I was fortunate to drop by the Orpheum last night to listen to the Vancouver Symphony’s season finale, a wonderful combination of two great Russian classical works: Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” and Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”.
It was an interesting choice for the end of the season, a juxtaposition between the beautiful and elegantly composed epic narrative of the Arabian princess Scheherazade’s tales (originally seen in “Arabian Nights”) and the brutal, savage, and chaotic masterpiece narrating a pagan virgin sacrifice in Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”
The most intriguing part of the night, though, was when Bramwell Tovey, the VSO’s music director, stepped up to the mic and, after thanking the audience and the orchestra for a wonderful season, proceeded to discuss the importance of music in our schools and the VSO’s dream of “every child holding a musical instrument in their hand.” Pushing further, and recognizing the reality of financial limitations for such a dream, Tovey stated that the easiest and most beautiful instrument to access is, in fact, the human voice, and that the greatest sound he has ever heard was the sound of a trained children’s choir.
During the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, every time Canada was presented with a gold medal, our national anthem was played by the VSO and sung by millions of Canadians nation-wide. Tovey’s plea to support music in our schools forced me imagine what it would be like, two or three generations from now, if elementary schools and high-schools no longer held music class. Who would sing our national anthem with us… and for us?
I agree with Tovey and the VSO that music is so vitally important, not only so that it can be enjoyed at an individual level, but even for the nation as a whole. If we can’t promote the playing of instruments, let us at least promote choir programs in our schools. And even, at the end of the day, if younger Canadians end up singing as beautifully as Rimsky-Korsakov’s representation of Scheherazade or as brutally as the sacrificial dance in “The Rite of Spring,” then at least someone will be there to sing when we beat the US again in overtime.