LivingArts: Classical music is not boring


Classical music is not boring. 

Well…maybe it can be a bit of a yawn-fest sometimes.  Apparently that’s what people think anyway. 

In the last few years, Hamilton has hit an all-time low in terms of attendance, engagement and support for Classical music.  Opera Hamilton finally gave up the ghost this year.  HPO continues to look for ways to cut costs and replace their dying audience.  Perhaps most telling is the fact that Payne Music closed its doors after nearly 60 years of servicing band instruments and selling me drumsticks.   

We may have hit rock bottom, but optimists tell me that there’s only way to go from there -up! 

Think of the Classical music scene in Hamilton in the same terms as the Royal Connaught in the early 2000s.  People are squatting in the derelict halls of the Classical music scene right now, but eventually it’s going to be all shiny and new and you can buy a 500 square foot condo for $300k in it! 

Last weekend saw two concerts that convinced me that the Classical bus is starting to turn around:

The burgeoning Hammer Baroque held their second installment of a 10-concert series at Church of St. John the Evangelist (Rock on Locke).   I was there and it was glorious – baroque guitar, beautiful tenor/baritone duets and surtitled translations about sagging breasts (I’m not kidding).  Picture Simon & Garfunkel if they were born in Venice in the 1620s.

Five at the First held their 3rd annual Cello Extravaganza at Compass Point Bible Church.  Have you ever seen 82 cellists on stage at the same time playing With Or Without You?

I have. 

These grassroots classical initiatives are reinventing the Classical music model.  What I saw this weekend was pure entertainment, not your Grandpa’s exercise in character-building as Classical music was once seen.   

But it’s only the beginning, and these types of initiatives will need all the support they can get in order to fully revive our Classical music tradition in Hamilton.

Thankfully, that bunch of urban folk who hit the reset button on James St N are growing in numbers and their lifestyle lends itself to attending concerts.  What’s more, studies continue to show that Classical music will make your kid a genius (scientific fact).

So while I wait for my tiny Mozart to grow up and start attending concerts, I’m going to take in a concert or two and see how the Classical scene is evolving.  It beats watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix…again.   

[Next month – Steve takes in a 100-member recorder choir performing Billy Ocean’s “Get out of my dreams and into my car”]

Steve McKay - Born-and-raised Hamiltonian, Drummer, Songwriter, Father, Mortgage Broker, Chorister and Technical Director of the new classical music venue at Church of St. John the Evangelist (Charlton & Locke).  His musical travels have taken him around the world with the likes of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Bruce Peninsula.  

You can catch him performing locally with YerYard (Hidden Pony), High Kites and as a member of the Central Presbyterian Church choir.