And when I say no, it’s often because, from a journalistic standpoint, the concert in question is like a perfectly round, smooth sphere. It has no angles, no edges, no hooks – nothing for a journalist to grab onto and work with.
This happened to me (yet again) recently. A publicist informed me that a prestigious European chamber ensemble would soon be coming to town. Could I write something in advance – perhaps an interview with one or more of the members?
I read over the biography of the group: lots of concerts in famous venues and a handful of impressive CDs. I read over the performers’ individual biographies: they all studied with distinguished teachers, and won some very nice prizes along the way. I looked at their upcoming program: three fine works by Mozart, Schumann and Mendelssohn.
All of this pointed to an excellent evening of music-making. But where, oh where, is a feature article to be found here? There didn’t appear to be any engaging back-story or clever extra-musical theme to the program. There was no indication that any of the musicians had any remarkable human-interest stories to tell. And the ensemble wasn’t even celebrating a round-numbered anniversary year.
So I wrote to the publicist: “Is there anything newsworthy, or unusual, or controversial about this ensemble or about this concert? If I were to interview a member of the group, what would I ask?”
The publicist was evidently just as stumped as I was. After consulting the artistic directors of the presenting series and coming up with very little, she turned the topic of our correspondence to other upcoming concerts.
So what’s the take-away here?
Should musicians always strive for man-bites-dog novelty, when putting a concert-program together? I would hate for such an approach to become de rigueur. A “standard” concert by a “regular” ensemble can be a sublime thing, and nobody should doubt the musical value of such an enterprise. I hope that such concerts will always have an honoured place in the classical music world.
But people in the classical-music world need to understand that their musical values and the values of journalism aren’t necessarily congruent. Just because a concert is going to happen – and, by all indications, it’s going to be a very good one – that doesn’t make it a good story.
Maybe that’s not the way things should be, in an ideal world. But that’s the way they are.
© Colin Eatock 2015