Kent gets gonged in Canada

Kent gets gonged in Canada


norman lebrecht

May 25, 2018

Message from Kent Nagano, music director of the Montreal Symphony:

I am honoured today to receive the Meritorious Service Decorations from the Governor General of Canada Julie Payette. I am proud to collaborate with exceptionally talented musicians and with a top-level Chorus, and I am particularly happy about the inauguration of the Maison symphonique in 2011, the acquisition of the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique, and the projects and initiatives that bring us closer to the community, such as La musique aux enfants and the Classical Spree. Touring projects and large-scale event openings enable me to contribute to the Orchestra’s stature and influence in Canada, the Great North, the United States, South America, Europe, and Asia. This medal is a recognition I find deeply touching.



  • Larry says:

    Norman, I’m wondering if “gonged” has a different meaning in the UK, as compared to America.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Here, it means ‘receives a royal honour’. Is there another meaning?

      • Michael Comins says:

        From a Google search:

        (plural gong shows) (idiomatic, Canada, US) An event that was a disaster, often in a way that is fun or memorable. ( e.g. “Last night, we all went drinking, and the whole thing turned into a total gong show.”) Or, an initially serious event that went completely out of control (e.g. “That biology class was a gong show”)

      • bratschegirl says:

        Years ago there was a so-bad-it-was-funny television show in the US called “The Gong Show.” People with dubious degrees of talent came on the show and performed something, and if the judges reached the point where they couldn’t tolerate any more, they would grab the mallet and ring a large gong, and the contestant would have to stop and would have thereby lost. In this context, being “gonged” was the equivalent of “getting the hook” in vaudeville, where the hapless performer who was not going over well with the audience was dragged offstage in medias res by someone with a large shepherd’s-crook-type implement.

        The only Gong Show contestant I actually recall clearly was the fellow who came on in full Frankenstein’s-monster getup and sang a quite creditable rendition of “My Way.”

        • John says:

          The Gong Show is what I thought of when I saw the headline, as in he was fired.

          The show that you remember is one that I recall, but my memory of that show was that every single contestand did “My Way”. All of them. 30 minutes worth of bad renditions of a bad song.

          • bratschegirl says:

            Apparently I lead a sheltered life; I just learned that ABC started airing a reboot of the Gong Show last season and has picked it up for another year.

        • fierywoman says:

          Given the context, this was my first interpretation of the title, and I’m sticking with it.

      • Larry says:

        In the US, there are several sexual references related to the word “gonged,” which I shall not repeat here. Let’s just “mazel tov” to Maestro Nagano!

  • V.Lind says:

    Being British, I read it as it was meant. And I anticipated some remark like that from FieryWoman. I sometimes wonder on this site at all those who either openly or snidely do down musicians who have achieved great success and given great pleasure to many who must be at least as qualified to judge. Some weeks, reading the comments on SD, you would think that every person who plays an instrument, sings, wields a baton or composes is a second-rate charlatan.

    I don’t mind the site-owner championing his favourites (e.g. Mirga); it’s the dismissal of all sorts of others who have built or are building fine careers and who have both critical and popular approval that I find distasteful. Not to mention (as in the Sheku Kanneh-Mason thread this morning) treating other musical genres with contempt. Popular music, be it jazz, blues, musical theatre, rock, pop, rap, all have their places and their followings. Classical musicians — and there are many — who enjoy hearing and even performing in other genres should be applauded, not sneered at. Their ears, and their minds, are open.

    I do understand the threat posed by “crossover,” a different matter entirely. But it is up to classical musicians to make their art worth hearing, and to work hard to bring it to as wide an audience as possible. Preferably not by diluting it. But that does not mean they can’t enjoy what other artists in other musical fields do.

  • barry guerrero says:

    Kent Nagano is another conductor who cut his teeth on (with?) the Berkeley Symphony. I saw him do the Ives 4th and Messiaen’s “Turangalila” in Berkeley. In addition to being one of the few to get any of Busoni’s operas recorded, he recorded the French version of R. Strauss’ “Salome”. Interesting stuff. I don’t think he’ll ever set the world on fire with the usual Austro/German standards (Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, etc.), but that’s alright with me.

    • Nick2 says:

      I met the young Kent Nagano over several days in Boston in 1978 when he was serving as assistant conductor with Sarah Caldwell’s Boston Opera. I assumed this was a talented young conductor but whose personality was so understated he would never go very far in the profession. I guessed later he was so subsumed by Ms. Caldwell’s gargantuan and dogmatic persona that he had not then found a way of expressing his own views and ideas. I also thought he revealed his Japanese character, although I did not know then that he had never set foot in Japan! I was later surprised, but delighted for him, when he became a household name.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    If you’ve been “gonged” you’ve been yanked (pulled) from the stage.

    “Gonged” does not originate with the Chuck Barris “Gong Show”, however.

    That was a parody of earlier radio talent shows which used a gong as an audible signal that an act had been terminated.