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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Jingoism at the Proms

The Proms have always been known for a bit of jingoism, though usually it's limited to the last night, when 'Rule Britannia' and 'Land of Hope and Glory' are sung as a matter of course, amongst much British flag waving. Occasionally people get a bit het up about it, and probably it's not terribly appropriate any more, but it's just a bit of fun. I think. (As an aside, I heard 'Land of Hope and Glory' as background music to a really funny Canadian beer advertisement saying, in effect, that 'We Are Not American'. Didn't know the Canadians also claim this song.)

The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra has its own style of operating, and as part of their show at the end of the concert they return to the stage for the encores, wearing jackets in the colours of their flag.

This appears to have upset some people, in particular one Drew80, who has complained about this both on Jessica's blog and on the Overgrown Path blog, suggesting that if any other youth orchestra, eg from Italy (which he describes as a NON-THREATENING country], were to appear in garb manufactured from their flag, they would be boo'ed off the stage. Then someone else in Jessica's blog commented that Drew80 being family and church-minded and American, therefore he is a right wing American who sees Venezuela as a threat. Not entirely helpful.

Returning to the flags in concerts - I am sure I have seen the European Youth Orchestra ladies wearing blue dresses with yellow stars (ouch, come to think of it; maybe those stars are meant to be golden - they reflect the states of the old 15 state EU). To be totally truthful, the dresses looked a bit naff. The point being, though, that these dresses reflected the unitedness of one Europe, and that was an important point to be made.

The point being made about the Venezuelan crowd is that Chavez, the president, is not so good at democracy, having for example, closed down an opposition TV station recently. Overgrown Path compares Dudamel to Furtwaengler, seeing as the orchestra played the national anthem at the opening of the [government] TV station that replaced it. Hmm. It's worth knowing that the Youth Orchestra is funded by the state, as, interestingly, were the Berlin Philharmonic, who were about to go out of business, until they were rescued by the Nazi party (as I learned on TV only last night). He who pays the piper....

I can't think, though, in which way Venezuela is threatening. Oh yes, they are subsidizing Fidel Castros oh-so-threatening regime, which, at a drop of a hat, would take over the mighty United States and end the American way of life.... Venezuela is not threatening to me. But of course it has OIL, and the US are desperate for that - but find it really hard to do business with 'a dictator'. Like they are trying to stop Georgia buying oil and gas from Iran ('we pay for your army and we tell you who you can play with').

But anyway, how to deal with flags at concerts? Should they be banned? But why should music be different from, say, sport? If we banned flags at concerts, then they could not be used at international music competitions; churches would need to remove their ancient and fragile flags at concerts, and any concerts celebrating a nation's national day, or one of their national composers, would also be flag less. (perhaps that does not happen much in the UK...). I am sure when any Russian folk ensembles travel, their flags are not far behind. As for Putin's record on democracy...

Or is Drew80 suggesting that bands wishing to fly their flags should first undergo a political assessment to see whether their flag is acceptable?

Storm in a teacup, but it's interesting what it brings out in people. Don't sweat the small stuff, and look beyond the packaging!

Moving on to a small line in Overgrown Path's blog (a very very Highly Respectable Blog), he writes 'of course the Venezuelan music education system is a fantastic way of rejuvenating classical music.'

It makes me wonder if he 'gets it' about the Youth Orchestra at all? The point of it was not to rejuvenate audiences, but to take children off the streets. Everything else is a bonus. I would vote for any government that creates such a system (as Scotland is now trying to do, though I'm not sure that the new SNP-government is quite in the same mindset; but I may be doing them an injustice).

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