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