Quentin Lett’s miraculous conversion to Radio 3

I’m always a little suspicious when a relatively well-known person usually employed to have an opinion (especially one for the likes of the Daily Mail) says something so controversially positive in favour of say the BBC. It’s a strange thing. Especially given the Stop Funding Hate campaign thing today which saw the Southbank Centre stop advertising with the Daily Oil Rag.

So, back to my point. The Oil Rag thing on the BBC was Quentin Letts talking about an article he’d written for the Daily Mail in which he explained why he’d abandoned Radio 4’s Today programme: for Radio 3 Breakfast.

Chortle chortle chortle. Very amusing. Isn’t this embarrassing and slightly awkward was the underlying joke on the Today programme: senior common room wags joshing with another across a table (I’m including Sarah Montague in that too). Letts squirms a bit explaining that he’s married to a classical musician already, and he’s only just switched over to Radio 3 because he’s tired of the Today programme’s ‘neuralgia’. And that what got him hooked in was hearing Rachmaninov’s second symphony.

Radio 3 Presenter Clemency BH (who is a real trooper calling in from her fluey sick bed) claims that the thing is that ‘classical music has been marginalised for decades’ what with music education this and accusations of elitisim and this and that. But that people were really crying out for this kind of music now because they really need it.

Classical music hasn’t been marginalised for decades. Music education has. There’s a big difference.

Also, the accusation of elitism has come from media organisations whose journalists don’t really know how to write about the subject hence why they end up relying on tired tropes they know their audiences will understand. In some instances they’ve long given up bothering to write about it at all because they’ve not seen it as particularly important.

There have been countless orchestras, countless seasons and endless concerts over the past 25 years in London alone. If classical music has been marginalised, wouldn’t you expect to see it reflected in a paucity of events?

Here’s my niggle. If classical music is to get the shot in the arm its artists justly deserve, those with a microphone in front of them need to talk about it in an intelligent and meaningful way. And that means avoiding all the tired cliches associated with it, and especially guarding against replacing old cliches with new ones. Like say, oh I don’t know, making wild statements like classical music has been marginalised?


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