Requiem for a Symphony

london orchestra photoThis morning, the councillors of the city of London, Ontario decided unanimously to deny funding to their symphony orchestra, which was in dire straits financially.  The musicians, twenty nine in total, plus some support staff, had not been paid in recent weeks, apparently, and they needed 300 grand to tide things over for a month or two.


Now, I love classical music, and consider it the basis for all music post-classical (classical itself being derived from the ancient chants, Gregorian and otherwise).  I sing in our local schola, trying to keep real music alive.  So I sympathize.  In fact, though I am an implacable proponent of small and limited government, I could see some role in offering some support to the arts and culture.  Ideally, however, I would like to see individuals in the community keeping their local orchestra afloat, along with other artistic endeavours, drama, poetry, libraries and so on.  The Stratford Festival, specializing in plays by the Bard, is generously endowed by the government.  I guess not enough private support for Shakespeare.


It is a sad testament to our culture that a university city like London cannot support an orchestra, but it is not a surprise.  What used to be our ‘culture’ is being left in tatters.  Even in the supposedly highbrow halls of Western, where the elite go to study (yes, yes, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I am permitted in this case, since I, sad to say, went there blindly to seek an education).  Outside of the music faculty (and even within it), how many students could tell you anything about Mozart or Bach, to say nothing of Palestrina or Corelli or Vivaldi?  Students may vaguely recognize the Halleluiah chorus from the Messiah, but most would not be able to tell you who wrote it, nor, even, what the whole piece is about.


I wonder who would dedicate their life to music, outside of the rap and pablum on the radio, when there is no remuneration?  What are all those violinists and cellists and oboeists going to do?


Culture reflects what people in society value, and they no longer value much of what we would normally construe as ‘culture’.  Thus, culture must be artificially supported by the coffers of the State; as we saw this morning, in these days of fiscal restraint (well, restraint at least in some areas, and possibly illegal profligacy in others), those halcyon days of cultural funding may be coming to an end.


So, if you love the arts, get out there and attend a concert, an opera, a play even a ballet over this holiday season or in the new year; I think you would enjoy it more than you think, and you would be helping preserve what is best in our past and present.


December 19, 2014