Can champagne activists really change the world?
Champagne activism has joined 'Jerusalem' and 'Rule Britannia' as one of the great traditions of the Last Night of the Proms. Don't get me wrong: gender equality is badly needed in classical music. On An Overgrown Path was saying precisely that years before the female cause was taken up elsewhere, and Marin Alsop's advocacy at the Last Night of the Proms is to be applauded. But attitudes within the musical establishment are at the heart of the problem, and figures such as Marin Alsop - who is heading for the million dollar club of U.S. music directors - and fellow Last Night activist Joyce DiDonato - who has made herself one of classical music's most valuable brands - are very much part of the establishment.
By an auspicious coincidence, while Marin Alsop was pleading the female case at the BBC Proms last night, six musicians from the other side of the celebrity tracks were pleading the same case elsewhere. The all-women jazz/world music ensemble 'Les Jeunes Antigones' - seen in the photo above grabbed by me at the concert - is the result of a residency at the Villa Méditerranée in Marseille. This is a new international centre for promoting dialogue in the Mediterranean region, a mission that has been made compellingly relevant by the terrible humanitarian crisis triggered by refugees crossing the great inland sea. The residency by 'Les Jeunes Antigones' is part of a project showcasing and promoting the role of women in the cyber-activism and digital dialogue sparked by the current refugee crisis in the Mediterranean region. The ensemble takes its name from Brecht's adaption of Sophocles' tragedy 'Antigone', and the musicians are drawn from countries surrounding the Mediterranean. They come from Syria, Tunisia, Spain, Morocco and Palestine, and include noted Turkish/German blogger, journalist and Islamic feminist Kübra Gümüşay, and star of the Berlin club scene DJ İpek İpekçioğlu - project-in-progress video via this link.
You are unlikely to find 'Les Jeunes Antigones' at the Last Night of the Proms in the near future; because their edgy mix of music, poetry, and grassroots activism would have the corporate hospitality guests in their private boxes choking on the canapés and Moët & Chandon . Of course Marin Alsop is quite right in asserting that music can help change the world. But to change things we need action a lot more radical than well-meaning media-friendly speeches by fully paid-up members of the music establishment.
I didn't pay for tickets for my wife and me at the Villa Méditerranée because admission to te concert was free. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.