My wife, when she was still sound of limb and mind; used to accuse me of giving preference to classical music over my family. I will admit that to queue for four hours in the rain outside a booking office (this being in 1970) before heading on to work might seem, to some, to be just a tad over enthusiastic; but in reply I said that we did get the tickets we wanted, there were over four hundred other people in the queue, and I wasn’t first in line. My life has been lived with the rarest of accompaniments, my mind has been filled with glorious sounds. Even in the darkest hours of our marriage, when parted by an illness which knows no cause or cure; we had, besides our children and our love for one another; a shared wonder at what the mind of Man can produce. As anyone who reads my words can maybe understand; classical music has been, to my wife and myself; a soothing sensory balm which can overcome mountains. Those sounds have been a small part of the whole which has sustained us so that we can celebrate fifty years of marriage in 26 days time.
But enough of us, Cunningham!
I write of a desire, from musicians both unknown and famous, as well as many others who claim an affinity with music in the Classical sphere, for a brand-new Concert Hall, to be known as the Centre for Music, whose sole purpose, as far as I can tell, is to provide a place in which Sir Simon Rattle will get the London Symphony Orchestra to make music. The previous Chancellor, along with Boris Johnson, pushed this scheme for all their worth; inclusive of the words ‘but its only £278 million!’
The ‘great and the good’ having been thwarted of their ‘Bridge over Troubled Waters’ by the sensible decision of London’s Mayor to state ‘enough is definitely enough’ after the spending of £39 millions of public money by his predecessor, but before a single penny of the promised sponsorship funds appeared; have moved away from their desire to commune with Nature whilst walking over a bridge with toll gates and time slots; and aimed instead at ‘Culture’, in the proposed form of the ‘Centre for Music’. They have persuaded the City of London to cough up some £4 millions so that the ‘Business Case for the Centre’ may be completed; and presented the Government in the hope that their minds may be changed. With the completion of the ‘Business Case’, they hope to change the Government’s mind, and get started on the Centre for Music.
I have a great admiration for the musical talents of Sir Simon; I was present when the Birmingham Symphony played at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff, and it was a revelation to watch and hear an orchestra playing as one, with deep feeling and perfect timing; conducted by the Maestro himself.
We have a world-class concert venue in the Sage Centre in Gateshead, there are many other centres where music, of all types, definitions and character can be enjoyed. But, and it is a big ‘but’ of which I write, surely we have many more pressing things which must be attended to before a massive concert hall, music and rehearsal rooms included, can be built so that Sir Simon can create his own magic inside that hall. London holds many concert halls, large and small, and if Sir Simon doesn’t like the Barbican, base of the LSO for now, maybe he can get the acoustics corrected to his taste by means of computer studies; or he can drum up the balance of the cash himself to build his dream; after all, its only £278,000,000: chicken feed to his mates in the City, the über-rich, and the hedge funds, and we can allow our wonderful, caring Governments to throw our cash away in DFID projects all across the globe.