Pre-Concert Talks: Good or Bad
Welcome to my first blog on the Camerata website. It’s prompted by the recent (Jan. 16th) review from Joe Woodard in the Santa Barbara News Press. In it Joe — a wonderful colleague and reviewer whose opinion I respect — slams me for my introduction to the Bach. Here’s the best paragraph:
“Actually, the worst part of the evening came first, on extra-musical soil. Camerata boss Adrian Spence has a sometimes unfortunate gift for gab and a lack of a filter for when it is proper to impose that gift on the paying public. His long and insultingly patronizing introduction to the Goldberg Variations, as if this was an obscurity from the dusty corners of the repertoire instead of one of the most popular and best-selling pieces in all of classical music, had an unfortunate sullying effect at the outset of the concert. In essence, he gave a pre-concert lecture, thrust into the sacred space of the actual concert. Please, no talking in the temple.”
To me his use of the terms “temple” and “sacred space” describe an environment which has inexorably eroded interest and participation in our music. I wrote the following letter in response, which the New Press declined to publish.
“This is in response to Joe Woodard’s recent Camerata Pacifica review, in which I was taken to task for my concert introduction. “No talking in the temple,” he said … illuminating.
Camerata Pacifica is not a member of Joe’s temple. We are part of a living, dynamic and contemporary artform. Membership not required.
In Joe’s temple, elders sit in pious silence worshipping knowledgeably at the altar of the gods of tonality. Outside, unable to decipher the byzantine terms and conditions, the curious are denied entry.
A monument of the canon, The Goldberg Variations is a seamless hour of prime Bach counterpoint. Those in the know hear Bach’s division of the work into small, easily digestible sections, but for the newcomer it can be a daunting 60 minute one-bite meal.
So, while the elders scowled and drummed their fingers, I described the structure. Those who lack the charity to welcome their initiates seem unaware of the echoes in their empty temple.
For decades Joe and I have disagreed on this topic, usually with more affability than in this latest critique. Joe’s a great writer, penetrating listener, colleague and friend.
I’m just glad he’s not in charge of the temple’s congregational development!
So here I’m taking it to you directly. What do you think? I know opinions vary, but that is a wonderful ingredient of Camerata Pacifica’s success — a difference of opinion is a wonderful thing.
Please post. I’m looking forward to hearing from you, and if this works we’ll here begin a great forum for future discussions.
All the best,