Apparently, the last couple of days have been the Music Nation weekend: a whole series of musical events which form part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Regular watchers of QI will remember that culture was once a part of the main Olympics: with competitors vying for medals in architecture, sculpture, literature, painting and music. Apparently, the arts were finally dropped in the 1950s as artists were thought to be professionals, whereas athletes were required to be amateurs: o, the irony! Perhaps, in the 21st century where a ticket to see a Premiership match makes a decent seat at the opera look cheap, it is time to revisit this decision?
Anyway, despite my ignorance of this key component of this Olympic year, I did manage to take in a couple of contrasting musical events yesterday – well, someone has to support the arts in these parlous times!
The first was a matinée performance of The Mikado by the Cambridge University Gilbert and Sullivan Society – my first chance to see inside Cambridge’s other university. This (i.e. the production, I’m not part of OFSTED) was pleasingly amateur (very much in the Olympic spirit) but was nonetheless enormous fun – and uniquely in my experience of the work, the three little maids were, only very recently, from school! As part of my singing training, I have been tackling some of the lower pitched works of Messers G and S with some success (in my mind, if nowhere else) – and sitting in the audience could think “I could do that!” (not a thought that used to arise much when I was a regular visitor to the London Coliseum: then again, given a gladius I’d probably be a danger to myself). As a result, I am now starting to feel the lure of the stage (not the first one out of town): the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd! GofaDM is all very well, but you can’t actually see the audience suffer…
The second musical event was an altogether more serious (and Russian) affair with the CUMS Symphony Orchestra (the new name for CUMS I). This paired Prokofiev’s 1st Violin Concerto with Shostakovich 7th Symphony, aka ‘Leningrad’. I am a big fan of Dmitri’s seventh: very much the acceptable face of propaganda for my money. It is, at times, quite a loud piece using a large orchestra with plenty of brass and percussion, but I had only previously heard it at the Proms in the caverous surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall: audience capacity c.5000. Last night made use of the largest university orchestra I have yet seen, so large that some 10% of the 500 seats at the West Road Concert Hall had to be removed to make room for it. The performance may not have been as technically perfect as those I’ve seen in London, but it made for an incredible experience. O boy, did it pack an emotional, and physical, punch! Brought a manly tear to my eye – though, as we have already established I do cry at the drop of a hat (figuratively speaking, I have never blubbed at an example of the milliner’s art experiencing a sudden, unwanted drop in gravitational potential energy, nor for that matter, at the work of Flanders and Swann), it has only happened once before at a concert.
But, I know the question on everyone’s lips – what about the ice cream? Well, I can exclusively reveal, that the newer university provides a larger tub of artisanal ice cream at a lower cost than its older sibling.