In last weekend’s column I discussed Karl Lutchmayer’s thoughtful article “The Way Forward” in the October issue of the NCPA’s ON Stage magazine.
Lutchmayer begins by giving us a little historical background to the evolution of patronage for music in Europe, and pointing out the ‘ringing bells’, the similarities between the factors that brought about the democratisation and extension of the reach of classical music in 18th– and 19th– century Europe and England, and in 21st-century India. Lutchmayer asks “Why not Mumbai?”, but this question could well apply to Goa, and indeed to the rest of the country.
I would like to continue the discussion of concerts from the last weekend. I had discussed the logistics of organising live concerts, the financial costs involved, choice of venues and the need for community support in various forms, not just financial.
Lutchmayer makes another important point when he says “India has to find ways of promoting performances by as many Indian performers as possible.” This is something that Child’s Play India Foundation believes as well; performance opportunities have to go hand-in-hand with music education. Lutchmayer continues: “Above all, far more opportunity must be given to young musicians at all levels to gain experience at performing.” The young Indian musicians he meets at auditions have hardly played a few concerts in their entire lives, while “the international students against which they compete will have played in public 10-20 times a year for many years.”
This is why in addition to offering our children performance opportunities at least twice a year at our monsoon and Christmas concerts, we endeavour to widen the platform even further. Since its inception in 2013, Camerata Child’s Play India has offered a platform not only to young musicians in the community for ensemble playing, but offered solo opportunities to many of them as well. Ashley Rego and Maria Sancha Pereira played the much-loved Bach Concerto for two violins (D minor BWV 1043) under the baton of Pheroze Mistri at Caritas St. Inez in June 2013. Ashley also played the hauntingly beautiful John Williams theme from Schindler’s List at that concert. Joanne D’Mello and Andrea Fernandes, visiting home from Europe kindly contributed to our Kala Academy concert in August 2013, with Andrea playing continuo in Bach’s fourth Brandenburg concerto (G major, BWV 1049) and two Bach arias sung by Joanne. In January 2014, Chernoll Mendonca and Dwayne Fernandes performed the Vivaldi concerto for two violins (A minor RV 522) at the Goa State Museum Patto. And at the Monte Music festival in February 2014, Ashley Rego (violin), Elvina Fernandes and I (violas) and Leo Velho (cello) played the solo parts in Bach’s second Brandenburg concerto (G major BWV 1048) along with visiting musicians from Oberlin Conservatory of Music USA and from Canada.
At each Christmas concert, Camerata Child’s Play India has so far played Christmas concerti (Corelli, Torelli and Manfredini), which are essentially concerti grossi with solo opportunities for section leaders. At the last Christmas concert in December 2015, Chernoll Mendonca, Syanna Fernandes and Leo Velho were these section leaders.
This year, Child’s Play India Foundation inaugurated its Young Performers series, which gives a performance platform not only to our young teachers, but also to other promising young musicians, local and overseas. At our monsoon concert therefore, the stage was shared by not only our violin teacher Syanna Fernandes, but also visiting musicians from Purcell School of Music England Jenny Clarke (piano), Matthew Higham (flute), and from the Royal Conservatoire Scotland, Ed Cohen (piano) and Indian contralto Anckna Arockiam. Continuing this series, our Christmas concert will feature Leo Velho (cello) and Ingrid-Anne Nazareth (piano). Leo will also play cello duos with our visiting musician from Juilliard New York, cellist-conductor Avery Waite.
Lutchmayer makes the same point about the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI), the orchestra-in-residence at the NCPA, and India’s only fully professional symphony orchestra: “The SOI, whether through education or financial incentive, has to have far more Indian players, and book far more Indian soloists.”
Looking at the roster of the SOI in the brochure of the 10th anniversary season concert I attended last month, only 10% of the orchestra’s members are Indian. Interestingly, over 50% of the Indian contingent is of Goan extraction. This is why I have lobbied for an SOI outreach programme in Goa, where I am confident it would be most likely to yield the greatest dividend compared to anywhere else in India. Furthermore, by working with the disadvantaged and lower middle-class sector, there is much higher likelihood of these children wishing to enter the ranks of the SOI than the well-heeled sector, whose parents are more likely to nudge their children towards higher-paid, ‘more respectable’ professions.
Lutchmayer’s comment on booking more Indian soloists applies not just to the SOI, but to impresarios and concert organisers all over India. Take the case of Julian Clef, arguably India’s biggest rising name in classical music right now. He has been handpicked by Sir András Schiff, and been lauded by Benjamin Frith, both giants in the piano pedagogy sphere. He has performed at the prestigious Dvořák music festival in Prague in 2012, sharing billboard space with the top guns of the classical music world, from Zubin Mehta and the Staatskapelle Dresden to Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. BBC Music magazine earlier that year hailed him as a “Rising Star”, a “Great Artist of Tomorrow”. His stunning Gold Medal-winning performance at the Royal Northern College of Music Manchester in 2011 got him snapped up by the leading international music management company Hazard Chase, which represents the world’s renowned artists and has on its roster Piers Lane, Benjamin Grosvenor, and Martin Roscoe (piano); Pinchas Zukerman, Viviane Hagner, Jennifer Pike, and Anthony Marwood (violin); Julian Bream (guitar); and the Brodsky and Endellion string quartets. Yet bizarrely, even this does not guarantee a booked-up concert tour in India. I was flabbergasted to hear an impresario counterpart in another state say to me on the phone, “Clef should not think he can command a performance fee as high as a foreign artist.” Why shouldn’t he? What he brings to the performance arena is just as priceless. The same impresario would probably not bat an eyelid at paying a higher performance fee to a lesser artist as long as s/he has an exotic European or South-East Asian name. Why are we among the last to value the accomplishments of our own people? When will our sense of national pride be more than empty flag-waving, sloganeering and jingoistic chest-thumping?
I am however delighted to report that Kala Academy and ProMusica have responded promptly to the news of Clef’s current concert tour of India (he also performs in Mumbai, Delhi and Trivandrum) and graciously hosted his piano recital at short notice. Clef had inaugurated the Kala Steinway piano, and has given several memorable concerts upon it at return visits, so it will be a homecoming of sorts. He will play works by Chopin, Rachmaninov and Scriabin on 17 October 2016 at Kala Academy’s Dinanath Mangueshkar indoor auditorium at 7 pm. Entry is free.
(An edited version of this article was published on 16 October 2016 in my weekend column ‘On the Upbeat’ in the Panorama section of the Navhind Times Goa India)