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INFLATION EVERYWHERE, Tranchell, The Cambridge Review, 26th February 1955

Last week comment was made in these columns upon the appalling popularity of music in Cambridge. It seems that we must believe that the various clubs whose initials begin with C.U. have the exclusive right of major music-making within five miles of Great St Mary’s. Any unfortunate music-lover stranded in a college with only a piccolo and two counter-tenors must content himself with these resources. The reason why he must not collect friends from all over the place to perform an ambitious work is that he may give a bad performance and meanwhile queer the pitch of some University society by taking their players.

Facts must be faced, however—and one fact is that if the various music clubs did really provide an outlet for individual enterprise there would not be the continual spate of private ventures that Mr Baillie grumbled at last week. The University is much larger than it was. There are more music-makers. There is not room for them all in the music clubs. Are they to keep silence? Music is much larger than it was. Most people would rather hear a mediocre orchestra than an excellent soloist (unless the soloist has a famous name). If Chamber music were more popular than it is, the C.U.M.C., which deals in this exclusively, would be solvent. It is not true that the performances of C.U.M.S., C.U.M.C., etc., are invariably of a high standard. Nor are the works chosen by closeted committees always what appeals to the general membership of their clubs.

It is difficult to distinguish between the claims to preference of various successful private enterprises. These and the clubs tend to militate against each other. The performances of Monteverdi at Girton were seriously incommoded by C.U.M.S. several years ago. The production of a new opera by the Arts Theatre in 1951 reached the stage in spite of attempts by a club to squash it in favour of a Purcell revival. King’s Chapel has witnessed at least two large individual ventures of merit—St Nicholas, Sancta Civitas—in the last few years.

If music is regarded as a part of University life it must not be discouraged at any point whatsoever. Trouble only arises from failure to co-ordinate activities. Sponsors or would-be conductors work in their own little vacuum without consulting any of the other bodies that may be affected. But so do the various club committees. The fault lies in the increased size of the University and the state of society. We must seriously ask ourselves whether such clubs as C.U.M.S. have not outlived their purpose.

Another consideration is that, however much we may deny it, University life does provide a certain amount of vocational training. Undergraduate journalism is a door to the outside world of journalism. The A.D.C. is a preparation for a stage career. The administration, training and conducting involved in getting up a concert does, in fact, stand a man in good stead in the search for employment. It is immoral to try to prevent a man from exercising individuality and enterprise.

And when Mr Baillie reminds us of all the ventures that have gone astray he tactfully omits to mention the greater proportion that have, in fact, been well attended and that have, in fact, delighted their audience.

Peter Tranchell