Young at Art

Of all the classical music awards ceremonies, the Royal Philharmonic Awards are easily the most valuable. They are also the glitziest, with a slap-up, black-tie dinner in London’s Dorchester Hotel where the entire British music establishment gathers to quaff champagne and roar approval. So why wasn’t I there on Tuesday night? Having quaffed and roared my way through the event for many a year, this time round I went to a piano recital instead.

What kind of piano recital could take precedence over the most prestigious awards event in the classical music calendar? A pretty unusual one, with 34 pianists going through their paces. One of the 34 was young Benedict Clarke, my 14-year-old son, fresh from gaining a distinction at his Grade 3 exam, and taking his place at the school piano alongside some of the other young musicians currently putting work into scales and arpeggios and two-minute pieces.

It is encouraging that at a time when we are led to believe that teenagers are mainly hooded thugs, snorting drugs and knocking little old ladies over the head, so many are still keen to discover the sheer joy of learning an instrument and making music.


While the RPS Awards continue to get my medal for the Most Grown-Up Awards, at the other end of the scale the Classical Brits organizers have an important message for us: they are dropping the classical. As from this year, the event is to be known as the Classic Brit Awards. The show takes place tonight at the Royal Albert Hall, and for those who can take the sugar rush, it is broadcast on May 29.

Dropping classical is hardly surprising, since the organizers seemed embarrassed by the adjective right from the start. While the list of winners is usually a reasonable reflection of classical work in the recording world, the show itself has been a ghastly piece of lowest-common-denominator tat, everything heavily amplified, with the usual crowd pleasing combination of flashing lights, dry ice and saccharine presentation.

Over the years it has served its purpose – to get the cash registers ringing in record stores – but classical it is not.


Back at the piano recital, one thing those youngsters may not realise is that by engaging in that miraculous combination of brain and fingers, they are upping their chances of remaining crisp in later years. A recent report from Chicago’s Northwestern University claims that learning a musical instrument boosts memory and helps keep hearing intact. It’s great news for those of us who have been plugging away at instruments all our lives – if only we can believe it. Do these findings mean that had I not started hitting the family piano aged five, my current senior moments would be even worse?

But I am encouraged by some fellow sufferers who have recognized that we veterans are increasingly getting our heads round texting and tweeting, and have helpfully devised a Senior Texting Code:

ATD – At The Doctor’s
BFF – Best Friend Fell
BTW – Bring The Wheelchair
BYOT – Bring Your Own Teeth
CBM – Covered By Medicare
CUATSC – See You At The Senior Center
FWB – Friend With Beta Blockers
FWIW – Forgot Where I Was
FYI – Found Your Insulin
GGPBL – Gotta Go, Pacemaker Battery Low!
GHA – Got Heartburn Again
HGBM – Had Good Bowel Movement
IMHO – Is My Hearing-Aid On?
LMDO – Laughing My Dentures Out
ROFL…CGU – Rolling On The Floor Laughing… And Can’t Get Up
TTYL – Talk To You Louder
WAITT – Who Am I Talking To?
LMGA – Lost My Glasses Again
GLKI – Gotta Go, Laxative Kicking In

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