Will Covid wipe out large-scale classical music?
Our orchestra has yet to meet since the outbreak. But will live orchestras be viable in a post-covid world?
They were viable in a post-Spanish-influenza world.
I don't know, Elise. The talent pool is still there and maybe stronger than ever. My understanding is that it's kind of propped up largely by a few old rich people of the "noblesse oblige" variety, so I think it's a question of whether their priorities shift due to the pandemic. Maybe they will all decide that they would rather get their entertainment from Tik Tok, but I'm not sure how they would be able to broadcast their magnanimity and feed their egos without being able to put their names on symphony halls.
Elise, I'm not sure whether you're in a professional paid orchestra or a community one, but I will speak to the community side.
Here in Belgium we are experiencing a true second wave, but concert season has started, according to a very safe protocol, involving distancing, mouth masks, what have you. So: "no"!
While this situation is going on much longer than we hoped, it is not going to last forever. Sadly, some organizations will fold, and many musicians will suffer from loneliness and financial devastation, the same as people in many other fields.
I think we might see more outdoor concerts and perhaps a greater demand for carbon fiber instruments/bows. I could see the Boston Symphony, for example, playing an extended outdoor summer season perhaps in Boston (at the Esplanade) and in Lenox (Tanglewood). It’s certainly a game changer. I think it could have an impact on music programming too. I hope classical music becomes more popular; taking it outdoors might just do that.
No guarantees, of course, but I don’t think it will. I have a feeling that once this is over people will be yearning for live performances and social interaction. I think once it is reasonably safe again, people will be more likely to choose a live concert over Netflix on the couch because the lack of live performances will make people realize how much they offer over YouTube, etc... Many organizations are doing what they can with outdoor performances, small audiences, etc. already.
Here in Cremona, once the epicenter of the Covid breakout in the Western world, concerts have resumed. The main difference is that mandatory social distancing means that hall capacity is about one third of normal.
I agree with Ingrid on this: people are getting tired of Netflix as their main source of entertainment, and if my social circles are any indication, this is true for all generations.
Here in the UK it's been raining since the beginning of September so I don't see outdoor concerts as the answer. Indoors the Bournemouth SO which numbers 50-odd salaried players is apparently about to embark upon a weekly series of symphony concerts in front of a drastically reduced audience that can't come close to covering its costs. Like every other professional orchestra on the planet it's hoping livestreaming by subscription will cover the shortfall. Exactly why a concert streamed live should be considered more attractive than one recycled via youtube isn't clear to me. Community orchestras don't stand a chance. The best we can do is hunker down and pray for a vaccine, and hope we don't get a repeat performance with a different virus in 10 years' time.
If there's something that will be viable will be live big orchestras. This will affect more the "indoor" orchestras, but these places can still be used by 40-70% of their full capacity.
The game changer that’s coming ( to America, and I also read about an orchestra in London that’s looking at rapid testing before performing) that might save orchestras before a vaccine, is that they are now developing and starting to manufacture COVID tests that give results in 15 minutes .
I think there will be a resurgence, at least for our regional orchestra, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra (RSO).
The big questions-- will people surge back into public settings once it is deemed safe, or will they have developed other habits?
At least in the United States, where the ability to perform necessary daily living activities almost always requires a car unless you are in the densest portion of the urban core of a city with excellent public transportation, we're not going to return to a one-car existence.
It's almost illegal not to own a car in the USA. I had a friend who was in a motel for work conferences, and the conference centre was half a mile down the road (a divided highway?) from the motel, so he walked each way, and twice he was questioned by the police about why he was walking.
The police probably were more aware than your friend that the areas directly adjacent to convention centers are where People With Money are walking back and forth from their hotel rooms and that these people are targets for thieves, muggers, and pickpockets. I have a friend who decided to use an ATM between a convention center and his hotel on his way back to his room after dark. He was robbed, instantly, upon leaving the ATM location. So, it may have been the police's way of telling your friend, "Buddy, if you value your life or your wallet, take a cab." The worship of the automobile is only one of our American maladies -- the other is that we have insufficient political will to actually do something about poverty and homelessness within our borders, and we're all but counting on it persisting elsewhere.
Police (after I parked in the low-income area round JH hospital in Baltimore in the 70s and was walking to work). "What are you doing? Don't you know that here you are an oasis in the desert."
What a strangely poetic turn of phrase from that cop...
@ Gordon and Paul: your comments bring up a memory. I was with my family (wife and two adult daughters) and we were in a hotel in Fresno, CA. It was dinner time and just across the street there was a restaurant. So obviously we walk.
I thought the downbeat tone of this thread needed lifting so I listed a few of my favourite things (that I can still do). Take it away Julie
Here in New Zealand life is going on as normal, except the border is closed to non-New Zealanders and returnees must quarantine for two weeks. We have had a combination of good management and good luck in our nation’s response to COVID 19. We had a full lockdown for six weeks at the beginning of the outbreak, and then later, a shorter full lockdown in Auckland.
Paul, my last employer, an international aero engine company, strongly advised its managers, and others, on business trips outside the UK to dress down to an informal level for when they were outside their hotel, so as to minimize unwanted attention from undesirables.
Would it be accurate to say that large-scale music works and their corresponding large-scale performances (Bruckner, Mahler, for instance) are no more than perhaps about two centuries old? Perhaps a return to smaller ensembles in smaller venues of the 18th century and earlier is indicated?
Projecting a bit when I was thinking of one-car households. Obviously, not all can live close to a train or subway stop. But I can't help wondering if there isn't a decent slug of the middle class that will be re-working their budgets now that they've had time to think about what they really need.
"Large scale music" was struggling even before COVID, and should be expected to after COVID for the same reasons, sooner or later, unless there are changes. Relevance. New music. Less conspicuous consumption of culture as such, and more actual culture. One can hope.
Relevance, now that's a good one. Today it's hard to imagine a stand-up comedian playing a Strad as part of his act.
Certainly - nobody can afford a Strad. Maybe a fine German Strad that was made in Czechoslovakia?
I hope it does, so that when it inevitably comes back we can finally see some significant evolution in classical music performance. The formal suit-and-tie concert format is outdated and was on the way out anyways.
I am not conservative at all, but the above is not true.
I can only speak about the community situation, and here in CA, we are trying to get back together and rehearse in small groups. I have had two string quartets in my own backyard and played a Tchaikovsky string serenade with a larger group in someone else's yard.
I'm working with a pianist (and a trio) regularly now Karen with the intent to perform. If the orchestra comes back I do plan to return - but its possible I may be post-orchestra myself. Its great incentive - actually better than orchestra as you have to perfect your sound.
Cotton, what would you concretely suggest? (1) To enjoy the live classical music, the audience should shut up, and there should be not too much outside noise. (2) It is nice to be able to sit down during the concert. (3) People wear what they like. Given these three axioms, you basically get the standard classical music concert set-up. (If you believe that suit and tie are obligatory, you haven't been to one?)
Re dress I think Cotton meant the orchestra...
It would only be good for classical music in the long run. I've been to plenty of local concerts, and it's inarguable that the scene has been pretty creatively stagnant. I don't remember seeing much of any youth attendance, except for superstar performances by Perlman and the like.
"Hardship is what drives innovation" is easy to say when you're not on the receiving end.
Add to that... I always see young people at the concerts I attend, even if they are usually not in the majority. And the music itself is not the problem regardless.
Of course not! There have been pandemics throughout history and we've gone back to life as usual every time. Don't expect packed concert halls a few months from now, but it will happen.
No, J-Ray, I wasn't implying that. But I see your point. On the other hand, I have colleagues and friends, and I might say, "Oh are you going to such-and-such a recital," and their response is, "Well, I would but our kids have something," or "Well we'd have to get a babysitter" or other such excuses that folks in their mid 50s and beyond really can't make. I do think there is a range of activities that are typically enjoyed by older people and a different (not entirely orthogonal) range enjoyed by younger people. I don't see a lot of older folks down at the bars where the college kids hang out on Friday and Saturday nights, just as an example. Not even on those Friday and Saturday nights when there's no symphony concert to go to. Cotton might infer that this means the pop-music that they're blasting at the college bars isn't relevant or creative because it fails to attract a large segment of our population.
I have attended classical concerts where nearly everyone was elderly. But I’ve also attended concerts where young people were the majority. It depends on where you look.
It may depend heavily on what is being played. In my area, almost as a rule, the average age of the audience is over 70 when the program consists entirely of old warhorses, under 40 when the program is mostly contemporary music and/or relatively obscure pieces, and somewhere in between for a program that contains a mixture. I've been both one of the youngest audience members at a concert and one of the oldest audience members at a concert in the same year.
I'd love it if there was a strong correlation between age and appreciation of contemporary music. Perhaps there should be and it might be stronger in the future, but in my limited experience, sometimes the older audience 'got' contemporary music just fine, whereas my son learned to expect it to be unpleasant (and not from me or the audience).
If you want a younger audience then include a youth orchestra in the performance. The age of the audience then flips from 70+ to 50+ - grandparents to parents ...
The Kitchener Waterloo Youth Orchestra is an integral part of our concert series with the KWS.They sit side by side with us through numerous programs and do an excellent job.We love having them in our Christmas Pops shows ( our biggest money maker of the season).
Note that the "relatively obscure pieces" I mentioned could be from any era, not solely contemporary. My orchestra got a relatively young audience for a program anchored by a Nielsen symphony, and one of the younger audiences I've been in recently was for Berwald. While the youngest audience I've seen in the last ten years was a new music concert, I'm referring mainly to the absence of frequently-played old warhorses rather than specifically to contemporary music.
The thing is that classical orchestra audiences have always been full of old people. It was the same way when I was a kid. That's 40+ years ago. So there's no disaster on the horizon unless we start running out of old folks.
The Kennedy Center had been doing quite well pre-pandemic by offering early-evening concerts -- just a little bit after work, allowing younger people to go directly from their jobs in the city to a concert. Sometimes, it's all about accommodating the scheduling patterns of the younger set.
Classical has been "dying" for a while, and it hasn't. It is a dead argument in my view.
"The thing is that classical orchestra audiences have always been full of old people. It was the same way when I was a kid."
One improvement made by our halls' management is allowing audience members to bring their drinks into the concert.Every seat has a cupholder now and lots of happy concert goers.Beverage sales have helped fund the hall significantly for maintenance and repairs.
We usually perform in a large church - I don't think they would approve of pew-cup holders Peter! [Though it might also improve sunday attendence - you know the church probably Peter ...]
“Just tell me what is alienating young people from attending concerts. The music?“
Classical concert-going for young people is truly, madly, deeply uncool, unless they learn an instrument when it only becomes deeply uncool. I blush to remember choosing to spend a Saturday evening playing snooker while John Williams (the guitarist) performed a recital in the same building
It will come back slowly. The last genre to come back to normal will be Opera, with lots of musicians crowded in the pit and solo singers blasting away in each others faces.
In Kitchener Elise?
Message me Peter - my email is on my profile...
Well, none of that seems like legitimate excuses not to attend concerts, Ms. Francis. An older person may state similar reasons (busy, rather attend comedy shows seem more fun, "snobby ushers"-though in my case, I have never encountered these...-etc.)
I emailed you Elise.
Legitimate or not, retirees have more spare time than people who are working or raising families. I am pretty sure that a lot of these younger people will become the old people at the symphony when they retire.
If my favorite violinists (for instance) are performing at a supposedly "stodgy", old Concert Hall at 8PM, I will be there, and make all the required accommodations and personal sacrifices. I am no longer young at 45, but it used to be the case when I was. I am not better than anyone, to be sure, but I just do not feel there are not too many cons for young people to attend these concerts.
The thing about making sacrifices to attend concerts, though: expanding the listener base has to start with making it easy to go from non-attendance to casual attendance. You cannot rely on anyone going straight from non-attendance to making classical concerts a priority.
Not dismissing anyone. I do not feel superior.
I'm not referring to people who are completely uninterested, though. There are many people who are somewhat interested, i.e. they like classical music but do not currently love it enough to go to great lengths to attend concerts. It's not all or nothing. Many of my friends fall in that category. And the success of the LA Philharmonic's "Rush Hour Concerts" and similar concerts in other cities proves that there is a substantial number of people who would show up. These are the people who would be more likely to start buying season subscriptions in the future, if live concerts are made more convenient for them to attend now.
in chicago, at symphony center (home of the chicago symphony), the audience is either grey or mostly bald. Unless there is a famous soloist there, it has looked like this for years. A couple years ago, my violin teacher played in someones home as part of a quartet where they played fairly typical chamber music(not geared towards the youth in any way). People sat on furniture, floor. My wife and I were in our late 50’s and we felt out of place. Avg age was 30 tops. Cost was via pass the plate. Why was this crowd young? I don’t buy the cost/affordability argument. Not when broadway musicals are 125 each if you are lucky. Double that for hamilton. Is it the venue? Honestly I don’t get it.
I definitely get the sense that chamber music is "in" among younger classical listeners. Generally I've seen much younger audiences for chamber music than for orchestras, regardless of whether the venue is a house, a cafe, an art gallery, a recital hall, or even a large auditorium.
Andrew's observations ring true to me.
Thank you Frieda, for your insights. I agree with you.
I guess I am an introvert, and do not mind "being with old people." I generally go to concerts alone anyway. However, I must note that there are always enough young people at concerts/recitals, at least in NYC.
For your information- an article on the OP’s original topic is in today’s (Thursday October 15) Wall Street Journal. Probably available on line or in Apple news reader for those who can’t get the print newspaper.
"I do not like the suggestion that young audiences 'avoid' older people, and that such tendency as a priority would impede them from attending a genuinely good performance on a bigger venue."
I never went to a classical concert with my parents. They'd probably just have chattered and fidgeted
And fussed with the program.
What keeps the you g people that I know from attending classical music concerts is the ticket prices.
Adalberto, the thing I'm getting at is that interest is not a binary. You can't assume that people either love classical music enough to clear their schedule for it, or have no interest in it whatsoever. Most people are somewhere in between those poles.
Sporting events are also expensive. People set the time aside and go, because people love. Same with Broadway shows (obviously contemplating a more "normal" world.)
Again, you are missing the point. Other forms of live entertainment do not so easily dismiss people who aren't super committed. The people who "love" anything will be a small minority, but there are many people who like it enough to attend when convenient.
When I was living in Brisbane the Conservatorium of Music in the city centre used to give live peformances on Saturday/ Sunday afternoons. It was to give the students experience in performing in front of a live audience. Admission was only $2 and these concerts were always well attended. I really do think high ticket prices put many people off (young and old). I do not have a solution to this : just stating a fact.
But concerts are not hard to attend for younger people... there is nothing "unwelcoming" that is not a societal construct.
"Most professional sports ticket revenue is not from superfans but from casual fans who only buy tickets occasionally."
Just have to note: football is very much the exception, because there are so few games each year that every game is a huge event. As popular as it is, it isn't even remotely representative of sports business in general. (Over the years I've been in a lot of conversations on sports business, as a soccer fan discussing the economics of expanding a sport that is historically a hard sell in the US.)
It's all about marketing, this "why do people spend tons for going to sports events and not to classical music?"
I'd be interested to know at what age you people here started going to classical concerts BECAUSE YOU WANTED TO rather than having it forced upon you by physical or psychological means. I can place the transition firmly to age 16/17, after I'd been coerced into playing and singing aged 11. At 15 I started buying LPs and listening to classical radio, but having my arm twisted to hear Barbirolli conduct the Halle in Salisbury Cathedral finally made me I realise what I was missing. Concert promoters can invent all the youth-pleasing gimmicks they like but kids need to be stimulated through the ears, led by the hand and propelled via the posterior regions.
The 2008 crisis was really bad for luthiers. One of my wood dealers, who offered excellent wood and services, closed.
The Covideo crisis is an excellent opportunity to loosen up your.wrist, for bowing.
I'm afraid I never go to concerts.
I've never been dragged to a concert by anyone else, it's always been on my own initiative. My parents wouldn't have anyway, they both dislike music enough that I've literally never seen either of them voluntarily listen to any kind of music, whether classical or popular, live or recorded. Playing music and listening to classical music were among my acts of adolescent rebellion!
Yes, I've been hooked on Radio 3 (aka The Third Programme, BBC classical music) since I was a toddler, although I was also aware of some pop music in the 60s and early 70s. I liked the Strawbs and the Scaffold, for example.
I remember being kind of neutral about going to see the local community orchestra with my parents. They wanted to go because my violin teacher was the concertmaster, and he was an excellent violinist. It was something to do anyway. And they always had cookies at halftime. Then I started playing in the orchestra myself, and backstage there were Cheez Whiz sandwiches on white bread at half time (and something called "ham salad" which I believe is another Midwestern delicacy). If our parents took us somewhere, it was more likely to be an art exhibit in Detroit or Toledo because my mother studied art and painted in her younger years. At home dad listened to records, almost all piano music. When my oldest brother was old enough he was allowed to take us to shows in Detroit, and one of the shows we saw was the pop-jazz violinist Noel Pointer. We saw Tommy Flanagan at Baker's Keyboard Lounge. We saw Ray Charles and Maynard Ferguson. Dad took me to see Oscar Peterson in Ann Arbor too. And I think the whole time I lived there we went to two Tigers games and one Red Wings game, but never the Lions because football is just stupid and the Silverdome was way the hell out in Pontiac. We never went out to eat either. But the three of us all went to private colleges and everything was paid for, no loans.
Outdoor events, like a football game, are inherently safer than indoor events, like most concerts, because of the much greater air space and ventilation. I read somewhere that the ratio of indoor to outdoor infections could be as high as 10 to 1. Also about masks; I read that in one study 85 % of new infections, they were wearing masks. Outdoor symphony seasons should return to normal this coming summer.
Interesting question: How many pandemics, epidemics, plagues, wars, catastrophes, natural disasters,... has classical music survived so far?
It was common in my childhood home to have classical music on at bedtime, which inevitably led to associating classical music with sleepiness, so I would have trouble staying awake at live symphony concerts! I don't recall having *objected* to going. As a young adult (college and early career, non-music), I had gone to non classical music events (for example, Broadway, B.B. King's) but probably avoided classical music because of:
Yes, that 85% number is only one report. There is an official public health sign at the front door of our music teaching studio that says;
Joel - I saw a joke image on social media and the last line was something to the effect of:
The study did not say that 85% of infected people caught the virus while wearing masks. It said that 85% routinely wore masks while in public, which was similar to the percentage of non-infected people who routinely wear masks in public.
Cheez whiz and ham salad sandwiches. Boy, does that take me back to my Midwestern childhood (you haven't had the full experience if you haven't had a sandwich with
There has yet to be a proper scientific study of the efficacy of face masks against Covid-19 in real-life circumstances. It's most unlikely there ever will be one because it would involve large numbers of subjects whose behaviour is closely controlled and/or monitored at all times (there is no way of knowing exactly when an infection has been acquired) and in situations which would also have to be classified and recorded. There would also have to be a randomized control group of non-wearers, not self-selected! Nevertheless the arguments in favour make perfect sense, especially as regards the danger of an unwitting carrier of the virus infecting others.
Welcome to empirical science Steve. The other way to do it is simply to see correlate the cross-infection rate with the mask frequency. Averaging will give you an idea of whether it has an effect - yes, you can not prove it that way but if the correlation is positive mask use should be encourage because WE HAVE NO OTHER WAY FORWARD.
The Greatest Generation picked scrap metal, ate a reduced diet With food coupons and had victory gardens, yet we can’t where a damn mask.:(
Victory gardens are back, kind of. Everyone and their siblings have become vegetable gardeners, bakers, and now that the vegetables have come in from the garden you cannot buy a Mason jar at the supermarket to save your soul. (Here I'd better stipulate to my lack of evidence for how well souls keep in Mason jars. I also didn't grow a victory garden this summer because I was keen to support the local growers.)
This might just work. London's Wigmore Hall (chief UK venue for chamber music) is running a complete programme of daily concerts played to a very small live audience but with streaming available for I think a month after each event. The artists are good and the sound is good but I particularly like the fact that donations are entirely optional! They'll make more money out of me this way than they ever would by the conventional route.
Oh no, pimento spread is something different -- it's definitely real cheese, and it can be made with excellent-quality cheddars. Proper Cheez Whiz is sprayed from a can. :-)
No no no, Lydia. Cheez Whiz comes in a jar. The stuff in the spray can is Easy Cheese. Both are made by Kraft Foods. These two terms became confused in American culture by an iconic scene in the movie "The Blues Brothers." And I agree with you about pimento spread, but just because something
I’m going to have to watch the movie again.
Oh, Easy Cheese is the best spray-can cheese, but you can get Whiz in spray form, too. (But as an ex-Philadelphian, I must say that the proper use of whiz from a jar is on a cheesesteak.)
I had to look that up. I now understand Lydia’s reference.
Cheez Whiz has no business not being propelled out of can! Otherwise, such an onomatopoetic name is totally wasted on the product. I find this to be the most existentially troubling development of this thread, and probably of the whole COVID thing.
No way. I'm digging in my heels. Cheez Whiz does not come in a spray can. I can be wrong about a LOT of things but NOT THIS. LOL
lived in Philly for years, many late night missions for cheesesteaks. recall them typically referred to as cheesesteaks, don't recall steaks.
Geno's for me. Got one once at a pub in Hatboro that just about put me into a coma, it was so huge.
Damn, it's all lies all around. This whole Trump thing really makes you question trust in any and all facts and institutions.
Looks like a fake to me, Christian. Notice how the "Kraft" logo does not appear on the product?
Covid? Orchestras?? Extinction???
Sorry about the diversion Elise. I take full blame.
Its no problem Paul - the question had really played itself out so anything goes. I was, however, amused to see that Lauri used it for her weekly poll!