Thursday, 4 December 2014

In support of Kyung-wha Chung

So  Kung-wha Chung told the parents of a tetchy child: "Maybe bring her back when she's older" and the media explodes as though the violinist was a triple-headed monster. Chung is not the first musician to object to coughing and other disruptions during a performance.  Some have even stopped playing until the audiernce settled down. Thomas Quasthoff would regularly berate audiences until his concerts became more performance art than performance. So whats new?

Chung hasn't been able to play for ten years due to injury. Much more was hanging on this concert for her than any ordinary recital. Of course she would be tense. In the circumstances, anyone would be tense. What's wrong with a bit of human kindness?   She was wrong to have snapped at the parents rather than at all the others who were coughing, but she was addressing a genuine and very important issue. Performers are not machines,who must deliver whatever the circumstances. Audiences owe it to themselves, and to artists, to respect those who perform. The concert hall should not be treated like your own living room and the performer as a servant who must obey.

Should Chung's comeback be derailed because some journalists are more interested in a story than in music?  Imogen Tilden in the Guardian seems to think it was a form of child abuse: perhaps the article was irresponsible clickbait since most of the comments do not support her. It's plain nonsense to suggest that Chung didn't want children to listen; she herself and many of her generation grew up with classical music as background. Even in London, many children go to concerts, and are often better behaved than adults.  If the child at the Royal Festival Hall was miserable, surely the parents should have noticed? I've missed gigs because my children weren't happy. Forcing culture on an unhappy child is cruel. It's not the parents' fault either but the media misconception that culture is easy, even when you're small, tired and hungry. As Chung said, bring the child back when it's able to cope. Besides, what example does nasty journalism set? That it's OK to harass one performer and not others? That it's OK to treat performers like chattels?  And what about compassion?   I do not support the bullying of  Kyung-wha Chung, but respect her for her courage.

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