Classical music in reality is far from its stereotype as a numbingly dull form of audio entertainment only suitable for people in their twilight years, nor is it a tool for social oppression, as some critical theorists would argue. This was illustrated during a recent virtual meeting I attended with the newly chosen Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) as a member of their Honour Circle of major donors. Our new 40-year-old Maestro Rafael Payare described his experiences growing up in Venezuela where he fell in love with the arts, through the El Sistema method of music education. 

Classical music and social transformation

He explained the philosophy behind El Sistema, which instills in children the viewpoint that participation in music is a right, not a privilege, a democratization of culture and learning. As he said, learning music can instill self-confidence to help children and persons of all ages to improve their lives and skills in reaching for whatever they wish to achieve in their lives. With a look of joy in his eyes, Mr. Payare spoke of how this approach to music has remained constant with him, even now as a rising star in the world of classical music conductors.

He noted that an orchestra is a living organism, functioning within a community, and it is to be expected that it be connected to the larger society’s evolution. He expressed his desire to work to further the social outreach of the OSM in community learning and social development, which was expanded greatly under the leadership of the former Music Director, Kent Nagano, whose mandate ran from 2006-2020.

New musical adventures to come

Maestro Rafael Payare will take up the position of Designated Music Director on September 1st, 2021. According to the OSM, he will assume his full duties beginning with the 2022-2023 season, for a period of at least five seasons.

Following the announcement by Kent Nagano that he would be leaving the Orchestra at the end of the 2019-2020 season, a flow of visiting conductors came through the Maison Symphonique. As a season ticket holder, I experienced several of the possible candidates showcasing their talents. The concert among these I was most impressed with took place in September 2018, which I attended with my daughter Clare. The concert featured Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 (solo by concertmaster Andrew Wan) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, the mighty Eroica. It was evident that night that the visiting Maestro had made a solid connection with the musicians, who gave a thrilling performance for the public with their revitalised interpretation of these famous musical works.

After the concert, I commented to the person sitting on my left, a respected music critic for a local newspaper, that the Orchestra should hire the visiting conductor as their new leader on the spot. The visitor in question was Rafael Payare, and my words were quoted in the critic’s article in Le Devoir on the OSM’s appointment.

Supporting the arts

Recognizing these are difficult times, perhaps you might consider supporting the arts, with even a small donation, to help maintain these shining lights of our civilization, especially given current shuttering of events and their lost revenues due to Covid. I am proud that my office Fogarty Law Firm is among the major donors to the OSM.

Photo: (c) Stephen J Fogarty – OSM receives applause after debut Montréal concert of Maestro Rafael Payare, 2018-09-27