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Sir Simon Rattle is right to express his concern about the state of classical music in the UK (Simon Rattle is right: Britain is becoming a cultural desert – and that’s a political choice, 26 April). He worries about the future of orchestras, opera houses and major choirs as public financial subsidies end.
I am the secretary of a very small society which promotes concerts in the north of Hertfordshire. We have also lost the support of the local authorities, but even more worrying is the decline in our audience.
To survive, we have access to a congenial center with good sight lines and its own concert piano. Then we need an audience of at least 100 to enable us to engage with well-known professional musicians. There is no suitable local venue, so we do it. We cannot attract an audience of more than 50 to enjoy the standard chamber music repertoire. Older people don’t travel anymore. Young people do not appreciate a night out in an unfamiliar environment listening to unfamiliar music played by unknown (to them) musicians.
We cannot justify subsidies if we do not attract an audience. Our national association, Making Music, focuses on encouraging amateur performers. There is little support to motivate listeners. Perhaps it is now up to the conservatoires to turn their hands to create a new young audience, only to provide work for their young musicians.
• As Martin Kettle says, Simon Rattle is right to lament the poor state of support for the arts in this country. It is very unfortunate that the government has chosen to view the arts sector as a drain on the nation’s resources and have savagely reduced the provision that has never been more than a respectable provision for this area. What all forms of art can do to engage, energize and sustain people’s spirits at a time when morale seems so low should be celebrated. When it comes to improving people’s mental health, the arts have a huge role to play.
I am old – and lucky – enough to be able to attend Robert Mayer’s concerts at London’s Festival Hall – almost free concerts that fostered a love of music in children (not funded by the government, but founded by some who appreciated the music of joy. can be given). I also went regularly to my local theater theater – where the talents of budding actors were nurtured – a system that was lost due to financial neglect. Those concerts and theater performances added to the gifts of life for me.
• Local parish churches are the unsung heroes of UK music. From Evensong to Elgar, rock music to requiems, churches are the perfect home for amateur and professional choirs, musicians and orchestras. They are big, they are beautiful and there is one in every community. Churches have nurtured our top musical talents such as Tasmin Little and Ed Sheeran. Live music also adds to the income of churches, which is so important when many people are struggling to raise the money needed to keep their buildings open and in good condition.
Head of communications, National Churches Trust
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