A reader says that by insisting on dress that just a few will even own, many true or potential music lovers were left out of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra concert in Chennai

A full classical orchestra visiting Chennai was a rare and exiting prospect. All music lovers should have been welcome to the concert. They were not: “The Mandatory dress code is black tie/Indian formals.” Many felt disappointed and rejected. One young rasika at a Carnatic concert told me, “I would pay even Rs. 2,000 for a ticket, but not Rs.10,000 for the clothes!” This absurd restriction should make all art lovers, even those who do own evening dress, very angry. You would not find this foolishness at London's top music venues.

Western classical music has had to struggle with its off-putting aura of elitism: that classical music is not for all, but for those, for instance, who can buy evening dress. Ask for concert decorum, punctuality, silence, by all means. By insisting on dress that just a few will even own, many true or potential music lovers were left out. Perhaps the aim was to conduct a fancy-dress event for the wealthy, rather than to bring rare classical music to Chennai? Why should a great part of the hall, instead of just a row or two, be “by invitation?”

In the end, there was no dress code for the balcony, but the advertisements were not corrected, and the harm, for many of us, had been done.

Delhi, enjoy your SSO concert: it is free and there is no dress code.

Nick Haynes hails from the U.K. and has lived in Chennai with his Tamil wife for nine years. Mail him at nick@mridangam.com

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