More composers, more music, more listening opportunities

It’s the end of International Women’s Day 2018. I’ve been meaning to write this post all day. But paid work-opportunities have taken priority. Then there was a dinner party with someone who works at the Palace. Sometimes writing has to settle for a position further down on the to-do list.

IWD is an odd thing. It’s one of the few ‘occasions’ I’ve seen coming down the pipe on social media that I’ve risen to. I see the day as an opportunity to celebrate people who have helped me – the sort of Mothering Sunday I’d like Mothering Sunday to be but never really is. Because really, as a bloke, white and almost certainly privileged in some people’s eyes, celebrating the women who have helped me in life and career (all of them) is the very least I can do.

I’ve heard a lot of cynicism today on public transport about International Women’s Day. From men and women. Men goading women, women rolling their eyes at the efforts of their employers to bring more attention to the day.

That’s struck me as a bit of a shame. I’ve rather enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on the strengths of others. And I’ve also appreciated the various resolute endeavours announced today as well.

And in particular, Trinity Laban’s announcement that music by women will make up more than half of its concert programmes in 2018/19 academic year. They’ve also announced their intention to publish an online database of female composers past and present.

Like Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal College, endeavours such as this provide higher education institutions with a much-needed opportunity to amplify their brand. But more than that for me, this commitment like the Keychange Pledge announced by PRS Foundation a couple of weeks back widens listening opportunities. That means more content to discover. It also means more content to assess, judge, celebrate and embrace. And that means an even greater need for objectivity when listening.

Pictured above is Harriet Harman, staff and students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music launching ‘Venus Blazing’, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance’s campaign to celebrate music by ‘missing’ women composers.

Read more about Trinity Laban’s commitment and their new online database on the Venus Blazing website.

Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park set for Autumn production at Grange Festival

Opera in luxurious settings – they’re all the rage at the moment. The original – Glynebourne – has inspired the likes of Opera Holland Park, Garsington, Grange Park Opera, and, this year, Grange Festival.

This isn’t a matter of cashing in, or aping someone else’s style. Each has their own character. Each has their own way of creating a sense of occasion out of a visit. After all, if everyone on the production is making a special effort to put on a show, why wouldn’t the audience want to make a special effort in order to watch it. Expect to see more and more of these appear in the next few years. We’ll know when we’ve reached capacity when a bank holiday run of The Ring is offered with options for glamping.

Grange Festival has another added benefit which I’m currently finding rather tempting – an interval 10 minutes longer than its parent Glynebourne, running to an astonishing 100 minutes. You’ve travelled all that way, why rush the experience?

That makes the prospect of GF’s September production of Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park a tempting prospect (though I’m advised that in autumnal September and out of festival, the interval is limited to just 30 minutes). Sure, the reviews of its 2011 premiere were glowing (all five stars), but it’s still a punt, isn’t it? Turn the visit an afternoon trot round a 17th century neo-classical Hampshire mansion, and a meal, and the pressure is off the new(ish) opera. If you end up enjoying the thing you assume you won’t (because its unfamiliar to you) then so much the better.

It’s a tidy package. What I’m not quite clear on is whether I’m finding it tempting because I’m getting older, getting tired of concert halls, or whether its because opera companies have hit on a saleable idea. And given that the top price ticket is £80 that makes the whole thing a better offer than a concert.

Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park is on at Grange Festival on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 September 2017