Saturday with the SMP 6

1 AM. Bypassed immediate post-concert blog post in favor of a beer with the band. Back home at last, so just a few quick thoughts to end the day.

Shostakovich- I think the message got through. No coughing at the end, instead complete silence as the orchestra really found an amazing pianissimo, and the last chord was breathtakingly in tune. We had a long, long silence at the end before a very enthusiastic response. However, much earlier in the movement someone was unwrapping a candy so loudly and for so long that I nearly turned around.

Afterwards in the bar I was talking with a mixture of musicians and audience members. One woman, who said she was quite shaken by the piece, said “the why and what for are so much harder to think of today, when we’re back at war.”

The sad conclusion of the entire table was that we’ve learned nothing. Why and for what? Because and for nothing. More people need to hear this music.

I’m usually not in a social state of mind in rehearsals and need to head home afterwards, so with the SMP, the only chance we really get to visit and chat is after the concerts. In addition to being good musicians, they’re an interesting and brilliant bunch of people.

As soon as I said my goodbyes, I was plunged into an entirely different world. Guildford is a beautiful old market town, but on a Saturday night, like so many towns and cities across Britain, it’s a violent and crazy place. Just yards outside the concert hall were fist fights, road rage, and all matter of mayhem.

We’re hearing a lot from the government about how they’re going to “get tough” on this kind of behavior, but there were an army of cops on the street, and it was still chaos. At some point, adding hundreds of cops to a riot just means more insanity as they try their best to break things up and calm things down.

The real question is what happens to all these people between Monday morning and Friday evening. Where does all this rage come from? What’s happening to society? Guildford, like Cardiff and London and Manchester can give you the feeling of being on the brink of a complete abyss of violence and social breakdown.

Then again, perhaps it’s always been this way. Muriel, one of our cellists, said it well about the forgotten lessons of the war years. “Man is man. Humanity never changes.” Humanity may not, but humans can change. I’ve got to believe that. Why and for what? The meditation on the question is the only possible answer.

c. 2007 Kenneth Woods

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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4 comments on “Saturday with the SMP 6”

  1. Anna

    a case of, ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’, maybe we should ‘tannoy’ the music out onto the streets. They’ll either grow to love it, or, at least disperse….

  2. Kenneth Woods

    Hi Anna

    The thing is….. without music, I’d be as or more lost and angry and out of control as any of those people. I can’t help but think that maybe %20 of those out there rioting could find meaning and hope in life through music, and more still through theatre, visual arts and literature. You’ll never reach everyone, but if more of them had found something they loved when they were young, would they need to puke and fight on the high street every weekend?

    Good to hear from you


  3. Anna

    you are so right!
    It has to start in the schools, nursery even, to give young minds a chance to grow, and love something a little more wholsome.
    luckily the school my children go to are very interested in music and even have classical cds playing whilst the children work. (at infant level)
    i’m sure it isn’t the same for many though.
    the whole system needs to be shaken/woken up.

    Good to hear from you too!

  4. john wilson

    Brilliant, spot-on comments. it makes one ponder just what to do to open the minds of others to the benifits of music, art & literature. i have been chewing on this comment for quite some time since anna’s comment.

    as a relatively new resident to the pendleton area (since 2002-ish) i am still learning much of the manners of the town. we moved to pendleton after i took a new job with the state of oregon. My daughter was starting high school and my son was in 6th grade.

    my first major shock was at a music concert at our middle school….my son was in the 6th grade band . the concert had performances of the 6th grade band, choir, beginning orchestra, 7th/8th grade band and the finale the 7/8 jazz band. The beginning 6th grade band students performed well. as the vocal group filed on stage a full 25% of the audience left!!!!! i stared in disbelief at the empty chairs in the gymnasium. by the time the 7th/8th grade band was on stage there was only half of the house left.

    This has been the scene at each concert at the middle school as well as the high school. 1/4 to 1/3 of the audience evaporates after each group’s performance. Are we so busy that we can’t take two hours out of one evening to enjoy the efforts of our kids and of their classmates? I don’t recall this happening 20 years ago when i was “dragging my perents to the band concert” (and my father was one to think that the band class was a waste of my time), but we stayed for the entire performance of all of the groups, even when i began to drive myself.

    i suppost that everyone has their own levels of sacrifice….our sports teams are more revered than our offerings in art….and there are students that are whisked away to a late practice after their time on stage, perhaps along the line of thought that a sports scholarship is more promising than the broader experience of the evening concert.

    how are we to bring about a change in attitude toward fine arts in our schools? after all, they invented football to have a place for the marching band to perform before and in the middle of the game!!! 😉

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