At one point, during our 10+ hour drive to Boston for AIO, my 10 year old daughter plugged her tablet into the car's sound system and we happily listened (she watched) to an orchestra. How did I get a pre-teen to watch a video of an orchestra, and even replay some of these selections? I'm not some supper mom who has been playing Mozart since birth, and if I had asked her if she wanted to listen to an orchestra, she would have given me a disgusted look and gone back to Meghan Trainor.
She listened to this because it was "Horrible History at The Proms".
For the uninitiated; Horrible Histories is a book series and TV show targeting pre-teens; it presents historical information in a comedic manor. On this show for example, you can watch King Henry VIII sing about his six wives, or the signing of the Magna Carta.
"The Proms", short for Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented by BBC, is a summer concert series of orchestral music in and around Royal Albert Hall in London England.
The Proms does do the traditional concert series, for example in 2013 for the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner's birth, they did concert performances of seven of his thirteen operas. They haven't however, limited themselves to just presenting music in the traditional model for classical concerts. They reach out to popular culture and the multi-media generation, and present concerts which appeal to a wider audience. Performances have included:
"Doctor Who" (2008, 2010, 2013)
"Horrible History" (2011)
So, what is my point here, why am I talking about this? In my last blog posting I painted a fairly bleak picture of the future of pipe organs. I stand by my assessment, financial pressures and a changing culture mean the pipe organ will never have the same position in society it once had, but I don't think this has to mean its death. There will always be people who prefer the traditional organ concert, just as there are still people who like to attend a traditional orchestral concerts, but if musicians and producers of organ concerts could re-imagine what an organ concert looks, and sounds like, perhaps they could draw in a wider audience. The Proms still has the traditional concerts, for those who want it, but they also have concerts with lasers beams, fog machines, and pop music.
What might a re-imagined pipe organ concert look like? What would it sound like?
How about Big Bird talking to the organist and playing songs from Sesame Street?
What does Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) or Thriller (Michael Jackson) sound like on pipes?
How about as the opening bars of "Flight of the Valkyries" start to sound, the hall fills with fog which is then used to project a holographic image of a dragon. I'd go to that concert, and so probably, would my 10 year old.
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COMMENT FROM READER
I read your blog "Where are pipe organs going". I had one thought to add regarding the contemporary services that seem to be putting the organ on the back burner. Many people tend to "trash talk" contemporary music in church and how it is inappropriate etc. (Those kids and their music! LOL) But the fact of the matter is that if they are against modernizing music and keeping up the times, why are they not insisting on pure unison chant instead? (in Latin of course, after all it IS the language of the church) They could really push their luck and update to something new with that cutting edge organum harmony? In short, they need to realize that for the church to remain viable the music must change so that it relates to its members. Music should give praise to God while at the same time have an effect on the worshipper whether it be reflective, inspiring or uplifting. Music that is a chore to sing might not yield any of those results. Your daughter enjoying the orchestra is not totally unheard of. My children enjoy an extremely vast variety of music, but most of it tends to be contemporary. (My youngest likes the scream-o stuff, but loves Mozart's Requiem!)
Food for thought.