There was a very intrusive wrong note at the otherwise excellent recent concert by the Tallis Scholars in Norwich Cathedral. And the wrong note didn't come from the Scholars, who sung like angels throughout the evening.
The concert was sponsored by Grant Thornton whose web site (which I will refrain from linking to) tells us "is a leading financial and business adviser to mid-corporate businesses and their owners." The Norwich Festival organisers allowed them to put up several prominent promotional boards inside 12th century architectural miracle that is the interior of Norwich Cathedral, including one beside the pulpit in full view of the audience throughout the performance. The advertising boards were full of the mumbo-jumbo of the financial services sector.... "As independent, fee-based financial advisers, Grant Thornton UK LLP wants to help you meet your challenges and realise your plans for the future." The boards even included a picture of a calculator for those in the audience who suddenly needed to be reminded what one looked like during John Sheppard's Media vita.
The sponsors (who were presumably among the suits who applauded intrusively, like a Proms audience, between each of the Ordinaries in Thomas Tallis' divine Missa Puer natus est nobis) must have felt very pleased with themselves for achieving 'visibility'. The Festival organisers presumably also felt chuffed as they had a happy sponsor, and bucks in the bank. The audience was left to ponder Matthew 21...
21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
21:13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
The arts most definitely need serious funding. But not at any cost (and not as a la 1984 please). I appreciate that without a sponsor the performance may not have been possible. But the same can be said for the voice coaches, the music publishers and editor (but that is a very sore point right now), the composer's original patron, Peter Philip's tailor et al. Where will it stop. Will we see performers plastered with partner's logos like a Formula One car?
There is a clear line between allowing the sponsor to be associated with the performance, and allowing them to be part of it. A great performance is a marriage made in heaven between performers and composer. And like all great marriages there is only room for two.
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