Festival: Let’s change the tone on classical music


Martin André, co-founder of the Islington Music and Arts Festival

The ORGANIZERS of a music festival offer young people free tickets in the hope that classical music will become “part of their lives”.

Martin Andre and Joana Ly are the couple behind the Islington Music and Arts Festival, which kicks off tonight (Friday) in Upper Street.

Jazz, gypsy jazz, folk, klezmer and chamber music shows will take place in the halls of the borough until July 24.

The couple have decided to offer free festival tickets to anyone under the age of 26.

“We think it’s important to try to look to the future,” said co-founder Mr. André.

A pianist and conductor who led the National Opera Company and the Lisbon National Symphony Orchestra for three years, he hopes to foster an appreciation of classical music among the next generation.

“It’s not easy when you’re growing up or you’re a young adult,” he said. “Music is an expensive career or hobby. And it is not, especially in this country, particularly well maintained.

According to André, Britain treats music very differently from other European countries.

Joana Ly, co-founder of the festival

He said: “When I work in France, Portugal, Italy, the children play the violin and go to football – it’s not separate. Here it’s become terribly marginalized, and almost elitist and all those labels. It’s such a shame.

He added that during his stay in Lisbon, he saw young people watching an opera on Friday nights before going to a nightclub. “It sounded absolutely brilliant,” he said.

Mr André said a combination of funding scarcity and program priorities often leave English students behind their European peers. In England, music is “something you have after school or as a supplement on Saturdays. It’s not good enough.

He said he would like to see better government funding to lay “the foundation and groundwork” for future musicians. “I would like governments to be a bit more altruistic and see the bigger picture,” he said.

With his partner Mrs. Ly, Mr. André programmed the Islington Festival “to feed people’s minds”.

In addition to music, people can participate in photography and drawing classes. Ms Ly said the program prioritizes female composers who are “rarely performed”. She said, “We’ve done a lot of work to find some amazing pieces, and we hope to see them perform again after this.”

The festival, which takes place over 10 days, was born during the lockdown as a series of “garden concerts”, Ms Ly said.

“We realized there was a lot of hunger for a local thing,” she said.

Like Mr Andre, she would like to see the festival spark the interest of young people in Islington in classical and jazz music, hoping “it becomes part of their lives”, she said.


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