The worst C-word in English

No, not that, and I know what you are thinking. The C-word I have in mind is both longer and more pernicious.

The Chineke! Orchestra ticks the relevant boxes

It’s ‘Council’, awful just about every time it’s capitalised. I’m sure you can think of an exception or two, but every time I come across the word, I assume I’m looking at an organisation wholeheartedly committed to subverting everything I hold dear.

The UN Security Council, The Council on Foreign Relations, any Council of Ministers, The Equality Council UK, any municipal Council – you name it, it’s committed to reducing the West to a purely geographical concept with no civilisational content whatsoever.

Some 20 years ago I co-owned a magazine funded by the British Arts Council (BAC). When the funding came in, we thought we were in clover. Instead we landed in a considerably more malodorous substance.

To continue to qualify for the funding, we had to appoint a leftist poet as editor who then spiked every article arguing a conservative case. That created unbearable tensions and the publication folded within a few months.

Currently in the news is BAC’s younger sibling, ACE (Arts Council England). Only 28 years old, ACE has brought youthful vigour to its assault on the ‘A’ initial in its nomenclature.

Its published strategy should terrify any sensible person. “By 2030,” said ACE, “we will be investing in organisations and people that differ in many cases from those that we support today.”

They were as good as their word. For starters, they withdrew all funding from English National Opera, London’s second opera house, and the Donmar Warehouse, a lovely and affordable small theatre where I’ve seen some splendid productions.

Those theatres failed to meet the criteria ACE specified as essential to their patronage. Artistic excellence is one of them, but way down the list.

Taking precedence are “inclusivity and relevance” (making sure that “England’s diversity is fully reflected”), “dynamism” (being infantile enough to appeal to aesthetically disadvantaged children) and “environmental responsibility” (self-explanatory).

To reflect England’s diversity fully, as opposed to partially or even predominantly, ACE demands that an institution be multi-culti in its staff, audience and repertoire. No perceived deviation is tolerated, be it in the direction of excessive whiteness or elitism (dread word).

The Britten Sinfonia, an acclaimed orchestra of long standing, failed to meet that criterion and as a result lost its meagre £406,000 annual grant. Actually, purveyors of classical, which is to say real, music find themselves on a losing wicket almost by definition.

This kind of music was created for few by fewer. That’s why it can’t really be wholly supported by box office receipts, not without losing sight of its high purpose. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and so forth all depended on patronage, as did most great 20th century musicians, certainly in the early stages of their careers.

Patrons, be it private individuals, charities or governments, pay their money and they call their tune, at least to some extent. By choosing the tune and those who play it, they affect public taste and the whole tenor of the musical scene.

Acting in that capacity way back then were aristocratic patrons, who themselves played musical instruments and appreciated those who played them infinitely better. Even then geniuses like Mozart bewailed the pig-headed obtuseness of assorted archbishops, princes and electors.

Yet I wonder what the protagonist of the disgusting play (and film) Amadeus would think of today’s patrons, such as ACE, should he come back to life. My bet is he’d utter one of his favourite scatological obscenities and insist on being taken back, even if that meant being bossed by the Salzburg archbishop Colloredo.

Divesting classical music of elitism (dread word) means reducing it to popular entertainment with pseud pretensions. And seeking predominantly multi-culti staffs presents another problem.

Granted, there are enough reasonably competent Asian musicians floating about to staff every orchestra in the world, with thousands left over for the marching bands and dance-hall combos. But that’s not good enough, is it?

Orchestras can’t fob off their benefactors by hiring mostly Chinese and Korean players, although that would be perceived as a step in the right direction. Yet no organisation is deemed diverse enough without a heavy black presence.

Therein lies a problem. For historical, social and cultural reasons that I shan’t go into, musically talented blacks tend to gravitate to genres other than classical. Such as jazz, which they’ve blessed with countless performers of genius, such as Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker – and I could keep you for hours just listing them.

On the other hand, in my decades of regular concert-going I recall only once having heard a black soloist, and even he was half-Hungarian. Orchestra musicians have to meet less stringent standards, but even so – putting diversity before artistic excellence can only come at a heavy cost to the latter.

ACE vindicates this statement, one I wouldn’t be able to make in any publication other than this one. Having removed its paltry grant for the Britten Sinfonia, ACE then pumped almost five times as much into the Chineke! Orchestra.

To its credit, that setup eschews lofty claims to offering deep musical insights. It’s proud to bill itself as Europe’s first orchestra where most players are black or otherwise ethnically diverse. The word Chineke, explains the group’s brochure, derives from the Igbo word meaning ‘God’.

This must be the deity ACE worships. In the past three years the orchestra’s funding has gone from zero to £2.1 million – this though by all accounts the Chineke! is so beset by internal squabbling that it’s unlikely to survive anyway.

How do those black musicians feel, knowing they just may owe their jobs not to their musicianship but to their race? Some of them may be gifted musicians, but even they may be beset by gnawing suspicions.

They, along with all other cultured people, know that music exists in the ‘ultra’ sphere soaring above petty quotidian concerns, especially politics. Any attempt to pull it down to our infested earth will land music in the putrid quagmire, sucking it into mediocrity.

But then I did tell you that any capitalised Council is out to achieve that very aim – at best. At worst, they all seek to expunge the last vestiges of what used to be history’s greatest civilisation.

8 thoughts on “The worst C-word in English”

  1. Another C-word that fits the situation is “Cry”. The tale you tell makes me cry and lose hope. But surely it is all a predictable result of changes to immigration law and practices. And therein lies the rub. My parents (or their parents) arrived in the UK from Russia and what was Poland before immigration became restricted. Thus the lineages to which I and my thoroughly English family belong differ from those who give rise to the disagreeable changes you describe differ only in timing and degree.

    In the World as it is, the kind of changes that you (and I) decry seem inevitable. Can you formulate any more agreeable solutions? I cannot, alas!

  2. This is just one of many ways that exemplifies how the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ social stream of consciousness is undermining, with the goal to destroy, God’s creation. It’s just one part of a bigger plan. Eliminate meritocracy, elevate mediocracy under the self-righteous banner of inclusion, and you end up with a dumbed down self-defeated homogenous clump of ne’er do wells that cannot innovate, create or improve anything. Seems to me satan is having his way with us and apparently God is allowing it. For now. He doesn’t win in the end is the only good news I can muster.

      1. Unlikely. He’s a very fine cellist and is from a large family of accomplished classical musicians.

        I can’t remember which of the many great black lyric sopranos it was ( Shirley Verrett? Grace Bumbry?) who turned down the invitation to make her Met debut as Aida (an ethiopian princess) on the grounds that she would become stereotyped. It did her stellar career no harm, but which of them would be brave enough to do that these days?

  3. Only an old, white male would write against such diversity! Why do you attend your local theater or concert hall? I can guess your elitist reason: to enjoy an evening of high culture. I assume you listen to the music and try to follow the underlying themes? Again, elitist! “Created for few by fewer.” Enough said. Your reasons for attending the theater are dead. You need to replace your listening and discerning with smugness. Think less of the performance and more of the diversity of the performers and how virtuous is your support of them. (And no, none of them wonder at the reason for their employment or the support of their ensemble. Today everyone is owed a living. And more.)

    The whole idea of forcing diversity seems to instantly degrade the art. Perhaps that is the point? If we can all do it (regardless of our level of talent or expertise), then why pay for a performance? I can sing off key or play any instrument badly. I do not need to go to the theater for that.

    As for the Arts Council’s charter (inclusivity and relevance, dynamism, and environmental responsibility) I would only mention that I have not been to the symphony is years, because the last time I went, the temperature around the world spiked! With every performance the globe warms by ever-increasing increments.

    I share your aversion to the c-word. When I was searching for a new church, my friend gave me this advice: “Check the parish website. If you can find the word “Council” move on.” Have there been any councils that produced positive results since the Council of Trent?

    One last note: perhaps the English National Opera, the Donmar Warehouse, and the Britten Sinfonia would do well to fill their interludes with some “performance art” that degrades Christianity. That seems to grab attention and funding. I cannot bring myself to cite examples.

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