The Southbank Centre’s year-long The Rest Is Noise festival, which concluded on 14 December, sold 124,644 tickets across its entire run.
Based on The New Yorker critic Alex Ross’ book of the same name, the festival started in January and aimed to put the music of the 20th century in context with monthly, broadly chronological themes. The final concert was John Adams’ oratorio El Niño with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski.
The LPO’s chief executive, Tim Walker, said the orchestra had seen a 10% increase in audiences year-on-year. As the festival’s major performance partner the majority of the music the LPO played in 2013 was from the 20th century.
‘The London Philharmonic Orchestra devoted its entire year to 20th-century music for The Rest Is Noise,’ said Walker, ‘and we have been delighted by the appetite the public have demonstrated for it. Our audiences are 10% up on last year and it has been a pleasure to work with the Southbank Centre on this successful venture. We continue to champion new music in the second half of our season with world premiere performances of James MacMillan’s viola concerto and Gorecki’s fourth symphony.’
Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre, said: ‘We set out to involve and excite new audiences in the history of modern classical music, and asked them to listen with a fresh openness to examples of great 20th-century works. I believe we have a duty to young composers to build understanding and commitment for their work and also show people that just like other aspects of modern art this music is both demanding and immensely rewarding.
She said that the format had developed new markets for the centre: ‘We’ve built a very different kind of audience through this intense programme of history, politics and debate alongside the concerts, and this has strengthened our determination to continue in this way. We’ve had wonderful results and we’re not going to stop now.’
Gillian Moore, head of classical music at the Southbank Centre, said: ‘The Rest Is Noise festival has given us the opportunity to offer more than a series of concerts. Through the extensive programme of weekend talks, films, debates and study evenings, we have given audiences a sense of community and encouraged the questioning spirit.
‘As a result we have seen audiences really engaging in the music and culture of the 20th century and we will look to continue this commitment in our 2014/15 season, which will be announced in January 2014.’
Writing in the Evening Standard after the festival closed, Kelly asked why contemporary classical music was ‘out in the cold, on the margins of cultural awareness … Why have small or niche audiences been accepted as the norm, so becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy?’
‘Much contemporary music is difficult; to the ear steeped in classical harmony it can even be painful. With so little help offered to audiences to come to terms with it, who can blame them for staying away?’