Festival: Let’s change our tune on classical music

Free tickets for young people to see performances

Friday, 15th July — By Anna Lamche

Martin André credit Marc Gascoigne

Islington Festival of Music and Art co-founders Martin André

ORGANISERS of a music festival are offering young people free tickets in the hope classical music will become “part of their lives”.

Martin André and Joana Ly are the couple behind Islington Festival of Music and Art, set to kick off this evening (Friday) in Upper Street.

Performances of jazz, gypsy jazz, folk, klezmer and chamber music will be taking place in venues across the borough until July 24.

The couple have decided to offer free festival tickets to anyone under the age of 26.

“We think it’s important to try to look to the future,” said co-founder Mr André.

A pianist and conductor who for three years managed Lisbon’s National Opera Company and National Symphony Orchestra, he hopes to foster an appreciation of classical music among the next generation.

“It’s not easy when you’re growing up or a young adult,” he said. “Music is an expensive career or hobby. And it’s not, especially in this country, particularly well looked after.”

According to Mr André, Britain treats music in a very different way to other European countries.

Festival co-founder Joana Ly

He said: “When I work in France, Portugal, Italy, kids play the violin and go to football – it’s not separated. Here it’s become terribly marginalised, and almost elite and all these labels. It’s such a pity.”

He added that during his time in Lisbon, he would see young people watch an opera on Friday night before attending a disco. “That seemed to be absolutely brilliant,” he said.

Mr André said a combination of funding scarcity and curriculum priorities often leave English students behind their European peers. In England, music is “something you have after school or as an add-on on Saturdays. That’s not good enough.”

He said he would like to see better funding from the government to lay “the foundations and the groundwork” for future musicians. “I wish governments could be a little more altruistic and see the bigger picture,” he said.

Along with his partner Ms Ly, Mr André has programmed the Islington Festival “to bring some nourishment to people’s spirits”.

Alongside music, people can participate in photography and drawing classes. Ms Ly said the programme was prioritising women composers who are “rarely played”. She said: “We did a lot of work to find amazing pieces, and we hope to see them played again after this.”

The festival, which runs over the course of 10 days, was born during lockdown as a series of “garden concerts”, Ms Ly said.

“We realised there was a lot of hunger for a local thing,” she said.

Like Mr André, she would like to see the festival spark an interest in classical and jazz music among Islington’s young people, in the hope “it will be part of their lives”, she said.

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