Publisher's Note: The end of classical music?
By Jeff Rapsis
Is it the end for classical music in New Hampshire?
Last week came news of the sudden closing of Granite State Opera, a troupe that staged professional productions twice a year in Concord and Portsmouth. Earlier this year, the Palace Theatre abandoned its plan to develop a symphony orchestra based in Manchester. Last year also saw the demise of the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra, which brought live classical music to the state for more than 25 years.
So is that it? Is the annual holiday visit of the Boston Pops at the Verizon Wireless Arena all we have to look forward to?
Short answer: Nope. And that’s a good thing, not just for music fans, but for anyone who cares about the region’s long-term economic development potential.
Despite the shuttering of a few high-profile groups, our part of the world is still full of concerts and performances nearly every week of the year. Consider: The Nashua Symphony Orchestra is doing well under its new music director, Jonathan McPhee. Community orchestras such as the New Hampshire Philharmonic and the Nashua Chamber Orchestra soldier on with full seasons. The Concord-based Granite State Symphony Orchestra continues apace.
On the opera front, Opera New Hampshire, a Manchester group that imports productions to the Palace Theatre, is back on schedule after a few rough seasons. Community groups such as the Concord Chorale and the Manchester Choral Society continue to do smart, ambitious and innovative programs. So there’s no shortage of music.
And on an even more local level, Manchester, Concord and Nashua each have community music schools that offer students of all ages an amazing array of top-level instruction. Such programs augment public school music programs throughout the region. Students continue to learn. Tomorrow’s musicians and fans, classical or otherwise, are in the wings. There’s a future here.
So the demise of a few groups is not the end of classical music in New Hampshire. It’s more like a shaking out process that will allow those that remain to do better with the limited resources at hand.
And that might be a good thing. A year ago, Hippo ran a cover story that examined how the area’s many competing classical groups would have to cooperate in order to flourish. It clearly wouldn’t be an easy process. So the bright side of the recent closings may be that the organizations left may now be in a better position to keep making music.
It’s still a challenge. The economics of staging live classical music, especially opera, are murderous. Typically, ticket sales account for only about a third of the budget of any orchestra or opera company. The rest must be made up by donations, business contributions and grants. If any of these sources falter, the equation fails.
Why care? Even if you don’t know Bach from a bazooka, classic music and the arts in general are considered an important part of any region’s quality of life. And that can be a strong factor in an area’s long-term economic development potential.
So yes, it’s about the money, both now and in the future. For now, you can support local classical groups by buying tickets and checking out concerts. For the future, consider how important classical music and all the arts are to the region’s long-term economic development potential, and encourage others to support them for that reason alone.
We’ll all benefit in the long run. And that’s a kind of music we all can get into.