’s drumming. Similarly in the opening ceremony, the limelight was stolen from the one snippet of classical music; Rowan Atkinson’s albeit hilarious spoof deterred from adequate acknowledgement of the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle.
Among all the ‘stars of today’, where was the renowned Nicola Benedetti? Fifteen-year-old Young Musician of the Year winner, Laura van der Heijden? Or even the National Youth Orchestra? Instead, we were shown Julian Lloyd Webber and a snatch of Bond, the all-girl classical crossover string quartet. ‘Inspire a generation’ was the Olympic motto. I have no doubt that young athletes will be inspired, but what about the children who have worked so hard to get into their county and national youth music ensembles?
It takes just as much practice and determination to play an instrument, and teamwork is crucial in any music ensemble. Of course the Olympics should have its focus on sports, but if the Olympic committee wanted to showcase British music, and even claim to have a symphonic resemblance, it should have paid a little more respect to the classical musicians of the country.
Rebecca recently completed a music degree at the University of Nottingham. She is currently studying for a masters degree in journalism at City University London. Find her on Twitter @rebeccahutter.