Cambridge Union debate declares classical music relevant

Posted on: May 16, 2011

In Saturday’s (5/14) Telegraph (London), Ivan Hewett reports on a recent debate at the Cambridge Union at the U.K.’s Cambridge University. “The motion was ‘This House believes classical music is irrelevant to today’s youth’. It was the first shot in a campaign to raise awareness of ‘Vocal Futures’, a new organisation set up by lady Eatwell to involve young people in classical music through singing, in unusual and spectacular spaces (see www.vocalfutures.org). … We on the opposing bench won 365 to 57, with 88 abstainers. … [Cambridge philosophy student] Hugo Hickson held up the Venezuelan Sistema as evidence that classical music has completely outgrown its high-falutin, aristocratic origins. I poured some sarcasm on that ideologically loaded boo-word ‘relevance’, and also on the idea that ‘today’s youth’ are a strange alien life-form, who couldn’t possibly like music which has pleased millions down the centuries. But it was [actor, writer, and comedian] Stephen Fry who delivered the knockout blow. ‘The idea that classical music is the province of white-wigged old farts shows a failure of imagination and rank snobbery,’ he roared. Cue cheering all round. … I don’t think we won all by ourselves; I think we were helped by a shared, inchoate sense that classical music, whatever one thinks of it, is a cultural achievement that can’t be lightly thrown away.”

Posted May 16, 2011