Were you at last night’s concert where children were booed?

December 21, 2017 by norman lebrecht


From a reader:

I wonder whether other readers have been in touch with news of shocking events at the Barbican tonight.

The hall was full almost to capacity for what promised to be the definitive Messiah of the season: the choir and orchestra of the Academy of Ancient Music with an all-star line-up of soloists directed from the harpsichord by Richard Egarr.

Messiah was to be preceded by the world premiere of A Young Known Voice by Hannah Conway. This work resulted from a collaboration with 50 children drawn from inner-city schools and representing a number of different ethnic and faith communities. The composition combined the original words and music of Messiah with words and music produced by the children during a series of sessions with the composer.

The children’s choir assembled on stage with a small group of singers and instrumentalists from the Academy. Hannah Conway then came onto the stage to introduce her new work. Towards the end of her introduction a
middle-aged white woman sitting towards the back of the stalls shouted, “Blah, blah, blah”. At this point Barbican staff ought to have realised that there was a heckler in the house and removed her before she was afforded the opportunity to cause further trouble.

Some minutes into the piece a girl of about 12 or 13 came to the front of the stage to deliver a brief spoken monologue which mentioned Brexit and Donald Trump. As she finished, the same woman began to shout, “Boo!” To
her credit, the girl showed no reaction as she returned to her position in the choir. The woman caused no further disturbance, but by this point the performance was ruined, as the audience listened anxiously lest she should
interrupt again. Meanwhile, there was considerable distraction from the back of the hall as Barbican staff came and went and audience members pointed out the offender.

After the applause Barbican staff asked the woman to leave. Some members of the audience began to chant, “Out! Out! Out!” One man told her that she wasn’t wanted at the concert. At first, the woman volunteered merely to move to a different seat, but a staff member was heard saying that she couldn’t stay. When eventually she got up to leave a brief applause broke out. She was heard muttering something as she left.

The culture of booing at some of the world’s leading opera houses has been the subject of much discussion on Slipped Disc in the past. But if it is discourteous to boo a professional opera singer it surely is unforgivable to boo a child performing, no doubt for the first time, in front of an audience of almost 2,000 people. Projects such as this are intended to help young people to engage with classical music, but if they are booed and heckled when performing their own work on the stage of one of our most prestigious concert halls there can be little hope.

Comments (123)

  1. Minutewaltz says:

    You say the child’s monologue mentioned Trump and Brexit – presumably disparagingly.
    Imagine the booing had the child made approving comments about Trump and Brexit.
    Would you have objected to that?

    1. Chops says:

      Why presume that?

    2. Concertgoer says:

      If a young person expressed support for Brexit and Trump I hope that an audience would listen courteously. Young people are entitled to their opinions. The fact is that most of us change our opinions as we grow up and get a different perspective on the world.

    3. Npq says:

      The children’s response to their world offends you or not? Kids aren’t ambiguous about their moral codes, unlike some adults who should know better.

      1. LOL says:

        It must be why children are allowed to vote. Oh, wait…

        1. NPQ says:

          What’s voting got to do with this? Or were you making a political comment?

  2. Mike Schachter says:

    It would be deplorable to boo a child for her performance. But some of us don’t go to performances for political rants by children or anyone else. Shame that the politically correct audience were inconvenienced.

    1. Concertgoer says:

      Fidelio? Má vlast? Finlandia? Penderecki’s St Luke Passion? One could go on …

  3. thekingontheviolin says:

    If any child has been manipulated to spout words of politics in a so called contemporary musical composition assisted by the so called composer I would have joined the bla bla bla woman in her protest with greater vehemence than is politically correct.

    That is the true BOO HOO HOO….

    1. Dr Tony says:

      Or perhaps young people have their own opinions and this was a rare example of them being given the opportunity to express them. No need to raise the bogyman of ‘manipulation’ – just talk to some young people sometime. You might find it enlightening.

      Obviously the message of acceptance and the dangers of bigotry didn’t get through to that particular audience member.

    2. NPQ says:

      The composer worked with the kids. Their words. Well done AAM for doing this.

  4. Nik says:

    Agree with the posters above. I’m pretty sure that the boos were not intended for the child but for the cretinous adults who decided to add a special sob factor to their fatuous political whinge by getting a child to deliver it for them.

    1. Symphony musician says:

      I would presume the opposite, i.e. that no sane adult would dream of putting politically-charged words into the mouth of a 12-15 yr old child, representing the words as the child’s own, to be directed at a large concert audience. I presume the child was speaking from her own perspective, or on behalf of a cross-section of the children. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that some adults associated with the performance were uncomfortable with the idea but felt obliged to let the speech go ahead because the children had creative ownership of the performance. I’m not saying I’d feel comfortable listening to that kind of speech in that context, but I do think the next generation deserve a small amount of our indulgence and understanding.

      1. Mike Schachter says:

        They deserve a lot, the adults who manipulate them deserve none. Its not to do with sanity, rather integrity, lack of.

        1. Nik says:

          It’s the oldest trick in the book deployed by various political campaign groups when they run out of arguments. Just find some sad-looking kiddiewinks and get them to hold a banner or deliver a petition, and if anyone questions the contents, accuse them of attacking the kiddiewinks.

          1. Concertgoer says:

            That does happen, and it’s deplorable, but that is not what happened last night. The young people involved in the project came up with the text themselves. The whole point of it was to see how a group of young people would respond to the libretto of Messiah, especially given the large proportion of people of non-Christian (and non-Jewish) background in the communities represented. It should not particularly surprise us that many of them evidently interpreted the Jewish and Christian idea of a Messiah in political terms.

    2. Dr Tony says:

      As someone who was there, you are wrong.

    3. Concertgoer says:

      The booing was directed at one specific child. That is what made it particularly unpleasant. If she wanted to boo anyone she ought to have saved it and booed the composer when she came to take her applause. That would have been appallingly rude, but perhaps not unforgivably so. There can be no excuses for a woman in her 60s or 70s booing a child of probably around 12.

  5. Pianofortissimo says:

    “Projects such as this are intended to help young people to engage with classical music” is a very questionable statement. Why is it OK to use children to advance political issues? The booing woman should wait to the end of the performance – maybe then she would not boo alone.

    1. Dr Tony says:

      I think you have misunderstood.

      The children wrote their part of the piece based on their experiences. Allowing them to express themselves is very much the opposite of using them to advance an ulterior political motive.

  6. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Incorrect headline. According to the text, children were not booed but the puerile, whingeing PC rant was. Imagine the outcry had someone used children to spout the opposite political view; we’d never have heard the end of it. Good on the woman in the audience. Like it or not, Trump won the presidency in accordance with the laws of that country and the Leave vote prevailed convincingly over that of Remain. You don’t have to agree with the political views or implications of either result, just recognise due process when you see it.

    1. ftumschk . says:

      “the Leave vote prevailed convincingly…”

      Can’t see how a winning majority of a mere 3.6% could be construed as “prevailing convincingly” by any stretch of the imagination.

      1. Theodore McGuiver says:

        52% to 48% is a convincing victory. Reasonably close, but over a million votes seperated the two camps. So, yes, convincingly.

  7. Mark says:

    Composers express their political view through their composition. This is not uncommon, Beethoven did it, Chopin did it, etc.
    That woman begin to heckle even before the music started. That makes her an unwelcome audience. Because she intended to stop other people enjoy the piece. She judges the music before she hears even the first note.
    Wonder what makes her do that? Bigotry?

  8. Stephen Munslow says:

    A middle-aged white woman? At a classical music concert down in London? Really!? I bet she didn’t half stand out from all the middle-aged women of colour in the audience!

    1. Concertgoer says:

      As the reader who first alerted Norman to this incident, I think I should clarify that the significance of this was that the performers were aged 11-15 and a majority were black and Asian. So that was in fact my point: the woman who booed was white and middle aged, which is to say that she was typical of the demographic profile of the average classical music audience in London. This was an opportunity to open up the stage of the Barbican Hall to young people and specifically to a group of young people who were mainly black and Asian and who come from some of the less affluent areas of our city. I think we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to give them a courteous reception whether or not we particularly enjoy the work performed.


    The children were not manipulated. They are articulate and have been given a platform which they used to great effect. I was uplifted by their work. Both musical and political. As a British teacher I can only applaud the opportunity that these children were given and they way they grasped it. Children are wise, they see iniquity and call it out. My students discuss Such matters with me on a daily basis, they inspect society and for the most part ask how they can make it better for everyone. I have absolute faith in them and their decision making capabilities.

    1. Mike Schachter says:

      Perhaps given the vast wisdom of children we should restrict voting to under 16s. Obviously they know everything

      1. Alex says:

        Yes, good idea! Judging by the many highly intelligent and articulate young people I have known, we would probably have much better governments! It would also be more fair, as the big decisions being made now will have profound implications in their own lifetimes, and not so much ours.

        And let’s ban anyone over the age of 50 from voting entirely. Age does not always equal wisdom, as we have seen so many times over recently!

        1. Nik says:

          Highly intelligent and articulate youngsters impress us because of their ability to sound and appear like adults, but most of what they articulate is made up of information and ideas gleaned from adults. Please don’t let’s pretend otherwise.
          Genuine human progress depends entirely on the initiatives, innovations and efforts of adults. Many of the world’s problems are in fact unintended or unwanted by-products of human progress, and to the extent that they can be solved, it will not be done by children but by adults.

          1. Alex says:

            And a fine job we’re doing of it, too! Let’s keep up the winning!

        2. Mike Schachter says:

          What you really mean is that they regurgitate what they have been indoctrinated with, by people like you.

          1. Alex says:

            Nope. Given the opportunity, in my experience, children are much more likely than adults to make an honourable choice rather than a dishonourable one. It’s because they, having no real power of their own, are more inclined to empathize with situations of injustice when they see them.

            Lower the legal voting age to 14 (after all, aren’t they eligible to be employed and having to pay taxes on their earnings?), and I guarantee we’d never see another member of the konservative klown klub elected to office.

    2. Nik says:

      “Children are wise, they see iniquity and call it out.”
      My god, how depressing. Children are not wise. Children are at a stage where they have yet to grasp that the world is imperfect, and life involves tradeoffs and compromises.
      They are welcome to dream of a perfect world, but personally I couldn’t care less how many times a child says “save the environment” or “peace on earth”. I prefer to trust an adult who tells me that the world is ugly and unjust and there are no perfect solutions, but who makes an actual, tangible contribution to reconciling the need for human development with minimising environmental damage, or who understands why wars occasionally happen (and always have, and always will) and what can be done to avoid or mitigate them. THAT is wisdom.

      1. A Braithwaite says:

        But that is the point. The young people I know DO make plans, they look for practical solutions to real problems. They do not have their head in clouds, they are looking to turn things round. Not depressing at all. They fit your description of adult thinking better than your description of children.

        1. Alex says:

          And they’re rightly angry about what those who are in charge are doing to our societies and our planet. We make a big fuss about protecting our children and keeping them safe, but this actually means nothing while we’re taking active steps to destroy the planet at the same time.

      2. Concertgoer says:

        Are idealistic young people not entitled to be listened to with courtesy and respect? Also, I gather that you weren’t actually at the concert and that you don’t know exactly what was said. The essential point of the work was for young people to be afforded the opportunity to express their own personal responses to original libretto of Messiah by Charles Jennens based on the Authorized Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. It was not intended to be a political work. It was a collection of personal reactions. One boy, for example, connected the text of Messiah with his experience of coming out as gay.

        1. Minutewaltz says:

          If it wasn’t intended to be a political work then why were Trump and Brexit brought into it?

          1. Nik says:


          2. Concertgoer says:

            It was intended to be whatever they wanted to make of it.

  10. db says:

    I’m getting completely fed up with the whining at so-called “political correctness”. It’s become the ultimate discussion stopper, the new point Godwin if you will. Accuse someone of PC and you have effectively lost the argument, I say.

  11. Kundry says:

    It is young people who will suffer most from the impact of both Brexit and Trump, but the under-18s have no opportunity to raise objections about their futures being stolen, since they are not allowed to vote. Good on her for speaking up and bravo Barbican for throwing out the heckler.

    1. Cubs Fan says:

      The young are doing well under Trump. The US economy is electric, stocks at all time high. Investment up, taxes down. After 8 years of doubling the debt, 8 years of ignoring the infrastructure, 8 years of criminal activity in the FBI, State Dept, IRS, I’m going to give DT a chance. The kid was a stooge, and you know…a real loser.

    2. Stephen Munslow says:

      The young have “had their future stolen”. Really? You mean – they’re dead? Their lives aren’t worth living? They might as well be dead? They’re all preparing to cut their throats? Hyperbole or what. I left school in 1963 never having heard of university. Work in my social milieu was regarded as something unpleasant you had to do, nothing more. That was your life. British kids are lucky beyond belief compared to most kids in the world. Pull yourself together members of the hyerbolic community.

    3. Porter wade says:

      I agree

  12. Concertgoer says:

    Writing as Norman’s original correspondent, I think that Symphony Musician and Anita Braithwaite hit the nail on the head. We are not talking about primary school children here. These were young people aged 11-15. I know that when I was that age I certainly had strongly held views on a wide range of topics. Some of my views were even quite well informed. We had a school debating society where topics ranging from the abstract to the concrete were discussed week in week out, as well as discussions that went on between friends, with teachers, and with other adults.

    I suspect that some of the adults involved in producing the piece will indeed have been uncomfortable with some of the content. But if you ask young people to produce their own text based on their reactions to the original libretto of Messiah you are under a moral and artistic obligation to use what they give you. Of course, some of the text produced may well have come across as somewhat gauche and naive, but that is what you get if you work with young people who naturally have not yet developed the sophistication and nuance of the adult mind. Indeed, I think that what we heard last night was very much the young people’s own words. I think that had any adult wanted to influence them it would have been with the aim of moderating any political message, not of promoting any particular viewpoint.

    Whether or not we agree with their opinions, we owe it to young people to listen to them with courtesy.

    1. Fan says:

      Well, if children are as wise as you said, they are ready to be booed.

      1. Concertgoer says:

        You are deliberately twisting my words. Children are capable of forming their own opinions. That does not mean that they are emotionally capable of dealing with being booed while performing under probably quite daunting circumstances. Were you never a child yourself? Do you not know any children?

        1. Fan says:

          Politics is about facts of life and confrontations. Children can learn a lot more from being booed than reciting secondhand or thirdhand opinions about Brexit or Donald Trump.

          1. Godsend says:

            ‘Facts and contradictions’??
            Clearly, you were not in the audience. There were no circumstances under which it would be ok to boo this performance..
            Most comments on here like this are made by people who simply were not at this concert and most certainly have neither raised nor educatied children.

  13. MacroV says:

    Political aspects aside, it’s just not acceptable for an audience member to disrupt the performance this way – it wasn’t booing, it was heckling. If she doesn’t like the message, she can leave. Otherwise, shut up; the other audience members didn’t pay to listen to her.

  14. FS60103 says:

    The woman in the audience sounds very boorish, but – not wishing to comment on her behaviour during the performance itself – I’ve been at several occasions where rambling or self indulgent preliminary speeches have been interrupted with a peremptory “shut up!” or “get on with it”.

  15. Patrick Gillot says:

    The boos are not directed at the Children but at those who manipulate them for political purpose. When is the left going to respect democracy and accept that they lost the UK referendum and the US Presidential election?

    1. Mike Schachter says:

      Many of the left yearn for the good olds Soviet Union, where immensely talented people like themselves were in charge and election results were decided before the tedious business of voting.

      1. Alex says:

        On the contrary! More voting, please, but not just from old (and/or frankly dumb) white people!

        1. Mike Schachter says:

          Perhaps you could put them in the gulag, just to be on the safe side?

        2. Stephen Munslow says:

          How are your grandparents and parents, Alex? Do you spit on them first thing in the morning. And seeing as you regard old people as useless, I’m sure you won’t insist on becoming one. Can you give me written commitment to dispose of yourself when you’re 50? – or perhaps, 40 would be even better.

        3. The Voice from America says:

          Alex is quite entertaining.

          1. John Rodger says:

            And Alex’s mask is slipping too.

    2. Concertgoer says:

      You seem to advocate a funny kind of democracy in which those who do not agree with the majority must be silenced. As for young people being manipulated, I don’t believe that for a moment. In the Brexit referendum the Remain vote was particularly strong among (a) young people, (b) black and Asian people, (c) people living in urban areas. It therefore comes as no surprise that a group of 50 young people (aged 11-15), many of them black and Asian, drawn from the inner-city boroughs of London would feel disappointed in the outcome of the referendum. As for Trump, nobody doubts that he won the electoral college and is the legitimate president of the United States. I am not, however, sure where you are from. If you are from the US, you should bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of people in the UK are appalled by Trump. Most of our right-wing leaders within recent memory (May, Cameron, Major, Heath) would be located somewhere to the left of the Democratic Party in the US. Our most right-wing leader, Mrs Thatcher, would probably be aligned fairly closely to America’s most left-wing leader (at any rate of recent memory), President Obama, although her governments’ healthcare policies were socialist compared with Obamacare. So being appalled by Trump is not a left-wing position in the UK; it’s simply the position of the political mainstream.

      1. Minutewaltz says:

        ‘You seem to advocate a funny kind of democracy in which those who do not agree with the majority must be silenced’

        In that case, if the child concerned brought politics into her speech then she should expect disagreement.

        1. Concertgoer says:

          It wasn’t a speech. It was a brief spoken solo. But that aside, you seem to be failing to grasp the essential fact that we are talking about a child. We are talking about young people from inner-city schools, mainly black and Asian, probably from quite deprived backgrounds. They were asked to share their responses to Handel’s Messiah. Some of them evidently interpreted the work in a political sense, which, as I have said, is not wholly inappropriate given some of the Old Testament texts about the idea of a Messiah. The worst that one can say is that some of their ideas were perhaps expressed in a somewhat gauche and naive fashion. In their day-to-day lives most of these young people probably meet very few people who would be represented among an average classical music audience. They would perhaps be surprised to discover that their work would not be met with uncritical approbation. All of this notwithstanding, I maintain that we owe it to them to show them courtesy and respect. This was, after all, first and foremost a performance of a piece of music, and it was neither appropriate, nor to be expected, that it would be interrupted by booing. Would you, I wonder, approve of booing at Tippett’s A Child of Our Time?

  16. Dr Tony says:

    As someone who was also in the audience I enjoyed the unexpected bonus of seeing something unique that I would not have otherwise seen. While the performance had an air of naivety, that is to be expected from young people and the themes of promoting equality and decreasing bigotry seemed unquestionable.

    If audiencegoers are unable to attend events that might express a different opinion to those that they hold themselves, perhaps art is not the right medium for them. It’s a shame this woman is so trapped in her echo chamber that she can’t even bear to listen to young people.

  17. Audience Member says:

    I think a lot of people here are missing the point. If you were actually at the concert you would see that any comments on Brexit etc. were in a much larger context of a piece written by young people around a theme of wanting everyone in the world to feel respected, accepted, safe and listened to. This was one tiny phrase of a much longer piece, which also included a section describing ‘coming out’ to parents who did not accept their child. I think it’s patronising to suggest that they don’t have their own opinions and experiences and even if they are gained from adults, isn’t this just the same as us all? We are all influenced by our families, friends and the media, however nuanced and informed we claim our beliefs to be (no one lives in a vacuum!). It was a piece created by these young people and a composer to discuss how underlying themes of Handel’s work could be relevant today. The composer did not rant, she actually just talked intelligently about the thought and process behind the piece and the phrase ‘Trump makes an appearance’ does not constitute a ranty opinion.

    The reaction of the lady in the audience, in my view, came from seizing on to one small element that she disagreed with and then not being able to be comfortable enough in her own beliefs to sit silently and listen to the piece and then intelligently discuss or debate the piece with her companions afterward, which would have been a great result of the piece and what a lot of art these days encourages!

    Those saying that music should never be connected to politics or social beliefs – have you engaged with classical music history at all? And even if you disagree with that, then if exploring political themes is what gets young people listening to and enjoying classical music (and in this case specifically Handel’s Messiah) then so be it! Otherwise you can watch the industry die along with a lot of its current audience…

    There is no need to agree with what you are listening to – in fact it’s good to debate. Art is an incredible platform for this. I think it was a selfish reaction and one that could have quite possibly put off some of the young people on stage from engaging with classical music again, just for the sake of being the centre of attention for a few seconds…

    I think it was great to see these young people on stage, taking hold of something as their own, exploring Handel’s music and enjoying the chance to perform and then watch the rest of the concert!

    1. Mike Schachter says:

      Perhaps all the sensitive people in the audience would be intrigued to know that Handel was an active investor in slavery. Perhaps we should stop playing his music?

      1. Audience Member says:

        It’s nothing to do with being sensitive to the woman’s beliefs and expression of them. She can think what she likes. It’s being sensitive to downright unnecessary rudeness in a concert setting. If she disagreed with the content or concept of the piece then she could have either left or just have been a reasonable human being and have written to AAM afterwards. This was just childish attention seeking and she deserved to be asked to leave.

        1. Gerald Martin says:

          I have to agree. The disruption was from a single person. If she had kept quiet the performance would have gone unnoticed beyond the concert hall and we wouldn’t all be having a fit now.

  18. herrera says:

    My view on booing in general has changed over the years, my experience is that booers take advantage of the anonymity afforded by the crowd in a darkened hall. It is akin to internet trolling.

    The power dynamic is completely to the disadvantage of the performer who is on stage, under a spot light, whose identity we know, and who can’t respond to a boo from a dark mass, which is completely opposite of the situation of the booer.

    I say booers should identify themselves or be identified by the audience and management. If booers feel so strongly about their feelings, let others, including the performers, express their feelings to them as well.

    1. Minutewaltz says:

      The booer on this occasion evidently was identified as she was asked to leave.

  19. Concertgoer says:

    It’s interesting that there is a marked difference between the views of those of us who actually were at the concert and the views of those who weren’t.

  20. RichieRich says:

    I wasn’t at the concert.

    I’ve just looked at the Barbican advert for the concert (here). No mention that there’d be a performance of another piece.

    If I’d arrived at the concert expecting to hear only the Messiah, I’d have been furious at having another work about which I’d not been informed thrust upon me. And I’d have been especially furious if the work involved the mention of contentious political issues.

    I don’t believe the concert organizers would have deemed it acceptable to have an adult spouting a monologue about the contentious issues of Trump and Brexit. Inappropriately provocative when folk have just come to listen to some beautiful music.

    And if it’s not appropriate for an adult to monologue on Trump and Brexit, then I don’t think it’s appropriate for a child to do so either.

    On the other hand, if I’d have been told prior to the concert that it would involve a piece in which young kids spouted predictably left-wing views, then I could have chosen to give it a wide berth.

    1. Anon says:

      But your assumptions would be wrong. There was no monologue, no lengthy political diatribe.

      1. RichieRich says:


        The initial post reads

        Some minutes into the piece a girl of about 12 or 13 came to the front of the stage to deliver a brief spoken monologue which mentioned Brexit and Donald Trump.

        1. Anon says:

          “Brief” is the key word. It was four lines long, under 15s in duration, (one of a number of such ‘monologues’ delivered by a number of children covering a range of subjects and views), and barely namechecked Trump and the EU. See below.

          1. RichieRich says:

            “People have free will, but their choices affect our whole nation.
            We chose to leave the EU. They elected Trump.”

            The clear implication here is that “their choices affect our whole nation” negatively. So a clear (left-leaning) political point is being made. Which, for the reasons I’ve set out, I don’t think is appropriate.

    2. ftumschk . says:

      “if I’d have been told prior to the concert that it would involve a piece in which young kids spouted predictably left-wing views…”

      Why “left-leaning”? I know people from all ends of the political spectrum who are highly critical of, and worried about, both Trump and Brexit.

  21. Rex Billingham says:

    Mentioning Trump and Brexit is a topical allusion not necessarily a political one. In the case of young people, such allusions would spring from idealism which is the antithesis of both Trump and Brexit. The young people would be contrasting the universality of the Christian message with the narrow nationalism of the Brexiteers and Trump.

    1. Nik says:

      Or, alternatively, you could argue that sticking with the corrupt, unreformable and anti-democratic EU is the antithesis of idealism, and belief in a better, alternative future is what idealism looks like.

      1. Theodore McGuiver says:

        Bravo, well said.

      2. ftumschk . says:

        “Or, alternatively, you could argue that sticking with the [corrupt, unreformable and anti-democratic] EU is the antithesis of idealism, and belief in a better, alternative future is what idealism looks like.”


        “Or, alternatively, you could argue that sticking with the EU is the antithesis of idealism, and belief in a better, alternative future is what idealism looks like.”

        Just took some of the subjectivity out of your original statement. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but removing the bias makes your argument a little easier to engage with, and reduces the risk of getting people’s backs up.

        1. Nik says:

          I agree, thank you. I actually didn’t really mean to state an opinion, my point was that Rex Billingham stated an opinion of his as if it were fact.
          But whatever your views on the EU, it is a fact that voting against Brexit is a vote in favour of maintaining an encrusted status quo, so there cannot possibly be any idealism in that. It is simply a vote against change.

          1. Saxon Broken says:

            Er…no. The EU is capable of changing, should the voters want it to. It just needs the agreement of the electorate in the whole of the EU, rather than just on one country (e.g. Britain).

            Whether you agree with Britain staying or leaving the EU, the claim that the EU is undemocratic is just absurd. As is the claim there is some monolithic EU government with which Britain can negotiate: it has to secure agreement from all the other countries in the EU, and each of those governments is a democracy which will reflect the interests of their electorates.

  22. Anon says:

    It might be worth simply stating what was actually said from the stage. There was no lengthy political discourse, no “using of children to peddle a message”; not at all. The word “Trump” and the word “EU” appeared, yes – but only mentioned in passing in the context of a wider work.

    Here’s what was said:
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    “People have free will, but their choices affect our whole nation.
    We chose to leave the EU. They elected Trump.”
    – – – – – – – – – – – –

    And that is it. Nothing else in the work mentioned or referenced politics at all. There’s not a lot there I would consider heckle-worthy, nor does this support most of the negative reactions on this thread (almost entirely speculation by people who weren’t there, judging by the assumptions made).

    1. RichieRich says:


      So a short political discourse is OK, then?


      I think not. The girl’s remarks were making a clear, partisan, political point. She said

      “People have free will, but their choices affect our whole nation.
      We chose to leave the EU. They elected Trump.”

      The clear implication here is that by exercising their collective free will at the ballot box, the people of the UK and US have affect their nation (and perhaps other nations too) negatively. In short, Brexit and Trump are undesirable.


      So as long as there’s only a single partisan, political point made that’s OK?


      Perhaps heckling was not the appropriate response. But the heckling did at least register an objection. And I think it’s highly objectionable that a concert programme should include an unannounced piece which makes a clear, partisan, political point.

    2. RichieRich says:


      +++There was no lengthy political discourse”+++

      So a short political discourse is OK, then?​​

      +++The word “Trump” and the word “EU” appeared, yes – but only mentioned in passing in the context of a wider work.+++

      I think not. The girl’s remarks were making a clear, partisan, political point. She said

      “People have free will, but their choices affect our whole nation.
      We chose to leave the EU. They elected Trump.”

      The clear implication here is that by exercising their collective free will at the ballot box, the people of the UK and US have affect their nation (and perhaps other nations too) negatively. In short, Brexit and Trump are undesirable.

      +++And that is it. Nothing else in the work mentioned or referenced politics at all+++

      So as long as there’s only a single partisan, political point made that’s OK?

      +++There’s not a lot there I would consider heckle-worthy+++

      Perhaps heckling was not the appropriate response. But the heckling did at least register an objection. And I think it’s highly objectionable that a concert programme should include an unannounced piece which makes a clear, partisan, political point.

  23. GG says:

    Have just looked at the Barbican’s listing for this concert. It states, really clearly, that the “Programme” consists of only a single work, Handel’s Messiah.

    Personally I have got pretty fed up with concert organisers trying to trick me into hearing what I don’t choose to hear. So I might write to the Barbican to object to their dishonest listing (they could have put the truth – eg “Programme includes”). But I wouldn’t boo.

    1. Anni says:

      Umm, really? Gosh, I’m sure that’s going to put a stop to that kind of thing that clearly is related to the work…

      1. Theodore McGuiver says:

        So why not drag a few corpses on stage during the Mozart Requiem? How about having the concert hall bombed during a a performance of the Leningrad symphony? Stop being obtuse.

    2. Concertgoer says:

      “Personally I have got pretty fed up with concert organisers trying to trick me into hearing what I don’t choose to hear.”

      Really? First, how often does that happen to you? I go to a lot of of concerts, and I honestly cannot think of another occasion when this has happened. Secondly, why does it worry you so much? I just regard it as a small bonus. I have sometimes found a piece of music to be uninteresting, but I can’t think of a single piece of music which I have ever found offensive.

      1. Theodore McGuiver says:

        It wasn’t the music which was offensive, it was the snowflake hijack.

        1. Concertgoer says:

          Snowflake? Where did that come into this? And it wasn’t a hijack. It was a piece of music. You can’t silence everyone you disagree with by branding them snowflakes, and you can’t start using the word “hijack” just because you didn’t like something. I am assuming you weren’t at the concert anyway, given that you seem to have no grasp of what actually went on.

      2. GG says:

        You ask, how often does this sort of thing happen? ALL THE TIME – in part because it is the sort of marketing trick currently taught in arts admin courses as “best practice”.

        Example, a recital is advertised as work by (say) “Vivaldi and friends”. One gets to the concert and, oops, it is one piece of Vivaldi plus an evening of various new works getting maybe their first performances and “responding to Vivaldi”.

        Or, “Schubert, Schumann and others” turns out to be one song by Schubert, one by Schumann, and the rest of the evening is obscure shit, perhaps written by an untalented college friend of the singer or (rightly) unknown work from the singer’s home country, etc etc.

        There are world-famous halls up to these shenanigans, up to and including the saintly Wigmore Hall (although they at least always give full details if one digs a bit deeper)

        Don’t get me wrong, nothing against new or obscure work in principle – hell, I even used to go to those concerts by the Society for the Prevention of New Music – but I object to dishonest (Barbican, in this case) or less than totally honest (many venues, many times) advance information.

  24. David Ward says:

    I remember when I was an adolescent (I’m now 76) my being annoyed by my elders and ‘betters’ when they would ask: ‘Who taught you to think like that,’ whenever I expressed an opinion of my own which conflicted with theirs. Now, as then, adolescents are perfectly capable of freely forming opinions of their own without being coached.

    I am astonished by some of the views expressed above that do not credit these young people with being able to think for themselves.

  25. BillG says:

    I do recall a Dallas City Council meeting of a few years back. The Council had just passed a helmet law for bicyclist. Supporters had encourage school kids to write the Councilmembers in support. The day it passed there was a parade of school kids lined up to thank the council for passing the law. One young lad thanked the council for helping them be safe. A Councilmember had enough, she thank the youngster for is comments then said in remarks that he had it wrong. The council couldn’t keep him safe. He was responsible for his own safety and should act accordingly.

    Keep kids out of politics. Politics may be fine on the stage, but as such they are not granted immunity for opposition, including being booed. To expect some special immunity is naivety of the highest order.

    1. Gerald Martin says:

      Maybe it’s just because I’m old; but I would never be intentionally rude to someone else’s child.

      1. Concertgoer says:

        Quite. That was fundamentally the problem. They are children, and decent people treat children with kindness, even when they espouse political positions with which one disagrees.

        1. Theodore McGuiver says:

          There shouldn’t have been politics on stage that evening, full stop. If you’re no longer allowed to voice discontent at hijacking, then where are we headed?

          1. Concertgoer says:

            It wasn’t hijacked! The Academy of Ancient Music simply chose to precede their main performance with a short new work. Whenever one books concert tickets in the UK (and possibly elsewhere) there is always some small print that mentions the right being reserved to change various aspects of the performance, including programming and performers. What went on a few nights ago was well within the limits of reasonable adjustment to the advertised programme. And I don’t know why you keep going on about it supposedly being political. It was basically their reactions to the libretto. Some of those reactions were of a political nature. It’s not as if this is the first time politics has been brought into music: Parry’s Jerusalem, Britten’s War Requiem and, indeed, Owen Wingrave, Tippett’s A Child of Our Time. And how about Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance Marches or Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and Fugue?

          2. Repeat ad nauseum says:

            Were you at last night’s concert where children were booed?”. No. So you’re here to bait and switch regardless of topic.
            There wasn’t a political agenda just kids being honest and it feels like you’re afraid of something?

          3. Theodore McGuiver says:

            @Repeat: No, not afraid of anything. By the way, your last sentence is a statement, not a question, so there’s no need for a question mark.

  26. Constancia Ignacia says:

    I was at this concert but sitting higher up so was unable to see who was shouting or to know what on earth was going on. It actually seemed even worse from where I was as I thought the person shouting ‘out… we don’t want you here…’ was the same person who was booing, i.e. I thought they were saying that to the kids. I was unsure if it was part of the act at first too and meant to be a comment on the kind of attitude that was actually being exhibited.
    It was certainly disruptive, and abominable, so agree that the woman should have been removed straight away.
    However I wonder now if the woman knew that the piece was an extra before the actual performance? There was no indication on the tickets or anywhere else that we knew of. I had a moment of fear myself that we had misread the details and that it was going to be like that the whole way through. The piece was fine as a short warm-up but I wouldn’t have wanted to sit through a full length re-worked Messiah (unless I had known beforehand perhaps). So maybe she thought that it was and felt cheated. But still an outrageous thing to do.

    I think all of the young performers might be affected by it in fact and hope it hasn’t only served to the image of classical music being elitist – the very thing the project was probably meant to counteract. It is very sad if it has made even one of those performers think that, and what are any of them going to say their peers about the whole thing?
    In fact I got a lot out of the new piece. I thought the blend of voices about contemporary life fitted beautifully with the Messiah. Much of it seemed to me to be about online bullying and this particularly fitted well with ‘despised… rejected… ‘
    Perhaps now the heckler can relate to that theme too!

  27. Suffer little children says:

    And to summarise: the lady was angry at children of BAME backgrounds for a) being there and b) for giving a perspective on their world through the Messiah as a piece. But really her response is simply racist.
    So delighted that Barbican had her removed and that the audience booed her.

    1. Theodore McGuiver says:

      No, it seems the lady was angry that the advertised performance of The Messiah – and only The Messiah – was, without any prior indication, hijacked by a political interest group. The fact they were majority ethnic children should not divert from this fact.

      1. :-) says:

        Yes. Your semantic gymnastics are also racist, regardless of how you try spin it.

        1. Theodore McGuiver says:

          Utterly pathetic.You offer no argument, merely try to hide your vacuity behind the bulletproof protection of a visible minority. The days of wailing ‘Wacist, wacist’ to close an argument are over. Grow up.

          1. Again says:

            You weren’t even at the concert. Clearly.

      2. Concertgoer says:

        “hijacked by a political interest group”? Don’t be so ridiculous. It was an outreach project with inner-city kids. They got the kids to listen to Messiah and asked them to come up with some words and music that they felt were inspired by it. It wasn’t a political interest group and there was no hijacking. It was just a nice opportunity for a group of young people to perform their own work in the Barbican Hall. There must have been about 1,900 people in the hall that night who were perfectly happy with the arrangement.

        1. Theodore McGuiver says:

          Do you feel better, now?

          1. Amen says:

            One might feel better but you still remain a troll.

          2. Concertgoer says:

            The question is, do *you* feel better now. You seem to be awfully upset about a concert that you didn’t even go to!

          3. Saxon Broken says:

            Um…outreach programmes are political. Choosing “inner city black kids” rather than, say, “middle-class white suburban kids” is a political decision.

            This doesn’t mean it is wrong to do it, but any choice is ultimately a political choice, in the widest sense of political. Making choices about including or excluding people, and who to include or exclude, is a political act.

  28. It’s christnas for goodness’ sake says:

    I was there. The heckler was outrageous and I am glad she was ejected. The political tone of the piece was foolish and awkward, in my view. But to heckle and boo children trying their best at a Christmas concert is just disgusting. I hope whoever it was is thoroughly ashamed of herself.

    Like one of the contributors above I also could barely understand what was happening and thought the “out” and “we don’t want you here” comments might be directed at the children; I’m very glad to hear that in fact the audience did the right thing.


    “Projects such as this are intended to help young people to engage with classical music.” That is a worthy goal. Using a concert as a platform for political speech is not.

  30. Peter Smith says:

    Rather late to this, but I was at the concert and would like to add my tuppenceworth.

    I was too far away from the disturbance to know what was happening and had to come here. to find out. I don’t approve of people interrupting concerts, but I did not appreciate the unadvertised addition to the programme and did not applaud it. Messiah is long enough without any extra items. If the new piece had been advertised I probably wouldn’t have booked; other Messiah performances were available.

    I thought the new music was devoid of merit – just quasi-pop with bits of Messiah thrown in though it was well and confidently performed.

    I had no problem with the sentiments expressed, but I found the way they were expressed embarrassingly banal. It would have been fine for a school concert, but not for an unsuspecting paying audience.

    For the record, the performance of Messiah, when it eventually started, was excellent.

  31. Theodore McGuiver says:

    @Amen: A troll? For expressing an opinion in which I attack nobody on this site?

  32. Theodore McGuiver says:

    By the way, if the only people allowed to comment are those who attended the concert, why post a report on this site?

  33. Alexander says:

    This post has generated considerable discussion about the new work “A Young Known Voice”, performed by pupils from La Retraite RC School, St Paul’s Way Trust School, the Tri-Borough Music Hub Chamber Choir, Westminster City School, and the Academy of Ancient Music, under Music Director Richard Egarr, at the Barbican earlier this week.

    Readers who were not actually at the concert itself might like to hear this piece, and so we have made the archive recording available here:

    Readers can also learn more about the genesis of this work (and see the libretto) from our freely available concert programme here:

    This was a project conceived and put together across the last few months – I found the process itself to be inspirational, seeing young people engaging with Handel’s Messiah, Jennen’s libretto, and the story behind it. It is a work which allowed self-expression amongst those participating in it, and I am proud that we presented it at the Barbican without self-censor, or telling the participants that they couldn’t say this or that. The libretto and the thematic material were all conceived by the young people directly. Their response to Handel’s Messiah was enlightening, reminding us that the central themes of the Messiah story – of persecution, isolation, rejection; but ultimately a positive message of hope – remain as prevalent and important to us today as they have in the past, told through their own experiences.

    I am delighted that five-star reviews in both the Guardian and BachTrack found the new work stimulating (“disarmingly powerful”, “an affirmative message… from children brought together by Handel’s music”), and that many of the audience also commented positively, both on the night and in our post-concert survey. We welcome all feedback, as it helps us improve the Academy of Ancient Music’s activity, and I would be pleased to hear the thoughts of anyone who was at the concert.

    I was very pleased that the performance of both A Young Known Voice and Handel’s Messiah saw the Academy of Ancient Music (with the Choir of AAM, Mary Bevan, Reginald Mobley, Thomas Hobbs and Christopher Purves) on fine form under the brilliant Richard Egarr, providing a terrific concert experience for a full house at the Barbican; and I look forward to welcoming many of the audience, perhaps along with those on this discussion who weren’t there, to other AAM concerts across 2018.

    Alexander Van Ingen
    Academy of Ancient Music

    1. GG says:

      Thank you. Very informative (although you choose not to reveal the extent to which the inspiration for this work is derived from Arts Council grant paperwork).

      You also say nothing about why the Barbican chose not to advertise the work? It seems from what you write that everyone involved knew for some months what was planned, so the weasily excuse presented above does not apply. In case you didn’t read back, an earlier posting said, inter alia:

      >>Whenever one books concert tickets in the UK (and possibly elsewhere) there is always some small print that mentions the right being reserved to change various aspects of the performance, including programming and performers. What went on a few nights ago was well within the limits of reasonable adjustment to the advertised programme.

      So, did you make an “adjustment” after the Barbican finalised its announcement of the programme – or was the programme always intended to be a two work evening? In which case who took the decision not to inform the public until the night of the concert: you lot, or the Barbican?

  34. Peter Smith says:

    Mr Van Ingen,

    I was at the concert. We can agree to disagree about the merits of the new piece, but if you are going to do this sort of thing again, for heaven’s sake please give an assurance that the full programme will be properly advertised in advance so that that paying customers will know what they are going to get before they buy their tickets. Otherwise I for one will be reluctantly avoiding your concerts in future.

  35. Alexander says:

    GG, Peter Smith,

    (GG, it’s worth my noting that AAM currently receives no public funding, via ACE or elsewhere, so there is no extent of ACE paperwork-derived inspiration to reveal.)

    I’m sorry that there wasn’t sufficient advance notice of the new work; and we’ll endeavour to be better at this.

    We did email all concert ticket buyers where had contact details (and permission to contact) in advance to let them know of the new work; and we make our concert programme (which contains full details) available in advance online, though I realise that this won’t reach everyone. We also make printed programmes available free of charge to all audience members on the night, along with a free of charge pre-concert talk, both of which introduced and discussed the new work.

    That said, I acknowledge that we could have done more to ensure the new work was visible on the Barbican’s website etc., and we will endeavour to be better at this in future.

    1. Peter Smith says:

      >We did email all concert ticket buyers where had contact details (and permission to contact) in advance to let them know of the new work; and we make our concert programme (which contains full details) available in advance online

      I booked my tickets through the Barbican, which holds my contact details. I did not receive an email about the programme change – though it would have been too late anyway because I had bought my ticket by then. I also looked for an online programme on the Barbican site but did not find one.

    2. GG says:

      Alexander, thank you for a decent and helpful reply. I apologise for my sneer about ACE: far too much phoney activity is triggered by fear of cultural bureaucrats and so I made what seems to have been a wrong assumption.

      And thank you for your apology re the Barbican: very rare for someone say it like it is and you are to be congratulated.

      Happy Christmas!

    3. RichieRich says:

      That said, I acknowledge that we could have done more to ensure the new work was visible on the Barbican’s website etc., and we will endeavour to be better at this in future.

      Quite. Especially as you say above that

      This was a project conceived and put together across the last few months

      Surely a couple of months is plenty of time to amend the Barbican website!

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