Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Susan Boyle and Sarah Chang

There is this British story flying around about Susan Boyle. Remember, the woman who sang that song from "Les Mis" and became a big celebrity last week on a show called "Britain's Got Talent." I had never heard of that show before!

And I have not thought of Susan Boyle much since.

But now along comes this story and I am thinking about her again. I guess the general public is still scratching its collective head over the idea that a woman who does not look great can sing great.

The Independent asks the question of has classical music gone too far in expecting its artists to look good. The paper interviews the glamorous 28-year-old violinist Sarah Chang. I interviewed her once! Sarah Chang, pictured above, is talking about how she chooses what she wears. "When I need a dress for the Brahms Concerto it must be substantial and robust, but if I'm doing a big Carmen concert the dress can be red and hot and fun."

That is funny. I could argue about the business of Brahms being "substantial and robust." I think Brahms...

... deserves a more romantic image. Also I do not think Sarah Chang ever wore a substantial and robust, whatever that means, dress in her entire short life.

But I don't feel like arguing about any of that now. I am sitting here drinking coffee and listening to the mourning doves and now turning my attention to that Brahms link above.

One thing, though, and I am sure I am right about this.

The Independent is wrong to blame the classical music world for this good-looks business. This is clearly a pop music world problem. The pop music world is the one that made news by sitting up and noticing Susan Boyle. The light bulb went on all these pop listeners' heads that said you know what? Every singer is not going to look like Beyonce.

The classical music world has always known this!

Besides which, complete lost in the shuffle is the fact that Susan Boyle did not sing a classical piece. She sang a song from "Les Mis." She is not even necessarily one of ours.

Why are our hands getting slapped?

Why is this British "tsk, tsk" directed at me as a classical music listener?

Haven't they ever heard the old joke "it ain't over till the fat lady sings"?

I guess not!


  1. Snobbery time: Have you noticed the maddening custom of how every pop-rock performer is referred to as an "artist"?

  2. And most of pop rock is about as artistic as cow flop bingo for goodness sake. It is what I call the Lina Lamont syndrome, (Jean Hagens character in "Singin in the Rain") "I am an ar-teeest" she would squawk. Bill Hardy - Facebook

  3. It is crazy to imply that Chang is there because of her looks. For one thing, she started when she was 9! At that level, technique and emotion is everything. Looks may get you noticed, but you don't get to the top of the classical music world with anything other than monstrous talent and dedication.

  4. Anonymous, thanks for your comment! But I read over what I wrote and I don't see where I implied that Sarah Chang made it because of her looks. Sarah Chang is extremely talented.

  5. ... It's fun commenting on things we wrote three years ago! Prof. G, that does bug me, the overuse of that word "artist."

  6. Bill, my favorite Lina Lamont line was: "Whaddya think I am, dumb or something?'