Monday, December 8, 2014


A few weeks ago in MOMO class we had an exercise where every student had to speak for a minute or two on a given subject. Mine was 'age'. "If a conservatory were to hire a talented 21 year old in 1960, the hiring committee would, and did, see the candidate as an investment in the future of the institution. If that same candidate were to be hired today the decision would be looked upon as 'risky' and no doubt there would be a call for the committee to reexamine their options. So," I asked, "when do I lose my youth?" At that moment a discussion started. Discussions rarely happen in MOMO, but when they do there is plenty to think about.

Tony, in his way, contributed with a story. Apparently, when he had just finished his studies decades ago he had an idea to do a multi-concert project revolving around the music of John Dowland on the south bank. Managing to sneak in between meetings to see the director of Arts Council England, he described his project and received a simply reply "this sounds very interesting, we can help you with that. Are there any other ideas you would like to tell me about?" 

Not exactly the story today. Of course there are many factors which contributed to this tale, but it. doesn't change the fact that the 'next generation' of early musicians have much murkier prospects on the horizon, no matter how passionate or zealous they are.

Even now, EUBO, the professional training institution for the continent sits at a precipice. Despite 29 years of service, we wait to receive news on whether its reapplication for funding will be successful after it was dropped by the EU's granting agency earlier this year. The orchestra has trained most of today's most recognizable names in early music and many students see it as an essential experience towards a career. EUBO's focus on education isn't its only raison d'être, however. The orchestra has performed across the globe presenting creations by some of Europe's greatest minds and its seal is one which is trusted by audiences and presenters alike. 

Despite the shadow hanging over the organization, the orchestra is performing some of the most challenging and beautiful repertoire it has every played. Rebel's Les Élémens and a suite from Rameaus Les Boréades, Zaïs, and Platée both begin with one of, if not the, most important tales in western mythology - the founding myth, if you will: the creation of the World. Born out of Chaos, the four elements - Earth, Water, Air, and Fire - combine to form the basis of the universe as we know it (or knew it). The story is told in two very different ways by these French contemporaries, yet both call for an ensemble of the highest quality.

For performers EUBO represents one of the few opportunities to work in an environment where we have the time and the opportunity to really make something. The reality of a professional musical career today is one with many disappointments; most concerts are underehearsed and often only involve one performance of a program at a time, the quality of administration varies to a great degree from gig to gig, and it is rare for a young professional to work with a group of musicians their own age who play at the highest level. EUBO provides a stable platform to focus on music-making. It is no surprise in fact to see in the 29 years of its existence how dramatically the quality of early music performance has increased on a continental scale. 

It is a time of uncertainty - one might even say chaos - yet it is in these moments when we learn the value of things. The quality of the organization, Earth; the atmosphere, Air; the camaraderie, Water; and the performance, Fire; all essential elements which make our time with EUBO so fulfilling and it's hard not to think about losing that. It's a complex moment for all of us, but all we can do is perform the most beautiful music as best as we can and bring it to as many people as possible. To borrow a Canadian phrase, all we can do is "keep on keepin' on."

One week into a 15-day tour, Eubo has performed in Luxembourg, Herdorf, and looks forward to concerts in Warsaw, Poznan, London, and Naples in the coming days. 

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