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Changing The Culture Of Perpetual Crisis
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/11/21 22 : 56
Symphony plays on despite tough times

November 20, 2008
Liz Monteiro
RECORD STAFF


WATERLOO REGION

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony needs to come up with new ways to raise money rather than relying on "crisis fundraising,'' says the orchestra's executive director.

Genevieve Twomey told the Waterloo Region Record's editorial board yesterday that the symphony will continue to maintain its programming during the economic downturn.

"The economy is presenting us with a challenge,'' she said.

Twomey said the history of the symphony has been one of crisis.

"We can't operate in the way the symphony has operated in the last five years,'' she said. "We have to operate differently.''

Two years ago, the symphony was the verge of bankruptcy. A community-wide campaign raised $2.5 million and saved the symphony.

At the symphony's annual general meeting earlier this month, numbers showed the symphony was ending its fiscal year with a loss of $275,000.

Tickets sales in 2008 were down over $170,000 from 2007. Also, the symphony's endowments are down by $77,000.

"We are cognizant that we have a deficit,'' Twomey said.

"I acknowledge the history of the symphony. It's part of the organization we are today,'' she said. "But we need to move forward.''

Twomey said the local symphony is the largest regional orchestra in Canada. It has 52 musicians.

"We spend a lot of time talking about finances. We need to talk about music,'' Twomey said.

Twomey said music director Edwin Outwater has "invigorated" the orchestra's music programming. The community's confidence has grown since Outwater came to the symphony, she said.

"People are engaged by him,'' she said.

lmonteiro@therecord.com


Copyright: The Record @http://news.therecord.com/News/Local/article/446967
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Louvre opens galleries for first time to musician -- Pierre Boulez
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/11/14 22 : 44
Nov 6, 2008


PARIS (AFP) — For the first time in its history, the Louvre museum Thursday opens its doors to a musician, France's renowned contemporary composer and conductor, Pierre Boulez, giving the classical arthouse a modern touch.

To the French, the 83-year-old supremo of serial, experimental and electronic music born in the central Loire valley is what the Japanese call "a living national treasure", celebrated for his unique contribution to music and to intellectual life since the 1950s.

Scheduled to run until February 9, the show titled "The Louvre Invites Pierre Boulez" gathers together art and music in a medley that includes an exhibition, 11 concerts, six filmed concerts and talks.

Curated by the maestro himself, the art show titled "Work:Fragment" gathers 70 works by artists such as Ingres, Cezanne, Degas, Delacroix, Kandinsky, Klee, Giacometti and Picasso alongside scores from Wagner, Bartok and Varese and works by writers from the 19th and 20th centuries.

"Modernism is based on the fragment," Boulez told AFP, pointing to a 1952 nude sketch by De Kooning, "while previously this would have been considered a preparory draft."

The sketch, one of a series of "Women", showed "something that hasn't yet taken shape but is on the way," Boulez added.

Also rarely on public show are Russian-born Stravinsky's first drafts of "The Rite of Spring", a work from the 20th-century composer often conducted by Boulez -- which he said underlined "the chronological anarchy of invention."

In a hallway, Boulez enthusiasts can stop to listen to his 1996-1998 work "Sur Incises" for three pianos, three harps and three mallet instruments.

Boulez, who began composing at 23 and was influenced by Olivier Messiaen, was one of the leaders of a post-war movement to greater abstraction and experimentation in music and in 2002 won the Glenn Gould Prize for his contributions.

But he has also directed some of the world leading symphony orchestras and ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic, and is currently Conductor Emeritus of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Visitors to the Louvre show will be treated to live concerts including a free December 2 performance featuring Boulez conducting Stravinsky's "The Firebird".

The modernist master also joins a debate with architect Jean Nouvel, this year's winner of architecture's top prize, the Pritzker, on the building of a Paris Philharmonic Hall, due to be opened in 2012.


Copyright: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jIVDu8PVir97KPJTy00t2NeXBp0g

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The Rise and (Potential) Fall of Philanthrocapitalism
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/11/14 22 : 37
PHILANTHROPY
The Rise and (Potential) Fall of Philanthrocapitalism

Billionaires brought their business sense and ambition to charitable giving. Now what?


By Georgia Levenson Keohane
Posted Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008, at 6:42 AM ET




Talk about unfortunate timing. With the global economy reeling from the excesses of Wall Street, Mathew Bishop and Michael Green give us the incredulously titled Philanthrocapitalism: How the Rich Can Save the World. Bishop, the chief business editor at the Economist, first described how the barons of the new economy were revolutionizing philanthropy by applying their business principles—and sweeping ambition—to their charitable endeavors in 2006. Now he has teamed up with Green, an international development expert, to chronicle how this "movement" of philanthropists has "set out to change the world." The world is indeed changed: This gilded age has come to an abrupt and hard stop, and with it, perhaps, has come a tempering of irrational exuberance about the potential of outsized philanthropists to be, in Bishop's words, "superheroes for solving some of society's problems."

Bishop and Green offer an exceptional synthesis of the influence of the private sector on the field of philanthropy, and this book should be required reading in any MBA or public policy program. But the authors fail to probe some hard questions thoroughly enough: Is the "new" philanthropy really even "new"? And is the private sector the best exemplar of corporate governance, accountability, or long-term investment savvy—particularly when it comes to complex and persistent social and economic problems? With the pillars of global capitalism quaking and government bailouts that will, inevitably, limit public spending for social needs, these are more than academic questions.

In their engaging—if incomplete—history of philanthropy, the authors cite the influence of Andrew Carnegie's Gospel of Wealth, in which he described the rich as merely stewards of their economic surplus and advocated giving wealth away in one's lifetime, rather than leaving it to heirs. The Gospel has inspired tycoons from John D. Rockefeller, the world's first billionaire, to philanthrocapitalist par excellence Bill Gates, who received a copy from Warren Buffett. So, what, exactly, is philanthrocapitalism, and how does it differ from the philanthropy of those earlier titans of industry? First, the scale is unprecedented. The wealth creation of the last quarter-century—adjusted for historical inflation and the recent collapse—dwarfs any other period in history. At the start of 2008, the United States claimed 1,000 billionaires and the world 2,500. And charitable giving in the United States has increased accordingly, more than doubling from $13 billion in 1996 to nearly $32 billion in 2006. Second, this wealth has been created by entrepreneurs in tech, finance, and other industries who now channel their energy, drive, and principles to philanthropic endeavors. According to Bishop and Green,

philanthrocapitalists are developing a new (if familiar-sounding) language to describe their business like approach. Their philanthropy is "strategic," "market conscious," "impact oriented," "knowledge based," often "high engagement," and always driven by the goal of maximizing leverage of the donor's money. Seeing themselves as social investors, not traditional donors, some of them engage in "venture philanthropy." As entrepreneurial "philanthropreneurs," they love to back social entrepreneurs who offer innovative solutions to society's problems.




To read the rest of article, go to <http://www.slate.com/id/2204525/>


Copyright 2008 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC










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Symphony Orchestra 2.0
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/07/03 23 : 30
San Francisco Classical Voice
1 July 2008
By David Bratman


San José, as its boosters like to point out, is now the largest city in Northern California. But if it’s the leader in population, it has a ways to go to catch up to San Francisco in cultural influence. Still, San José is far from the cultural desert that its flat sprawling landscape might suggest to residents of hillier, more congested parts of the Bay Area. The lively downtown has a flavor to it that you could find, perhaps to your equal surprise, in places like Sacramento and Santa Rosa. And there are musical performances well worth hearing here, enough to enthuse the locals and perhaps even draw audiences from outside the city and its suburbs.

San José’s leading concert ensemble is Symphony Silicon Valley. Born in 2002 out of the ashes of the old San José Symphony (see a story recounted by SFCV here), it has grown cautiously over the years, with surprising and gratifying success. The orchestra was artistically mature from the beginning, drawing most of its personnel from its predecessor. Where SSV has really grown is in scheduling.

For its first year only four concerts were held, scheduled individually only a few weeks in advance. When a full season came, in 2004-2005, it consisted of seven programs in two performances each. These were successful and popular enough that in 2006-2007, four Thursday performances were added to the seven Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees schedule. Attendance has continued to rise, and demand for two of this year’s concerts — one featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the other an all-Gershwin program — was so great that fourth performances, on Fridays, were added.

The Symphony has not let this success go to its head, however. It is not a full-time orchestra and is not trying to expand beyond its capacity. The 2008-2009 season comprises eight programs, the same number as this year, four in three performances and four in two. Whether or not extra performances are added this season, there is a real audience for local symphony concerts in San José, and the 1,100-seat California Theatre, with its grand 1920s-period foyer and auditorium, and its bright, lively acoustics, makes a perfect venue.

SSV has taken to presenting short, chamber-music preview concerts before its Thursday performances, and holds a number of special events, including holiday carol concerts and summer family concerts. In 2006 the symphony gave a special concert of video game music (accompanied by visual effects) — this is Silicon Valley, after all — but the experiment has not been repeated.


Elena Sharkova directs the SSV Chorale; Vance George guest conducts next year


This May, the SSV Chorale, conducted by Elena Sharkova, came out from behind the orchestra to perform Rachmaninov’s a cappella Vespers at the Santa Clara Mission and at Santa Cruz’s Holy Cross Church. On March 15 of next year, the Chorale is bringing in retired San Francisco Symphony Chorus Director Vance George to lead Fauré’s Requiem.
No Music Director? No Problem

SSV has become locally famous, almost notorious, as an orchestra without a music director. Circumstances at first did not allow for the hiring of one — concerts in the first two seasons were infrequent and there were budgetary concerns as well as worries about putting the orchestra’s fate in one pair of conductorial hands. Perhaps surprisingly, the orchestra has just gone on that way. This is not an entirely uncontroversial policy. But the symphony has developed a corporate personality, embodied by its president, Andrew Bales. Bales comes out on stage to give a short speech of welcome before every concert, so he’s become familiar to the audience. As CEO of the orchestra, he appears to be doing a remarkable job of giving equal attention to administrative, financial, and artistic matters. And in the process, San José has come to hear the work of a lot of more interesting guest conductors than most orchestras its size would have. Not all are successful, but the winners often return in later years.



Andrew Bales
Photo by Robert Shomler


One particular slant SSV has taken has been an interest in mid-20th-century American vernacular music. The orchestra seized on this repertoire with gusto in their first concert in the California Theatre in 2004 (reviewed here). They celebrated the completion of the restoration of the building, which originally opened in 1927 as a grand film and stage theater, by putting on a show of American film and stage music of the era. Works by Gershwin, Copland, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold were conducted with panache by the late Sergiu Comissiona, while a theater usher wearing a period uniform changed a signboard on stage before each piece.


Gwendolyn Mok

This programming trend has continued, most obviously this May when the orchestra offered a pops program called “George Gershwin’s 1920s Radio Hour,” devised by pianist Gwendolyn Mok. Paul Polivnick conducted. Mok played both the Concerto in F and Rhapsody in Blue, the latter in the original Paul Whiteman jazz band instrumentation; Broadway star Sara Uriarte Berry belted out some Gershwin show tunes; and the pseudo-radio narration, including some comical commercials for a laxative chewing gum, was delivered cheerfully by KDFC radio announcer Hoyt Smith. If the playing was less than SSV’s most incisive, as a show it was great fun.


Paul Polivnick

But there’s been more. Polivnick was also on the podium in October 2005 for a jazz-classical fusion program consisting of Gershwin’s An American in Paris, Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown & Beige, and David Amram’s Triple Concerto. The concert’s success sparked a commission from the orchestra to Amram — if Gershwin and Ellington were still with us, they’d probably have been contacted too — from which emerged a work titled Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie, which received its premiere in the first concert of this season last September. Polivnick was on the podium again. Amram didn’t simply orchestrate “This Land Is Your Land,” run a few thuddy variations on it, and leave it at that. Instead, he produced a large suite of colorful and varied Americana through which the song, often mutated nearly unrecognizably, recurs in unexpected forms.

Now Amram, though in his late seventies, has been recommissioned, and next January 15-18, SSV audiences will hear the premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 1, played by the local favorite Jon Nakamatsu, the former high school teacher from Mountain View who won the Van Cliburn Competition 11 years ago. Paul Polivnick conducts again.


Music Appreciation With Flair

The orchestra’s final concert this year was another special program borrowing, this one from the Chicago Symphony’s “Beyond the Score” series. This scheme provides an elaborate preconcert lecture in the first half about the work being given in the second half, which in this case was Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The narrators talked us through the Rite as an anthropological re-creation of a hypothesized, ancient Russian ritual, though not a word was said about it as a ballet or on the remarkable effect of Stravinsky’s new musical vocabulary. Musical illustrations were provided by period field recordings, by a third presenter who played Russian folk instruments, and by the orchestra, seated patiently behind the presenters. After intermission, Martin West led a rendition of the full work that, though light and chipper, was illuminated by the lesson. Next season, on December 6-7, SSV is going “Beyond the Score” again, this time with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. It will be interesting to compare this program with Michael Tilson Thomas’ “Keeping Score” program on the same work.

SSV performs more conventional concerts, as well. Nothing is more classic than Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which the Symphony performed in March. Under Fabio Mechetti they delivered a basic, straightforward, but captivating rendition of the work. SSV is an inconsistent orchestra. Sometimes the horns, for instance, are having an off night, but other times they can be the stars of the stage. Sometimes the performances can be dull or wayward, but other times the music comes together excellently. Much depends on the individual conductor.

Some critics and others have argued that the appointment of a music director would give the orchestra steadier leadership and keep its performances more even. This could be true, but the artistic waywardness of the last years of the San José Symphony offers a lesson in the risks of appointing the wrong music director. If artistic leadership from the front office remains strong enough, and the financial situation continues to be healthy, this peculiar situation may be stable for some time to come.


Scott Bearden

Beethoven’s Ninth was one of the Symphony’s better interpretations, but the evening’s highlight was the clear and powerful tone of Opera San José’s lead baritone, Scott Bearden, in the “Ode to Joy.” Bearden has been thrilling audiences in local opera productions for a long time now, in Falstaff, I Pagliacci, The Barber of Seville, and many others. Opera San José, which also performs in the California Theatre, is something of a workshop company for young performers, but every workshop group needs its strong experienced hands as well, and Bearden, who just received the first place award and the audience favorite award in the second annual Irene Dalis Vocal Competition, has been filling that role here.


George Cleve

Next year’s eight regular concerts will include return visits from conductors Polivnick and George Cleve, who will each lead two concerts, and Leslie Dunner and Gregory Vajda, with one each. Cleve will be giving solid 19th-century programs, with composers from Beethoven to Debussy, featuring two solo violinists: Ju-Young Baek, a favorite on previous visits, in the Brahms concerto on Mar. 26-29, and the orchestra’s own associate concertmaster, Christina Mok, in the Mendelssohn on Oct. 16-19. Dunner takes charge of another Duke Ellington opus, The River Suite, which will be paired with dance music by Prokofiev and Ginastera. Two new conductors will appear: Paul Haas, who will lead Felix Guilmant’s Organ Symphony No. 1 and Schubert’s Ninth Symphony in C Major on March 14-15, and Jane Glover, who will direct the orchestra and chorale in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass on June 6-7.

So San José’s ship sails on captainless for another season, taking in classic symphonies, concertos, and choral works; some 20th-century works both well- and little-known; one premiere; and another “Beyond the Score” lecture. It may be another inconsistent season, but at the very least it sounds interesting, and there are sure to be some winning concerts.


More Concerts in the South Bay

SSV is far from the only orchestra in the San José area. Even leaving aside student and nonprofessional groups — notably the scrappy and hard-working Redwood Symphony up the Peninsula — there’s the Fremont Symphony just to the north, and Santa Cruz County Symphony for listeners who care to go over the hill.

Also in town is the San José Chamber Orchestra, which last month won an Adventurous Programming award from ASCAP, the performance rights group, and the League of American Orchestras. Their concerts next season will feature living composers such as Mimi Dye, James Harvestus, and Hyo-shin Na next to Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Tchaikovsky.



The St. Lawrence and Kronos quartets

In chamber music, the region is also well-blessed. Stanford Lively Arts is a prestigious local presenter that features ensembles such as the St. Lawrence and Kronos quartets. Nearby is the world-renowned Music@Menlo Festival. The Sunset Concerts at St. Luke’s Church in Los Gatos, and Music@Market at the St. Joseph Basilica in downtown San José, which repeats as Music at the Mission in Fremont, are notable small annual programs.

In San José itself, the hidden treasure is the San José Chamber Music Society, which presents concerts at Le Petit Trianon, a tiny but acoustically excellent auditorium just north of San José’s city hall. The staff of the Society are all volunteers, but they manage to entice a surprising number of excellent ensembles to make a stop in San José. Many of these also perform in San Francisco or elsewhere in the area, but sometimes they save their best work for us.


Beaux Arts Trio

Two concerts in this past season demonstrate the point. The Beaux Arts Trio, on its farewell tour in April, gave Schubert and Dvořák at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco see review. But on the same tour, they played both the Schubert Trios, Op. 99 and Op. 100, in San José, a rare pairing of two blissful, enchanting works. (Music@Menlo is doing them together this year as a special concert.) The tiny gossamer notes chirped out by violinist Daniel Hope might not have been heard in any larger hall.

The TinAlley String Quartet, fresh from winning the triennial Banff International String Quartet Competition, played a free concert of Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Berg in San Francisco in early March. But when at the end of the month they appeared in San José, they substituted for Berg the Bartók Quartet No. 4, which was the highlight of the program, a lucid, engaging rendition that outclassed their work with the older composers, and which was the best performance of a Bartók Quartet that I’ve ever been fortunate to hear.

The upcoming season’s San José Chamber Music Society schedule includes the Escher String Quartet, a notable group at last year’s Music@Menlo festival that is returning there this year, as well as the Afiara Quartet, the Leipzig and Daedalus quartets, the Poulenc Trio, and the Trio con Brio Copenhagen.

It looks fair set to be another good year for music in San José. You should come on down.



David Bratman is a librarian who lives with his lawfully wedded soprano and a wall full of symphony recordings.


©2008 By David Bratman, all rights reserved.


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What's the point of the Cultural Olympics?
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/07/03 23 : 01

Millions of pounds have been set aside for a festival that no one needs and fewer people want, argues Rupert Christiansen


Last Updated: 12:01am BST 11/06/2008
Telegraph



With budgets soaring, factions quarrelling and deadlines approaching, there's quite enough to worry about in the run-up to the London Olympics without the question of "culture" raising its pretty little head. Yet there it is, demanding to be addressed.


From the end of August until 2012, Britain will host (and pay for) a "Cultural Olympiad", programmed by order of the International Olympic Committee as an essential ancillary to the sporting events.

I'd like to ask bluntly: who wants it, who needs it?

As yet, the plans for this rolling four-year jamboree have only been announced in outline -­ more detail will emerge over the summer - but the thinking behind them so far seems drearily predictable and uninspired.

Any number of people can be held responsible ­ Minister for London Tessa Jowell has the Olympics as part of her brief, but Andy Burnham's Department for Culture Media and Sport also supervises a cultural advisory forum of the great and the good, while the ubiquitous Jude Kelly chairs two programming committees at Locog, the Olympics delivery authority, where culture is under the executive management of Bill Morris.
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The budget cannot be simply computed, as it will be up to participating arts organisations to fund their events, but £40?million filched from the National Lottery is available from central government. Basically, a lot of money will be doled out to anyone who can tick the access/disability/ethnic diversity boxes.

While there is still time to reconsider and change, I would like to draw attention to the vacuous blah-blah which constitutes the Cultural Olympics' mission statements. They aim "to inspire and involve young people", "to generate sustainable long-term benefits", "to promote contemporary London" and "to promote culture and sport".

There will be a "world festival of youth culture", a world festival of Shakespeare (didn't the RSC stage that last year?), and museums and galleries will reinterpret their collections to tell "stories of the world".

Guess what, musicians will also compose, new art works will be erected, videos will record things, and in 2012, to cap it all, there will be "a world cultural festival".

To be fair, we don't have specific names and dates yet, and I live in hopes of some lovely surprises being sprung, but these sorts of clichés commit nobody to anything and, to date, not one glimmer of originality or urgency has emerged in the planning.

Has anyone paused to ask what the Cultural Olympics are actually for, what relation cultural exhibition has to sporting competition, and why precisely a "world cultural festival" is required when everyone will be glued to the running and jumping?

Go back to 1912, and there was an actual Olympic arts contest -­ artists competed for medals in five fine arts categories. But this proved unsatisfactory and petered out, and it was only in 1992 that the arts made their way back into the programme when the Barcelona games promoted Catalan culture.

Atlanta followed with a celebration of the Deep South, while Sydney highlighted the creativity of its Aborigines. In Beijing, China has used the Cultural Olympiad to score propaganda points by showing the freedom its artists are allowed.

But here in Britain, there is nothing to home in on. Read the arts pages of this newspaper and you will see that we are blessed with one long "world cultural festival" of wonderful richness and diversity.

At the same time there are lean economic times ahead, with sponsorship harder to find and the Arts Council hard-pressed.

To pay for the Cultural Olympiad, Peter is being robbed to pay Paul, with money diverted from the National Lottery, and arts organisations in Greenwich are already complaining that the local authority has cut their regular funding to create a cash pot for 2012. Why the famine, why the feast, when you could be sustaining a healthy regular diet?

"Legacy" is another buzzword. There's an idea that the Cultural Olympics will create "a buzz around the UK that will last long after the Flame is extinguished" and "a new awareness of cultural activity". More wishful-washful thinking here, and one is not reassured by Craig Hassall, manager of the Sydney Cultural Olympics, who admitted in a recent article that "the legacy elements withered on the vine".

What is much more important - if we are talking about arts and culture in relation to the Olympics - is that the 2012 games are beautiful.

By that, I mean that they should not be blighted by any more horrors like the hideous and illegible logo; that the opening and closing ceremonies are fun and fabulous in the noblest British tradition of parades and processions, and not a Millennium Dome-style mishmash of steel bands and spluttering fireworks; that the best of British architecture, design and craftsmanship is evident in the stadia and the village, finished without the usual pennypinching tattiness which has become a national disease; that any music accompanying the games is a well-composed, dignified tune rather than some ghastly nul-points banality warbled by Katherine Jenkins and aimed at the lowest common denominator of juvenile taste; that the competitors wear a uniform that doesn't make them look like they're employees of a budget airline; and in sum, that elegance rather than a quick buck should be the watchword.

To get all of this right this will take a great deal of time, taste, trouble and creative energy and, so far, this Cultural Olympics seems to promise nothing but an unnecessary distraction from the central business of the sporting competition. I suppose it's too late to cancel the sideshow, but I wouldn't be at all sorry if they did.


Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full copyright statement see Copyright


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Too much music? Perhaps not enough.
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/06/04 19 : 18
Audiences, unlike critics, can't seem to get their fill

ARTHUR KAPTAINIS
The Gazette

Saturday, May 31, 2008



"Not enough audience," concluded the headline last week, this being the natural and inevitable corollary of the first clause: "Too much classical music." Maybe there are too many concerts for cantankerous critics to review. But paying customers are, in fact, abundant. The Gazette regrets the error.

Take, for example, last Monday. We shall call it Big Monday. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kent Nagano and featuring the Austrian pianist Till Fellner, filled 2,880 seats in Salle Wilfrid Pelletier. Meanwhile, across the Place des Arts concourse in Théâtre Maisonneuve, the Montreal International Music Competition enjoyed a gate of 969 (including about 150 freebies for host families, but not including a live national radio and Internet audience in five or six figures).

Up at Pollack Hall, the McGill Chamber Orchestra under Boris Brott sold all 500 seats for a concert featuring the Vancouver-based American pianist Sara Davis Buechner. That makes about 4,200 paid admissions on the same night for three concerts, each involving piano and orchestra.

Nor was Big Monday a sudden oasis amid a Sahara of inactivity. Nagano sold out the first performance of the Beethoven-Shostakovich program on Sunday afternoon and the third the evening after. The Montreal International Musical Competition packed in 1,121 on Tuesday, when the Armenian teenager Nareh Arghamanyan handily won the Grand Prize.

This night could almost be said to be oversold, since people started to invade the corbeille level, which was reserved for judges and other elite types. And bear in mind that the competition had been fielding quarterfinal and semifinal recitals the previous week, afternoons and evenings. Attendance in Salle Pierre Mercure was robust.

All this while the Montreal Chamber Music Festival was winding down in St. James United Church (the organizers claim a month-long attendance of 5,000) and while the Opéra de Montréal was busy selling out its entire six-performance run of Madama Butterfly.

Now take a deep breath and think about it. Twice as many people - 17,400 - will see Puccini's opera than will hear Leonard Cohen at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Oops. Check that. At least three times as many will do the Puccini thing, if we factor in the free outdoor projection of June 7. Eric Clapton at the Bell Centre on Wednesday? A mere 14,200 tickets. Mr. Clapton is cordially invited to eat Puccini's dust.

The wonder is that all this happens at the end of a long season, when one might suppose classical fans to be financially drained and musically saturated. Opera tickets, while not quite so stratospheric as Leonard Cohen tickets, peak at about $140. The onset of Nagano has also inflated some MSO tickets to the three-figure plateau. But people keep coming.

Not enough audience? Not likely.

Judges and journalists gathered on Wednesday for a postfinal scrum on the Montreal International Musical Competition. Some interesting points emerged.

Why was the piano concerto repertoire so limited? Tchaikovsky 1, Rachmaninoff 3, Prokofiev 2 or 3 are the faves. Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Ravel get honourable mention. What about Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt and Grieg? To say nothing of offbeat choices like the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.

The Belgian judge André de Groote, well known himself for his unusual repertoire, disputed the viability of Tchaikovsky 2 (ever heard of it?) as a choice because of textual problems and the need of an orchestra (in this case, the Orchestre Métropolitain) to be familiar with the music.

As for Schumann's Piano Concerto, it is widely regarded on the competition circuit as a "death trap" - a piece with which you cannot win first prize. (Montreal judge Marc Durand, however, recalled one exception to this rule.) What do judges listen for? Piotr Paleczny of Poland had an interesting answer: Nothing. "The most exciting moment is when I am lost. I only listen." He could think of only a few occasions when this happened in Montreal.

Memory slips? They are less important than the way a pianist handles them. The case of Elizabeth Schumann, an American with a lyrical touch but a memory problem, was much bandied about. She should have improvised in the preliminary rounds rather than fitfully restarting a passage when she ran into trouble.

Arnoldo Cohen, a Brazilian judge, revealed that Schumann (no relation to the composer!) was upset because conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni dragged the tempo in her Tuesday performance of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1.

"He slowed down the tempo because you allowed him to do so," was Cohen's ruthless response. All the judges look for professionalism, for assurance under pressure. Thus the inexperience of the OM as a concerto ensemble (these musicians are more into opera) could be taken as a positive thing. A great orchestra can hide weakness in a soloist.

A few judges identified Arghamanyan's semifinal performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Sonata No. 2 as the highlight of the entire event. On the question of what a competition win can or cannot do for such a player, Cohen had this to say: "This is not a passport to a great career. This is a passport to a chance."



akaptainis@sympatico.ca
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

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Banksy is going underground with tunnel art exhibition
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/05/05 08 : 17
May 2, 2008
Luke Leitch



The elite of the London art world will convene in Lambeth tonight to examine graffiti in a dank railway tunnel.

It is not a location that has been listed among London’s main cultural attractions. In fact, it compares unfavourably with other dank tunnels in the capital.

From tomorrow, however, when the tunnel opens to the public, the graffiti are expected to attract thousands, because they represent the largest exhibition by Banksy, a determinedly anonymous British graffiti artist. He has gathered 40 of the chief proponents of the form to transform the tunnel into a showcase.

Banksy himself has contributed depictions of a self-harming hoody, the Buddha wearing a neck-brace, a council worker spraying over some ancient cave paintings and a sculpture of a tree sprouting CCTV cameras.

The Dutch artist Hugo Kaagman has attempted to capture Boris Johnson. The Norwegian artist Dolk has painted the Pope in the style of an iconic image of Marilyn Monroe, smiling coquettishly as he tries to push down his windblown robes.

The exhibition is entitled the Cans Festival. Last night the tunnel was thick with fumes as the artists worked to finish their paintings in time for a private viewing this evening. They had come from all over the world. The Argentinian artist Frederico, half of the graffiti collective Run Don’t Walk, said of Banksy’s invitation to participate: “It happened really fast. They just told us our flights. It’s great to meet people from all over the world to paint. This isn’t some branded event, it isn’t in a gallery, it’s unique.”

The London-born artist Leon arrived from Los Angeles. “It’s traditional for graffiti artists to paint together,” he said, “but it’s never happened in Britain on this scale.”

Banksy said: “I’ve always felt anyone with a paint can should have as much say in how our cities look as architects and ad men. So getting to cover an entire street with graffiti is a dream come true, or as some people might call it — a complete and utter nightmare.”

The Times undertook not to disclose the precise location before 10.30am today, when it will be revealed at www.thecansfestival.com, the exhibition website. It will be open to the public for the Bank Holiday weekend.

As well as looking at art, visitors will be invited to make it: anyone who brings a stencil will be allowed to add their own design. Banksy said: “Graffiti doesn’t always spoil buildings. In fact, it’s the only way to improve a lot of them. In the space of a few hours with a couple of hundred cans of paint I’m hoping we can transform a dark, forgotten filth pit into an oasis of beautiful art — in a dark, forgotten filth pit.”

None of the works is for sale, nor is the tunnel, which has been rented from its owner, Eurostar, and which will revert to public use after the show.

Last night Jo Brooks, Banksy’s spokeswoman, said that Eurostar had agreed to leave the work in place for up to six months. “They were very happy with what they saw,” she said.

The early visitors included Kevin Spacey, the actor and artistic director of the Old Vic.

It is the first exhibition staged in Britain by Banksy since Crude Oils in 2005, when he filled a shop in Westbourne Grove, London, with 164 live rats and vandalised pastiches of works including Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Jack Vettriano’s Singing Butler.

At a Sotheby’s charity auction in New York in January, a Banksy image sprayed on top of a Damien Hirst spot painting fetched £950,000, a record for the artist.

Guerrilla art

— Adam Neate hung his canvases on nails on London streets, leaving them to be discovered

— Jeff “Doze” Green began tagging New York subway trains as a student in the 1970s. His work now hangs in galleries in the US, Europe and Japan

— The self-styled French “guerrilla artist” Space Invader secretly created mosaics of the arcade game figures on the city streets of six continents over ten years. There are 75 in London alone

Source: Times archives




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It's a rich city but it has 650,000 poor children. It's London
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/05/05 08 : 14
April 30, 2008
Rosemary Bennett, Social Affairs Correspondent



The alarm clock rings at 4am in Martha Hunter's North London flat, as it has every morning for 13 years. The single mother gets up, dresses and heads into Central London to start her cleaning job at 6am. Mrs Hunter, 38, and her daughters, Karen, 14, and four-year-old Julianna, have been living in “temporary accommodation” for three years — a tiny flat in Haringey where the girls have to share bunk beds. The cooker doesn't work properly and the shower is broken. “I hate it. I have been fighting, fighting with the council to get a better place,” says Mrs Hunter.

This is the day-to-day reality of life for hundreds of thousands of Londoners struggling to make a living in one of the world's richest cities. As Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson trade blows over transport, property prices and the environment, entire communities feel unable to connect with the campaign issues.

While the billions of pounds spent to help families out of poverty have been a success in the rest of Britain, lifting almost 600,000 above the breadline, London has been left behind. There are 650,000 children still in poverty, 41 per cent of all the capital's children and down by just one per cent since 1998. The numbers in poverty have not fallen at all since 2000.

Carey Oppenheim, who chairs the London Child Poverty Commission, said the great raft of government initiatives that have helped to reduce poverty elsewhere by “making work pay” have had barely any impact at all in London. The national minimum wage of £5.52 an hour is simply not enough to live on in the capital. “The incentives to work in London are far weaker than anywhere else,” she says. “In London the costs of housing and child care, on top of the hassle factor of getting into Central London where the jobs are and home again in time to pick up from school or nursery, mean it is just not worth it for many people to get a job,” she adds.

Jane Wills, Professor of Human Geography at Queen Mary, London University , says London's low-waged have been hit badly by the rapid spread of “contracting out”, the cost-saving scheme pioneered by the Tories in the 1980s and embraced by Labour, which has prevented wages from rising as the economy boomed. “Sub-contracting in cleaning, catering and security and so on is being used by hospitals, local government and across the private sector. That means there is in-built pressure on keeping wages low across the service industry. These companies have to tender every four or five years so there is no room to push up wages even if they wanted to.”

Mrs Hunter is among the more fortunate cleaners in the capital. She works for the London School of Economics, which pays contracted-out staff the “living wage” of £7.20 an hour. Esasa Erhunse is not so lucky. She has cleaned rooms at one of the best-known hotels in London for 13 years. She has not had a pay rise since 2003. “We were paid £6 an hour when a new company took over our contracts. They said we were being paid too much and would be kept on this rate until the minimum wage catches up,” she says. She lives with her daughter, now 18, in a tower block in the Old Kent Road and has struggled to make ends meet as the cost of living has escalated while her wages stayed the same.

"These have been very bad years. It has been very stressful because the electricity bills have gone up, our rent has gone up but my money has stayed the same so we have to make it back somewhere else,” she says. “People say I should get a new job but I am 50 and I think it is safer to stay where they know me. I cannot remember when I last bought new clothes. If we get the chance to go without a meal, we do it.”

In the East End it is unemployment rather than low wages that is the problem. Tower Hamlets, the borough that borders the City of London, has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 14 per cent.

Farage Mahmood, 22, has been out of work for a year. He speaks good English and has “a few GCSEs”. But since leaving school he has had only two short stints in work. Now that he wants to get a job he can't find one.

He lives in a three-bedroom council flat in Shadwell with his parents, four brothers and three sisters. One brother and two sisters have jobs and support the household. “My parents don't speak English so we don't really talk much. My brother is rich. He helps me out. He's a bus driver. But I want to get on now and get a place of my own. But there are just not that many jobs around and the ones I want have gone by the time I ring.”

Chris Henry, a play leader with Coram , the children's charity, says: “People want to work but the cost of childcare stops them. It doesn't get much better when the children are older because there is chronic shortage of after-school provision round here. People do the sums and work out that they are better off on benefits.”



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Wanted: 18,000 classical music fans for O2 big, brash gig
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/05/05 08 : 12
From The Times
April 30, 2008
Ben Hoyle, Arts Reporter 



There will be naked dancing girls, bungee ropes, a four-storey tower wreathed in fireworks and the theme from the Old Spice adverts amplified so that 18,000 people can hear it.

Puritannical music lovers should probably run for the hills: the stadium classical music gig is coming to Britain. O2 , the concert venue in the former Millennium Dome, announced yesterday that it will stage a monumental production of Carmina Burana next January.

It plans to follow Carl Orff’s frenetic and instantly recognisable work with productions of Carmen, Aida and The Nutcracker. A musical adaptation of Ben-Hur has also been mooted.

In the ten months since it opened, O2 has won a stack of industry awards and hosted the Led Zeppelin reunion concert, the Rolling Stones, world championship boxing and Strictly Come Dancing. However, presenting classical music as mass entertainment on this scale represents a significant new gamble.

The promoters, Harvey Goldsmith and Raymond Gubbay, have had mixed commercial fortunes presenting operas in Earl’s Court, Wembley Arena and the Royal Albert Hall over the past two decades. But not since 1926 and the end of the triennial Han-del Festivals at the Crystal Palace, six miles away across South London, has such a large indoor venue in Britain hosted classical music.

That event peaked in 1883 when a choir of 4,000 and an orchestra of 500 performed Messiah to an audience of 87,000.

This production of Carmina Burana has already played to 150,000 on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro and more than a million people in 13 years of worldwide touring. It has not visited Britain before.

Franz Abraham, the German impresario behind the production, described his Carmina Burana as “the antiboring classical spectacle”.

Musical theatre as imagined by Cecil B. de Mille seems to be the general idea, with 250 performers – including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Brighton Festival Chorus and Youth Choir, as well as dancers, actors, and singers – involved in the British staging.

A huge, moving central tower provides a backdrop to the sort of overblown spectacle that Orff originally envisaged for his music. There will be fireworks, giant puppets, cannon, vast light projections, masks the size of a man, bungee aerial sequences and “erotic scenes with naked girls imitating an orgy”, Mr Abraham said.

“Carmina Burana is about drinking, food and sex, next to the spiritual aspect of course.”

The work has its origins in a collection of often bawdy 13th-century poems discovered in a Bavarian monastery in 1847 by Johann Andreas Schmeller, a musicologist. They reflected the monks’ preoccupations with earthly pleasures and the overbearing burden of fate.

Schmeller turned the poems into songs that in turn became the basis for Orff’s epic orchestral and choral work, perhaps the most celebrated artistic achievement to come out of Nazi Germany. The whole composition lasts about an hour in performance although it is best known for the O For-tunachorus in the opening and closing movements, which was for many years the soundtrack to adverts for Old Spice aftershave.

Walter Haupt, a student and friend of Orff, created the production coming to the O2 and will conduct it.

“This is not only the most monumental version of Carmina Burana,” Mr Abrahams said. “It is the most authentic version. Orff’s widow came to the premiere and had tears in her eyes.

She said that this is what he dreamed for his masterpiece.”

The music industry is now intrigued as to whether there are enough classical music fans to fill the O2 .

James Inverne, editor of Grama-phonemagazine, said that the concerts could grow the audience for classical music if they were done with flair and sensitivity. “There are a lot of people who will go to something because it’s out of the ordinary and if it’s good there’s nothing to say they won’t then seek out the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican for more.”

But another industry insider with experience of arena concerts said: “They are never going to get 18,000 people for one performance. I’d put money on it. There just isn’t the audience.”

Tickets go on sale this Friday at 9am from www.theo2.co.uk



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Six decades on, who needs the ICA?
CATEGORY : [News Articles] 2008/05/05 08 : 11
April 29, 2008
Richard Morrison



The once scandalous home of the avant-garde is now an irrelevant backwater that can barely run its own birthday party


Somehow it seems symptomatic of the inconsequential backwater that the ICA has become. More than a year after the relevant date has passed, an exhibition called Nought to Sixty, the major component of its 60th birthday celebrations, is only now about to open.

It was early in 1947 that the Institute of Contemporary Arts was set up, by a group of Modernists who wanted a “new consciousness” of the arts to evolve in exhausted postwar Britain. In June that year the ICA's prime founder, an anarchist poet called Herbert Read, wrote a letter to The Times appealing for funds. That produced a scathing riposte from the 91-year-old George Bernard Shaw. If we wanted to improve the wellbeing of British people, he thundered, the money would be better spent on hygiene, not the arts.

Shaw had a point, with London still full of bomb craters and primitive Victorian housing. And there are those who would argue that the ICA has done little in the 61 years since to prove him wrong.

I wouldn't quite go along with that. It's probably impossible for anyone under 50 to imagine how stuffy the mainstream arts scene in Britain was, even in the 1960s. The counterculture, the beatnik movement, hippies, sex, drugs and rock'n'roll - these were things that happened elsewhere. They had virtually no impact on theatres, concert halls or art galleries. The ICA in those days was a unique melting pot for the avant-gardes of different fields, from Peter Blake's Pop Art to John Cage's aleatoric music.

It was also a thorn in the complacent backside of the Establishment. Shows such as the 1965 happening Oh What A Lovely Whore, which invited the audience to smash up a piano, or the 1957 exhibition Paintings by Chimpanzees (which was exactly that), or Mary Kelly's notorious 1976 display of dirty nappies (to bring home the reality of motherhood), or Einstürzende Neubauten's never-to-be-forgotten 1984 Concerto for Voice and Machinery, which demolished the ICA's stage with a piledriver - all these shook preconceptions about art. One show was shut down amid threats of indecency charges. That was the 1976 exhibition on prostitution, featuring the half-clad charms of a porn model called Cosey Fanni Tutti.

Those were the days! The ICA was always a shambling, incoherent place - but at least in its heady early decades it could was occasionally capable of shocking Tunbridge Wells with a lively piece of gross moral turpitude.

But all that was more than 25 years ago. Since then? Well, there have been odd attempts to recapture the spirit of daring anarchy. Looking back over my reviews in the 1980s and 1990s, I see I wrote about a series of workshops on transvestitism with “New York's foremost cross-dressing impresario”, about a display of catfood balanced on melons, and about “the first international festival of naked poets”. None of which has left the slightest trace on my memory. That was how much impact they made on me, and on the public at large.

Little wonder, then, that the ICA has gone off the radar in the past 20 years. Apart from one incident, that is. Six years ago its chairman, a businessman called Ivan Massow, was forced to resign when he made the observation that most conceptual art was “pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat”. How ironic. The ICA was in the headlines, for the first time in years, because its boss had attacked the very thing that it was supposed to be promoting.

In one way, however, Massow's words were unsurprising, since the ICA had spectacularly failed to jump on the Young British Artists bandwagon that galvanised the London art scene in the 1980s and 1990s. Charles Saatchi and Tate Modern were allowed to set the agendas, garner the headlines and draw the big crowds. Another irony: for the first time in history, Britain was the centre of an avant-garde art movement - yet the very institution set up to champion the avant-garde was nowhere to be seen.

What has the ICA been doing instead, while millions flocked to Nicholas Serota's great brick culture castle by the Thames? Well, it's been offering what its music programmer calls “hot, drink-fuelled nights of music, butt-shaking and smiles”. Admittedly, these club nights have boosted its attendance figures. But should you need a £1.36 million annual subsidy from the Arts Council to do that? London heaves with clubs offering butt-shaking to suit every taste.

The ICA has also made a point of championing the “digital arts” - a subculture of a subculture that already seems as dated as a prawn cocktail. And it is reliving its past. The Concerto for Voice and Machinery was revived recently - though with a fake floor so that the building wouldn't suffer any real damage. How symbolic! The ICA is “not about storming the barricades any more”, says Ekow Eshun, the former style journalist who was appointed its boss three years ago. So what is it about?

Perhaps it is about identifying the artists who are going to be big in the 2020s, rather than those - such as Hirst and Emin - who peaked in the early 1990s. If so, Nought to Sixty looks promising. It presents 60 solo projects by young British and Irish artists. Each show lasts just one week. And the line-up for May looks suitably weird and wacky.

Nina Canell and Robin Watkins, for instance, will be showing a film of a man digging a hole in a bog. Read into that what you will. And there's an exhibition by Alastair MacKinven, a young artist last seen glueing his hand to the floor of the Camden Arts Centre to test how long it would take the attendants to notice. According to the ICA's programme, this prank “plays with notions of institutional critique”.

Perhaps these youthful japes will be enough to revive its wild, iconoclastic spirit. But stuck in its posh home on The Mall, just beneath the Athenaeum Club and the Institute of Directors, the ICA seems marooned both geographically and symbolically. In London today contemporary arts flourish. Even pillars of the cultural establishment, such as the Royal Opera House and National Theatre, offer cutting-edge new work. If the ICA were to become more like the National Theatre of Scotland, to become not a physical venue but a commissioning body, it might still survive with its point intact. Yet in its current form it is almost the last place you would look for brilliant new work.

People who work in institutes are, by definition, insitutionalised. And that's the last thing the avant-garde should be. When the Edinburgh Festival reached its 50th birthday, the great George Steiner declared that the best way of celebrating the anniversary would be for it to abolish itself - before what was spontaneous and exhilarating became routine.

I am tempted to offer the ICA the same advice. If the ICA blew itself up tomorrow, what an anarchic statement that would be! Except that I don't think many people would even notice that it had gone.

Nought to Sixty, May 5 to November 2, www.ica.org.uk/noughttosixty

Shock or shlock? Milestones at the ICA

Peter Blake: Objects, 1960

One of the British artist's first solo shows, this exhibition is credited with launching Pop Art to the wider public. In the early 1960s the ICA mounted exhibitions by several of Britain's top artists, including Howard Hodgkin, David Hockney and Richard Smith.

The Clash, 1976

One of the band's earliest gigs, it inaugurated punk. The NME reported that a woman at the front of the crowd bit her boyfriend's earlobe off in front of an astonished Joe Strummer, and tried to slash her own wrists with a broken bottle before being bundled away by security.

Prostitution, 1976

Threatened with indecency charges, the ICA was forced to take down the syringes, chains, used tampons and pornographic images, as well as the star exhibit, a semi-naked woman.

Concerto for Voice and Machinery, 1984

The German band Einstürzende Neubauten, wearing heavy-duty goggles to protect themselves (no such help for the audience), noisily destroyed the ICA stage, among other things, with a road drill.

Manga! Manga! Manga!, 1992

This film season, one of the first showings of anime in the UK, introduced Japanese animation to London, and showed the first overseas releases of many classics of the genre. It still carries a huge following at the ICA's Comica festival.

NANCY DURRANT




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