Flicking through some old papers the other night I came across an interview I did with Jimmy Savile in 1985 during a spell of work within the shameful portals of BBC Television Centre. If nothing else, it gives me a topical way into pondering whether George Entwistle will be the shortest-serving director general in BBC history. If he goes, there will probably not be too many tears around the music business, since for right or wrong he is held largely responsible for the lamentable mess made of the jubilee river pageant, throwing overboard an extraordinary wealth of specially commissioned music in favour of some of the most crassly shallow broadcasting ever associated with a royal event.
But hold the schadenfreude. It’s difficult, I know – his hapless performance before the Commons select committee does push at the cheek bones. But the cause of music is certainly not helped by an unstable BBC. Music chiefs there who have broken out the posh biscuits and welcomed the new director general in for tea and constructive chats will not cherish the notion of starting all over again, and any eventual punitive effects in the licence fee or the charter from this damaging episode will hardly be in music’s best interest.
How can orchestras survive these harsh times? As ever, the Association of British Orchestras is ready with advice (read all about the next annual conference in this issue) and we have also rounded up top ten tips from some major names in the business. Sage Gateshead chief Anthony Sargent’s advice should probably be embroidered on a kneeler: ‘The one catastrophic error that people can and do make when facing short-term financial problems in business is to abandon core principles of quality.’ Despite everything, ABO director Mark Pemberton detects a resilient optimism. Can it be true? Decide for yourself – and let us know what you think.
News that a New York court has ruled that lap dancing is not to be considered an artform alongside ballet and chamber music prompts memories of a story Seattle Symphony conductor laureate Gerard Schwarz told me when the city’s Benaroya Hall opened for business. Across the road from the construction site was a strip joint which was in the habit of entertaining locals by posting notices outside, commenting on local matters. When it was announced that a new concert hall was to be built, up went the notice: ‘There goes the neighbourhood’.