The Elgar Festival is for Everyone
Last weekend it was the Elgar Festival. It is a celebration of Worcester’s most famous musical son, Edward Elgar. Held annually during the weekend closest to Elgar’s birthday (2 June 1857), the festival combines symphonic and string orchestra concerts by the festival’s orchestra-in-residence, the English Symphony Orchestra, with chamber concerts, choral concerts, recitals, outdoor concerts, plays, exhibits and talks.
What a terrific week of music. It was an incredible event, the organisers must be commended for making so many of the events either free or affordable. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to two performances in which the Mayoress sang. During the Gala Concert we were treated to Elgar’s ‘The Music Makers’ and Elgar’s symphony no.1. The conductor was the internationally acclaimed artistic director Kenneth Woods.
Whilst introducing the various pieces of music Ken made remarks, to the packed Cathedral, about the parlous state of funding that the arts receive in this country. His pointed words alluded both to the funding cuts to the Arts Council England and the BBC following its recent announcements of cuts to its orchestras and the potential demise of the BBC Singers, the only full-time professional choir in the country.
This sort of got me thinking – why are these cuts happening and why is classical music seen by many as being posh and elitist? Could this be something to do with, what we know we value, and what we don’t know is not valued and so not funded?
I’m afraid so, successive governments have consistently cut music education budgets which, together with an under-valuing of the subject and greater emphasis being placed on STEM subjects, leads to fewer students studying music at GCSE and A level, and the knock-on effect of fewer pupils taking up instruments.
Many music teachers are leaving the profession, music teaching is being carried out in many schools by peripatetic staff that only some schools and parents can afford. This is now all compounded by the cost of living crisis, escalating energy costs in schools forcing head teachers into having to make very difficult decisions about what to cut. I’m afraid it’s a bit of a depressing picture of decline.