Alex Ross quotes an interesting extract from a profile of a young singer who took at least some inspiration from the Three Tenors. It comes in the context of a question that he throws out: do crossover concerts serve to draw new audiences to classical music, or do they serve 'only to cheapen the art'? A good question, but it makes me itch in two ways.
1. The question really should be: do crossover concerts serve to draw new audiences to more or less traditional presentations of classical (usually orchestral) music, OR do they serve to build an audience for a different kind of concert, only a very small number of whom will 'graduate' (as they say) to the more old-fashioned and and in some ways more demanding concert. Developing crossover projects with the goal of nurturing audiences for what is actually a quite different kind of concert smacks of wishful thinking. On the other hand, developing crossover projects because they are entertaining and reach an audience that takes great pleasure in them seems perfectly legit. There are so many ways to cheapen an art form, and crossover projects can take their fare share of the blame. But not because they're 'crossover'.
2. I wonder whether quoting the example of a young professional singer whose performance motivations were kindled by the Three Tenors is strictly pertinent to a question about audiences. Sad though it might be, we live in an age when the gulf between professional performer and the concertgoer is growing ever wider. Fewer and fewer in our audiences are practitioners of music in any way. What might be true for a young performer may not necessarily be true for the person whose experience of music is primarily as a 'consumer'. (Ugh, how I hate that word.)
Joshua Kerman seems to agree. Alex Ross responds that he wasn't making an assertion. True, but I still think we need to be asking a different set of questions in relation to this phenomenon.