People often say no one is interested in listening to classical music, that it’s a dying genre and that the best and brightest composers are long gone. It’s a world owned by the old and the rich and it’s not for the young. Right? Well, in my humble opinion this is so very wrong. Classical music is as much part of the 21st century as it ever has been. Generations of children grow up watching cartoons and adverts that use classical music. Acts like Oasis, Dizzee Rascal and Muse sample classical music from the great composers.
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Mothers play it to their unborn babies. Parents and children sing it at great sporting matches. Where would football be without the rousing sound of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma or rugby without Parry’s Jerusalem? And then there’s popular culture. Tune into The Apprentice and the first few chords used in the opening credits have become as famous as Sir Alan Sugar himself, even if we don’t know what the piece of music is. For the record, it’s the Dance Of The Knights from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo And Juliet. And Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is probably one of the most recognisable pieces of music on television. Why? Because its opening is used for the judges’ ALAMY walk down on The X Factor.
If that doesn’t make As Classic FM marks 25 years, John Suchet says it’s still in the key of life ROCK classical music relevant in the 21st century, I don’t know what does. Classical music is a part of our everyday life – in so many ways. It is all around us. As a presenter on Classic FM, I’m passionate about introducing it to the masses. This year the station celebrates its 25th birthday and it remains the biggest classical music brand in the UK, with 5.8 million listeners – meaning one in 10 people in the UK tune in every week. The secret to Classic FM’s success is its mission to make classical music accessible and appealing to everyone. Classic FM’s presenters want to share our passion. We don’t care whether people know a piece of music from a film rather than a concert hall. I know I speak for my Classic FM colleagues – among them, Alan Titchmarsh, Myleene Klass, Bill Turnbull and Alexander Armstrong – when I say we just want our listeners to enjoy the music and share their love of it with friends and family.
Sadly, there are some music snobs out there who will too often confuse accessibility with “dumbing down”. For some, the world of classical music is a kind of private members’ club, where only those who know all the code words and lingo are entitled to join in. These are the attitudes that threaten to bring classical music to the brink of extinction, forcing it to become a relic of a time gone by, rather than part of today’s eclectic music mix. They are, of course, entitled to their opinion, but I would disagree. It is entirely possible to popularise classical music without it losing its integrity. Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to write a number of books where I have attempted to get under the skin of the world’s greatest composers, including Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss and, in my latest book, Verdi. So often, composers are put on a pedestal, but I wanted to find out what they were really like. And, encouragingly, they were people who shared the same insecurities and doubts as you or I.
For example, Verdi, the greatest Italian opera composer who wrote the breathtaking La Traviata, hated musicians, hated writing music and actually wanted to be a farmer or a politician. What’s more, he was not a hugely popular man and you crossed him at your peril. I spent more than 30 years with ITN reporting in a world where terrorism, disaster, epidemics and wars grabbed the headlines. These are still the real issues dominating our world and we all need an antidote in our lives to escape that reality. I couldn’t care less if people clap in between movements of symphonies, watch opera in the park, or wear jeans and a T-shirt to a performance. What I love about being part of the Classic FM family is that we see it as our mission to make classical music available to everyone. Isn’t that opportunity worth protecting, encouraging and championing? I certainly think so.
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