Ignoring classical music decried

University of Otago senior lecturer in voice Judy Bellingham wants to see more media recognition of classical music. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
University of Otago senior lecturer in voice Judy Bellingham wants to see more media recognition of classical music. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
University of Otago senior lecturer and classical musician Judy Bellingham has spoken out over ''an imbalance in the promotion of popular and classical music'', especially in the media.

Ms Bellingham, who is a singer and a senior lecturer in voice at the university's music department, was commenting in a graduation address to more than 310 Otago graduates, mainly in arts, music and theology, at the Regent Theatre, Dunedin, yesterday. She told graduates she was a ''classical musician, a singer and a teacher''.

The first two such roles hypothetically placed her ''towards the bottom of `desirable' and `usual' occupations in New Zealand society''.

''Because of this I have had to stand tall and stand proud.''

She had watched ''with interest'' the New Zealand's Got Talent television show. This had been ''misnamed'' and should be called ''New Zealand's Got Popular Talent'' because of a lack of classical music in the show.

''If there was a show called `New Zealand's Got Sporting Talent', would it be a show with no rugby in it?''On a previous occasion, when the All Blacks had not won the World Cup, the New Zealand Youth Choir had won ''a major international choral competition''. But New Zealand television had not shown this.

After a question had been asked in Parliament about ''why this great achievement was not trumpeted to the New Zealand public'' the answer was that the TVNZ journalist based in Europe had been ''too busy covering the golf''.

Ms Bellingham noted that Alex Wilson and Terence Dennis had just entertained graduates at the capping ceremony. In September, Alex Wilson had come third in New Zealand's only national classical singing competition, the Lexus Song Quest.

This achievement had not been shown on television, the entire contest warranting just a 30 second snippet on the late news, showing only the winner.

Such examples showed ''an imbalance in the promotion of popular and classical music'', especially in the media.

It would be easy for classical musicians to become discouraged and ''cower under such an unbalanced onslaught'' but, with passion and commitment, there was ''no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love doing''.

Some people had stereotyped classical musicians as ''old-fashioned, boring, nerdish'' and graduates would also be familiar with ''caricatures of over-sized'' female classical performers ''with mouths wide open surrounded by big red lips''.

Ms Bellingham also took issue with the saying ''the party's not over until the fat lady sings'' The ''tall poppy syndrome'' was ''almost synonymous'' with being a classical musician in this country.

She tended to think of a tall poppy as ''a high achiever in a relatively unusual occupation''.

''In a world where conformity breeds acceptance, I urge you not to be afraid to be different, to be a tall poppy.''

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz

Stick to your guns

I too, have been appalled at the way in which engagement with classical music has been watered-down over the past few years by an intrusion of almost any other genre known to mankind, presented as 'classical' if it has a chance of boosting recording sales.
It's like the sweeping claims made pre-Christmas for the albums which surface each year, usually as the same tired old compilations arranged, typically, in different order, with occasionally the 'carrot' of a track of material from old-tapes pre the recording artist's years of celebrity, as a 'come-on'.
And if there are those, out there, who enjoy the eminently forgettable music of our 'throw-away' generation, that also is their right. All I ask, is that you don't inflict it on me. [Abridged]

 

Passion & commitment

Passion & Commitment, this was the topic of her address!

Classical music and its issues were just used to illustrate this.