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Live!Singapore: June 8-11, 2010

Ian Patterson By

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Rarely do the worlds of jazz, classical music, world music and musical theatre come together in one place to hobnob and strut their stuff, but that was exactly what happened at Live!Singapore, an ambitious event organized by Koelnmesse and IMG Artists. Festival directors, producers, agents, managers, executives and artists of these four disciplines came from more than fifty countries, and gathered in Singapore to discuss the respective challenges they face in a rapidly changing world, both technologically and demographically speaking.
The choice of Singapore as the venue was a sign of the growing importance of Asia in the performing arts marketplace. The exchange of ideas and the forging of new partnerships were the principal aims of Live!Singapore, a three-day event which united an extremely impressive array of figures from the performing arts in a series of forums and discussions. An international trade fair and a series of outstanding showcase performances from some of the world's most renowned musicians provided the opportunity for attendees to show off their wares.
Each day had a particular focus, with classical music on day one, musical theatre on day two, and jazz and world music on the final day. The focus was largely, though not exclusively, on the performing arts in Asia, and what emerged strongly from each day were the common themes of the desire to reach a greater audience, the importance of education in generating an appreciation of the arts among the young, the need for partnership and collaboration, and the challenges of promoting Asian artists both at home and abroad.
The three-day extravaganza got under way with a jaw dropping performance from American violinist Joshua Bell. Looking relaxed in a black t-shirt, Bell demonstrated in just fifteen minutes why he is considered to be one of the very finest concert violinists in the world. Even those who are not devotees of classical music were beguiled. Although the differences between the classical, musical theater and jazz and world fields are pronounced in some ways, Zarin Mehta, President and Executive Director of the New York Philharmonic struck a resonating chord when he said in the subsequent panel discussion: "Great music will always find a foothold." In jazz, this has always been the case and is why the music survives, continues to grow and to redefine itself.

The similarities between the status of classical music and jazz, just as much as the differences, were salient in the keynote speeches of Sir Clive Gillinson, Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall, and Tsung Yeh, Director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, and in the fascinating panel discussion which followed. Gillinson's mission at Carnegie is to present "the best of all music" and nobody could accuse Carnegie of having ignored jazz over the years. From Duke Ellington's annual Carnegie concerts in the '40s to Sonny Rollins' concert in '08 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his first appearance there, jazz has played an important part in the legend that is Carnegie. Incidentally, as Warren Allen pointed out in his review of eighty five year-old reedman James Moody's 4B (IPO Recordings, 2010), Carnegie Hall has played host to Moody at least once every single year since '50.

From left: John Holden, Sir Clive Gillinson

In a captivating and eloquent speech Gillinson spoke of the need to bring classical music back to the people through outreach and education programs. Over $200 million has been spent to update the performance areas in Carnegie Hall, and Gillinson has done an admirable job in bringing in punters who are experiencing Carnegie Hall and possibly classical music for the first time. Jazz, like classical music, has always had a small but cogent market; the two musical forms share the mark of minority music and perhaps elitists ones at that, though jazz has never enjoyed the level of state funding or the profile that classical music has. One notable exception is the Lincoln Center where Wynton Marsalis is doing something analogous to Sir Clive Gillinson at Carnegie The annual Essentially Ellington Competition, for example, sends out six original Duke Ellington charts transcribed by David Berger, with a recording of the pieces performed by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The program has been running since ' 94 and has reached nearly a quarter of a million students.

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