Leonore Overture

collects the music and arts criticism of Keith Powers

A Wish List: What 2018 Could Look Like

A Wish List: What 2018 Could Look Like

Shalin Liu Performance Center. Alan Joslin photograph.

Shalin Liu Performance Center. Alan Joslin photograph.

Let’s not even try to characterize the year 2017, in the arts or in any other public sphere. Let’s look ahead. Here’s a wish list for 2018 in the arts—maybe not all possible, but certainly not improbable. 

For Salem State University, with its swell new Sophia Gordon Center

A full-time schedule that includes chamber music, perhaps even a resident ensemble or two, to bring continuity and a complement to the excellent student theater productions that grace the room. And dance—lots of it. The beautiful hall deserves it.

For the Gloucester Stage Company

A true second act, after the disaster that Israel Horowitz has brought down on his own troupe. The company has had a vigorous life for at least fifteen years, first under Eric Engel and now under Robert Walsh and Jeff Zinn—all with little input from Horowitz, except to stage his own vanity projects. Time to wash their hands of the man, and move on. To become an even better regional company. Cape Ann would be a much diminished place without GSC; don’t let the vicious activities of the founder bring it down.

For Cape Ann’s regional theater troupes

Let’s say it again: too many dedicated groups working independently. Join forces, if just for marketing and scheduling purposes. Cape Ann has Shakespeare specialists, a comedy troupe, a repertory troupe, and Nan Webber. Get together and get the word out.

For the Peabody Essex Museum

A way clear through all the building and branding to launch more than one substantial exhibition (this year: Georgia O’Keeffe, arriving in December just in time to save the joint). We need more art, not more fashion, not more 70s rock stars.

For Montserrat College, Salem State University’s Winfisky Gallery, Endicott’s Heftler Gallery

Greater recognition that the exhibitions they mount are much more than student work (not that the student work has been a problem). Curators at each gallery are looking regionally, finding artists that do compelling work, and bringing it to their campuses. People should know about it (a little more marketing wouldn’t hurt).

For the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Creating a solution to the absurd imbalance in repertory. This season, the BSO performs 73 works; 72 were written by men. It’s unfair to single out just the BSO—this proportion is no different in any other orchestra’s programming. But the BSO leads the way; it’s the only international organization in the area. 

Setting quotas won’t work. The BSO needs to perform quality music first and foremost, and nothing else will do. Simply adding works because they were written by female composers would be a fool’s errand. The BSO can’t rewrite the history of female composers being ignored.

But it can try: there are some works already written—Clarke, Beach, Boulanger, Seeger, Mendelssohn from the past; many, many in the present. The good thing is that contemporary composition is brimming with excellent female composers.

Tackle the problem this way: include at least one new work—say, something written in the past 50 years—in every program. Every single program. Make it a marketing scheme, if you like: the Year of the New. Make it a decade while you’re at it. The works won’t all be by female composers, but many will be. And Symphony Hall might start to look like a place where 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings might hang out. 

And we’re talking to you as well: New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, Cape Symphony Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic, Lexington Symphony. The BSO may lead the way, but in this, if they don’t, you should. 

For the Rockport Chamber Music Festival

A grand re-invention for summers in the Shalin Liu Performance Center, under new artistic director Barry Shiffman. The hall is built. The endowment fund ($20 million) is nearly complete. The transition from a summer festival to a year-round venue has been a great success. 

Now it’s time to change it, or get picked apart by competing presenters. Lets see resident ensembles. Competitions. A second tier of concerts, in the early evening. Maybe a themed festival. RCMF carries a lot of clout in the chamber music world, and it should capitalize on it. Be the best.

For A Far Cry, Chameleon Arts Ensemble, American Modern Opera Company…

and Roomful of Teeth, yMusic, Brooklyn Rider, Calder Quartet, and all the other groups and individuals that are looking at classical music with the right combination of devotion and impatience. And doing something about it. Please don’t stop. We need you.

And wishing here and there…

For the Boston Lyric Opera to get a nice room, to call its own. Ditto Nth Degree chamber players, on the Cape. And the Danforth Museum. For a belated paycheck, sent to the dozens of musicians stiffed by the directors of the Newport Contemporary Music Series this summer. And for everyone who finds meaning in the arts, supports ventures that they love, and maintains an optimistic and inquisitive spirit—much more to enjoy and ponder.

François-Xavier Roth's impressive programs with the Boston Symphony Orchestra

François-Xavier Roth's impressive programs with the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Destruction of the Sanctuary. The Year in the Arts, 2017

Destruction of the Sanctuary. The Year in the Arts, 2017