Lubberly jubilee

When it emerged, back in February, that music would be a central part of the river pageant celebrations for the queen’s diamond jubilee, it looked rather appealing. Various ‘music herald barges’ would parp stuff out to the throngs on the river banks, with billions more watching on telly.

The vessels would be propelled by the UK’s finest ensembles, such as the Royal London Symphonic and Philharmonic Orchestra of Ancient Music, and the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Submarines. All led out by the world’s first floating vicarage*.

Most excitingly, the organisers commissioned a number of British composers to contribute to a 21st century take on Handel’s Water Music (also written to accompany royal japes on the Thames). These weren’t just a bunch of long-term unemployed told to write music for the event or lose their benefits but the likes of Anne Dudley (Jeeves and Wooster), Howard Goodall (everything else) and Jocelyn Pook (plays the viola!)

But did they complete the task? It seems we only have their word that they did, since barely a peep of their work made it over the BBC’s regal airwaves. And the timely arrival of the latest instalment of 2012’s famous drought meant that the crowds clinging to solid ground bankside must have picked up little more than the odd feeble watery strain.

Of course, it’s possible that they all wrote nothing but shit, in which case fair play to the BBC for sticking up for artistic standards. But then, the following evening’s concert – a rent-a-popstar line-up who sang, not really very well, not a single thing written for the occasion – earned full and uncritical broadcast. Even the rather, let’s say, forward-looking sound engineering didn’t seem to hinder things. So you may like to draw your own conclusions.

In the meantime, I’m starting work on an article previewing this season’s BBC Proms premieres. But by the looks of it, I don’t really need to give it much thought, since it’s touch and go whether anyone outside the Albert Hall will actually get to hear any of them.

* A belfry, actually.

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2 Responses to Lubberly jubilee

  1. Clare Stevens says:

    All points very well made. Especially the one about this being a modern ‘Water Music’ – which should have been MORE successful than Handel’s, not less, thanks to having the technology to broadcast everything live around the globe. And a propos your last point, it’s ironic that Anna Meredith has tweeted today about judging lots of brilliant teenage compositions in the BBC Proms Inspire! competition. Another crop of young talent nurtured by the Beeb but potentially destined for oblivion.

  2. Tom O'Bedlam says:

    Given how much of the New Music 20×12 has been so utterly and mind-numbingly awful, it wouldn’t surprise me if the New Water(y) Music was similarly terrible. Somehow, two grandiose occasions, and opportunities to showcase some of the country’s best contemporary composers – the Jubilee Pageant and the Olympic Games – have failed dismally to set the world (let alone the Olympic torch) alight. Disappointing all round…

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