Monday, August 15, 2005

Musicians and terrorism

What is the musician’s role in times of war, or in times of terrorist attacks such as we recently experienced in London?

Is it to perform close to the front line to show that art will win over terror? That was the choice of the young Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pré when they performed close to the front line shortly after the Six Day War in June 1967. It was also the choice of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1939 to 1945 when it continued to perform live concerts in defiance of German air raids on London, Bedford and Bristol. And somewhat less ingeniously it was the choice of Leonard Bernstein who hosted a fund raiser for the Black Panthers from the front line of his Park Avenue apartment in 1970.

Or is the musician’s role to keep his skills safe well away from the front line, and to use them only when things are again settled and calm?

Last night there was a concert in the Church of St Peter and St Paul deep in rural Norfolk. This glorious, and isolated, church can claim to have world famous acoustics as it was the venue for many of the Tallis Scholars best selling recordings. It is 120 miles, several hours difficult travelling, and a few time warps, from central London. The announced artists for the concert were Hungarian flautist Janos Balint and Argentinian pianist Eduardo Hubert. On the evening the performer was Janos Balint with a totally different (and very fine) programme for solo flute. The programme book said…….

"There has been a change in programme in that the distinguished pianist, Eduardo Hubert, currently in Argentina, has felt that he cannot come to England until events here become more settled and calmer. We believe that there will be some understanding and even sympathy for that view."

The BBC Promenade Concerts are currently taking place in the Royal Albert Hall in London. This is the front line. 56 people people were killed and 700 were injured in London one week before the start of the Proms season. One of these bombs exploded one mile north of the hall on a train at Edgware Road station. (See photo above). The UK media predicts that further terrorist attacks in London are inevitable.

The night before Eduardo Hubert played the no-show sonata in Norfolk, the Danish National Girls Choir together with their compatriots in the Danish National Symphony Orchestra (photo to right) courageously decided that staying at home wasn't an option. So they delighted us with the world premiere of Bent Sørensen's The Little Mermaid at the Albert Hall.

Thankfully great musicians like them, from all round the globe, continue to perform every night close to the front line at the BBC Proms, and in other London music venues. Their selfless actions will guarantee that art will win over terror.

If you enjoyed this post take an overgrown path to Dresden 1945 - London 2005

6 comments:

Pliable said...

See Tim Worstall's blog for a 'haiku headline' take on this story.

Kathy said...

Who would have thought you'd see a day where someone felt Argentina was safer than England?

Anyway, I think everyone should offer what they can, and for musicians, that means their performance. This is the great tradition of the USO. Also, I cannot help but think of the musicians on the deck of the Titanic, who played until, well, they couldn't play any longer.

I recently met a firefighter who lives in Indiana. On September 11th, he and his collegues drove straight through to New York, and upon arrival, got in and helped putting out fires and digging through rubble. If firefighters can risk their lives, the least musicians can do is offer comfort and stability.

They are fond of saying in the US that if you stop living your life, the terrorists "have won." I seriously doubt whether the terrorists give a darn about an Argentinian performing or not, but I do believe that we should continue living - and what is life without music?

Fairhaven Friend said...

Who can forget the Cellist of Sarajevo?

Pliable said...

Here is a link about the cellist of Sarajevo.

Footprint said...

a most interesting article.

Yifan said...

Meandered onto this page; a good piece of writing you have here.