MUSICTEACHERS.CO.UK VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1, SEPTEMBER 2001  
Online Journal


We are pleased to publish your letters, but cannot include readers' email addresses since this can lead to problems of privacy. All letters should be addressed to me, John Woodford, at [email protected].


The last issue's Editorial, on conduct becoming a concert goer, received considerable responses from those who feel that in concert halls, things need to change. We are asked how we choose reviewers and what qualifications our review team possess and we hear a justified moan about the upper age limits that are usually prescribed for competition entries.


From Pauline Stokes, Northumberland

I am what might be loosely termed a "music-lover": that I could only put into words how much I like listening to and reading about music! And if I could only put into words my agreement with your last, albeit spoof, editorial in which you provided a Dos and Don'ts for concertgoers. I regularly spend a lot of time and money going to performances both here, in the (currently) wet wastelands of the North and in Manchester; occasionally, I also manage to save up enough for a Royal Festival or Albert Hall performance and make the most of a weekend in London. So it is always a disappointment when I have my enjoyment destroyed by what I can only describe as inconsiderate louts who seem to think it is all right to rustle sweet papers, mutter to their partners and, in the case of one, open a tin of coke and half spray me with the contents to boot! Nowadays I dare never ask people to be quiet since on one occasion it resulted in a rather unfortunate scene during the interval, when I was threatened with violence. But what's the solution? Things seem to be going from bad to worse…I applaud the attempts of musicians and promoters to make music more accessible to a wider public, but at the same time, if this means that we have to put up with the behaviour of the football terraces, then perhaps they are doing something terribly wrong.

From Paul MacKenzie, Glasgow

…a good editorial, which, although using humour to address a huge problem in today's concert halls, made a few very salient points. Perhaps it could be printed in the front of every concert programme worldwide, although it seems to be a problem more associated with English audiences than, in my experience, elsewhere. Perhaps the answer, however, is to pay a few more quid for your seat. The more expensive it is, the less likely people are to cause a fuss.

From Ken Jarrow, Washington DC, USA

I thought your readers would like to know that it is not only in Britain where concert audiences seem bad…in the US, audiences are equally as ugly! But I do remember many years ago, when Sir Malcolm Sargent conducted a concert in the De Monfort Hall, Leicester, a lady not too far away from me starting a conversation with her friend. Sir Malcolm stopped what he was doing, turned around and glared in her direction. It soon stopped her. Perhaps younger conductors can be trained in the art of giving dirty looks…

There are things the concert halls could do to make sure that audiences behave in a courteous manner: perhaps they could have ushers who are have a certain amount of authority instead of looking like frightened rabbits all the time, and who will take the initiative and deal with a potential problem as it starts. Sweet-eating could be discouraged…I think some years ago, the Hallé staff (when they were still at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester) would hand out barley sugars without wrappers to make sure that the sweet-toothed sector of the audience didn't get on the nerves of others. Messages could also be given out and printed in the front of concert programmes asking people to switch off their mobile phones. But perhaps most of all, we could refrain from televising the Last Night of the Proms, since no matter how much fun they have, and no matter how much fun we get from seeing an audience revel, it sends out quite a negative message. JW


From Richard Lightfoot, Oxfordshire

I must offer my congratulations to MusicTeachers.co.uk for the continual interest they manage to engender through the Online Journal: articles with such musicians as James Bowman and Matthew Barley that are not used simply to engender interest in yet another CD or concert, are quite refreshing. What seems very noticeable, however, is that your editor seems to delight in writing about these characters and there is none of the usual cynical nonsense, faked attempts at humour or poor quality of grammar that seems to pervade even the more prestigious publications. One thing I would like to know, however, is what qualifications your reviewers have and how you went about choosing them in the first place?

Many thanks for your kind comments. We concur completely! MusicTeachers.co.uk's Online Journal is indeed refreshing in its content and I'm glad we manage to keep your interest up! Our reviewers are all professional musicians, musicologists and writers on music, and all go through a stringent selection procedure before we even contemplate sending a CD or book for them to read. No-one without good standing in the profession as either an academic or a performer is allowed to review and, although the occasional slipshod reviewer does appear from time to time, generally, we feel that our authors write well and respond to our requirements wonderfully. We believe that a reviewer's role is to be in partnership with a performer or author, not in opposition, and unless something is really bad, we think it important to emphasise the good aspects of a submission. I hope this answers your question. If you, or any reader for that matter, is interested in reviewing, please contact me at [email protected] and express your interest. JW


From Christine Hubbard, Kent

I find it increasingly frustrating that age limits are placed on singing competitions; whilst I wholly support the encouragement of our younger colleagues, I also consider that it is an unfair restriction to those of us that would enjoy the stimulation of healthy competition in this area. Can you tell me why this is so? Would it be a good idea to start a competition for us oldies, but goodies? I note that even the Lieder competition excludes over 50s. At the ripe old age of 53 I am told that I am performing better than ever; I certainly am not ready for the scrap heap yet. Whilst on this subject, where does one find work when one is "this ancient"?

I can understand your frustration, but I would ask you to consider if competitions are really the way forward for anyone. Granted, these provide an opportunity to perform under pressure, but the final results are usually based on the value judgements of an adjudicator or a panel. The reason why they are usually restricted to the younger end of the profession, however, is that often they are a stepping-stone to a career as a performer and, as a result, are geared towards those who need the publicity they provide. You may have noticed also that many singing competitions have a lower age limit as well, so it is not just you who must feel discriminated against. However, there are countless festivals that have open classes that allow more mature performers to participate alongside younger ones. I would suggest you have a look at some of these. As for as the second part of your question, if I could answer this easily, I would certainly be working in another field of music altogether! The simple truth is that there is not enough work for the bright young things that are leaving a six-year stint at a conservatory, let alone those of us who have been around a little longer. Many go about getting work by self-promotion, that is, putting on their own concerts and advertising these by poster, press release and word of mouth. Similarly, it is also worth your while contacting the secretaries of music societies and letting them know of your availability. The National Federation of Music Societies and the British International Music Yearbook usually have up-to-date listings of such people. JW




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