Coup for classics?
I was disappointed to see the excellent Britten Sinfonia using Stephen Fry and Paul Gambaccini to introduce concerts in Cambridge and Peterboro' last week, a move described in the press as a 'Coup for classics'. I am aware the concerts were in aid of a deserving conservation project, and the programme included a commission from Associate Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival John Woolrich. But for many, including some who attend Britten Sinfonia concerts, overexposed media celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Paul Gambaccini are as much part of our current problems as bankers, and certainly have no place in the solution.
Stephen Fry (above) has given high profile support to chat show host Jonathan Ross, who last year was responsible for one of the most sordid incidents in the BBC's long history. Paul Gambaccini's presentation style while a BBC Radio 3 presenter was described variously as ingratiating, unctuous, schmaltzy, egregious, patronising and totally inane. Gambaccini was actually taken off the air by Radio 3 because of adverse reactions to his programme. Believe me, to be dropped by BBC Radio 3 is quite an achievement.
I am pretty sure posts like this do not make enjoyable reading. In fact I was going to let the story pass and spend time on something more positive. But today Stephen Fry has appeared in a video clip on the BBC website telling us that the current row in the UK over politicians expenses is "not that important, it really isn't" and that he himself has "cheated things and fiddled things". If this is what it takes to reach new audiences for classical music, surely we are better off finding fresh ways to work with existing audiences?
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I'm curious, who would you suggest instead?
Bayan Northcott described Paul Gambaccini's presentation style as characterised by 'refraining from any information commentary or judgement of the slightest musical interest whatever'.In the Art of the Animateur link above Itzhak Perlman is quoted as saying "If something is good, even if it is a little difficult, people will get that it is good."