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Tuesday evening (21 March 2006) marked the final recital in Skipton Music Society’s winter season of concerts.

Considering the absolute capacity audience, it seems that the public also regarded it as the most worthy of patronage since the performer was the international concert pianist John Lill. Suffice to say that for this listener it was unquestionably the finest of the whole season. It was not solely the impeccable musicianship of Mr Lill but the whole ethos of his presentation and platform manner.

Despite the generally first class standard of performance brought to these concerts by many of the talented younger generation of professional concert artistes, there is regrettably a sloppiness of attitude regarding the way they present themselves on stage. This is notable in the oft-times casual way they dress.

While it is all very well to say that times have changed and that we are all now far more casual than once was the case, is it not perhaps yet another sign of the insidious decline, of standards in public life of almost everything?

Fine for a pop concert perhaps but for serious music should not the manner of its presentation - and this certainly includes the way the performer dresses - reflect the stature of the music itself?

So often we are treated to performers who come attired as if they thought: "Oh! This is only a country bumpkin town, any old black boiler suit and tatty shirt will do" or if they are female performers they come similarly dressed, probably in totally drab, unappealing trouser suits and butch footwear as if they had come to repair the central heating boiler rather than inspire us with the greatest of the world’s music.

Not so John Lill. He came faultlessly dressed in the formal white tie and tails, nor did he regale us with wise-cracking anecdotes about the. music or some of his funny experiences in the past.

Without fuss or other gauche, embarrassing awkwardness, he just bowed to us and got on with the performance, reminding one of that other impeccable British. concert artist, Sir Adrian Boult.

Sad to say that so much of the casual way that performers now treat us influences audiences too. What might be appropriate at a car-boot sale or afternoon tidying up the garden seems incongruous at a "proper" concert such as we have in the Town Hall. Some men even come without a tie. Women, who would once have prided themselves when out for an evening by wearing attractive clothes, similarly come casually dressed.

The excuse that it is too expensive nowadays is not a convincing argument, for most of our patrons are probably quite well-heeled and are by no means poor. Is all this .just one other sign of the times: the gradual dumbing down of British society?

Arthur Butterworth



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