29 Nov 2011

A business start-up with lessons for us all

As if to gird my loins for today’s terrible financial news – deeper debt, longer, more sustained recession, my wife and I took ourselves to the formal launch at the Purcell Room of the Fugata Quintet.

Belting down to the South Bank from the Channel 4 News studios as fast as I could pedal, I still experienced the frustration of joining a concert late. I got in just before the last number in the first half – the Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla’s sumptuous Adios Nonino.

The hall was packed – standing room only – a whole range of ages and ethnicities was present. Suddenly I fell to thinking what this singular event told me about the London, the Britain, we inhabit in these economically troubled times.

This quintet came together when they were students at the Royal Academy of Music in 2007. Only one of them is British – the double bassist, James Opstad. Two are Greek – the truly exceptional violinist, Anastasios Mavroudis, and the brilliant guitarist, Antonis Hatzinikolaou. The hauntingly versatile accordionist, Zivorad Nikolic, is Serbian. Finally the beautiful and extraordinarily powerful and expressive pianist, Anahit Chaushyan is Armenian.

Now that they are launched upon the professional music scene they are literally a new small business start up, with huge potential. In effect, they have come together to forge a British entity from their disparate roots – some from within the EU, some from beyond.

British teaching, British resource, British opportunity in what is increasingly the cultural capital of the world, combined to bring about one completely memorable and emotionally overwhelming evening.

Nothing stirs the heart strings so much as the rhythm and cadences of Latin American music. Within its sounds are conjured the joy of life, the grief of loss and oppression, the exuberance of revolution and change, and above all, the constant thread of romance. All were present last night in the Purcell Room. Had I stood on the roof I could have heard the political hubbub across the river in Westminster. But I did not. Instead I was a world away.

But it did make me think that there is a creativity, a capacity, often ignited and facilitated through the collision of migration that renders Britain extraordinarily economically fertile – not just in music and the arts, but in manufacturing, in business, in academia, and more.

We can so easily grind ourselves into the mire of economic depression. Perhaps we should take a bar or two from the staves of Fugata’s exceptional performance last night and recognize that in each of us there is another way, there is something extra we can give and achieve.

Follow Jon Snow on Twitter: @jonsnowC4

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

17 reader comments

  1. adrian clarke says:

    Perhaps we should take a bar or two from the staves of Fugata’s exceptional performance last night and recognize that in each of us there is another way, there is something extra we can give and achieve.

    There is a thought of prosperity,of hope,of togetherness,Jon
    It is a pity,that tomorrow,thousands,maybe even millions,take the selfish step of striking ,for rewards many can only dream about,the country can not afford,and though will not be achieved, could only be so at the expense of those that provide the monies to pay for.
    If instead of striking, those who will drag this country a little deeper into the debt,they will later complain of,and rue,tried achieving standards they currently can’t be bothered about. Then we might get a performance you could laud as in this blog.
    Better teaching,better health care,better cleanliness.Instead a better more relient,and exuberant country where we think not only of ourselves but of others and what we can do for them.

    1. sue_m says:

      Perhaps you should think of standing together with those who hope for more prosperity for not just themselves but for others too. Instead you would rather see everyone ground into the mire of economic depression.

      The govt have alternatives but it is easier to grind those at the bottom than extract what is due from those at the top of the ladder.

    2. adrian clarke says:

      sue,we ARE IN a mire of economic depression.I am afraid that the strikers can not and will not create prosperity.They produce nothing,and take from that which is produced by others.I am not for one moment denigrating the work that they do ,for it is essential,but nonetheless it does not produce revenue.All the strikers will do is create a worsening loss of prosperity.
      You do not indicate what you believe the alternatives are!!!!!Borrow even more?The Labour policy to put us in a similar situation to Greece.We are already going to borrow more than is desirable,because of the mess they left us in.
      Tax the banks,even more?Unfortunately they are the only ones who can drive this economy foreward. That doesn’t mean i don’t still believe some bankers should be locked up because of their past actions and curbs placed upon their future conduct,but that doesn’t produce much, if any extra revenue.
      What do you believe is due from those at the “top of the ladder”?Higher taxes than the 50p rate?You will not remember the era of high taxes and how much less it produces.
      Perhapsyou have some magic ideas not yet disclosed. Now is your opportunity.

    3. sue_m says:

      So you are back to your self after your honeymoon period where you went a little soft Adrian and starting agreeing with other posters! If you had read my post you would see i did indicate an alternative. Draw some money back into the economy from the greedy ‘elite’. We don’t need magic – just a sense of fairness and decency by those in power. 50p tax rate is fine provided those in that bracket don’t avoid paying it, after all they are not struggling to get by at that level. Also, all the corporate tax avoidance needs addressing.
      Your post reads like a page of propaganda from the bible of Toryism. The banks are the only way forward? Good grief, you’ve fallen for their spin completely!

      I can remember when taxes were much higher. What I cannot remember is ever before living through a period where so many people are struggling to fund the extravagant lifestyles and incompetent practices of a minority. I cannot remember a time so concerned about how to pay basic bills or whether the next generation will be able to do anything bar scrape a miserable existence in poverty (although the Thatcher era came close and was the start of much of todays apathy).

    4. adrian clarke says:

      (although the Thatcher era came close and was the start of much of todays apathy).

      Sue that comment alone shows your lack of knowledge of history.Thatcher was the start of the great financial renaissance for those willing to work.It curtailed the power of the Unions,and gave the longest period of sustained growth since WW2.If you really want to remember high taxes and the demoralising effect on the country and society,go back to the Wilson era and the need to call in the IMF, or Callaghan,”what crisis?” and the winter of discontent.
      Even in the sleazy Major years the country was afluent,only to have it thrown away once more by a Labour Chancellor.Funny, though my memory must be playing up,i do not remember high taxation since 1979. Perhaps you would enlighten me.
      As a third of our economy is dependent on the banks,yes they have to lead any way forward.Higher taxes will stop recovery in its tracks.
      I would agree with you about tax avoidance ,but that alone will not save this country from recession.
      Your blog makes me wonder how you would have survived in the 50,s or even 60’s and 70’s.This generation lives on dreams and borrowed money.A recipe for disaster.

    5. sue_m says:

      Adrian, I often think you are like Clarkson throwing out random provocative comments for fun but you have now proved it irrevocably. Even you in your Tory bubble cannot believe Thatcher was the start of a great financial renaissance! I nearly choked on my coffee reading that.
      Thatcher threw thousand of miners (who wanted to work) onto the dole along with millions of others thus creating the ‘benefit culture’. She crushed unions in the private sector hence private sector workers have pathetic pensions now and envy the public sector who still have unions to represent them.
      She instigated the city spiv generation and relaxed rules thus allowing banks to get us into the current mess and hold us to ransom.
      She started the me me me selfish culture that infects society today. She sold off council houses for a quick buck so the next generation ended up unable to afford sky high property prices and unable to get a council home, thus creating a demoralised generation of working class people with no hope and nothing to do. When you rant about kids who commit crimes ‘just for a laugh’ have a think about where that apathy and selfish attitude came from.

    6. sue_m says:

      oh, and as for ‘longest period of sustained growth since WW2’ perhaps you should read the piece by Mary Dejevsky in the i, about how wrong our obsession with growth is and why it is to the detriment of raising our standard of living (except for those at the very top of the income scale). Thatcher like Osborne and Cameron knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

    7. just adrian says:

      I love your naievity and lack of knowledge sue.
      Prior to Thatcher the unions were dragging this country to its knees,with wildcat strikes over anything.Do you remember the three day week.Of course not.
      The miners tried to bring this country down and Scargill was responsible for the early closure of hundreds of pits and the loss of thousands of jobs.
      Thatcher gave people hope allowing them to buy their council houses.Incidently houses most are still in and would not be available for others to rent.
      It is obvious that it is an era ,that if you were born,you had no idea what was happening.As for growth, that is the only thing that not only provides jobs but pays for those public sector pensions we can not afford.
      Were it in the unions power we would not only be totally broke but we would be worse than Greece

    8. sue_m says:

      You continue to look back on history with your Daily Mail tinted specs Adrian, if that makes you happy.

      To you anyone who has a different view is naive or lacks knowledge. Rather than contemplate the possibility that someone else’s view may be valid you just make incorrect assumptions about them in order to try and justify your own view to yourself. It is an oft repeated pattern.

      You have fallen hook line and sinker for the divide and conquer storyline that the nasty party and its corporate chums want you to fall for so they can push their ideology through under the guise of deficit reduction.

      And you think I am naive!

    9. just adrian says:

      well sue,your lack of response shows the accuracy of my statements.Nuff said.I do not need the Mail,Guardian or any newspaper to see what is happening,has happened and to make my own opinion

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    Pity you were late for the concert.

    Still, never mind. As long as you didn’t “grind yourself into the mire of economic depression.”

    Meantime there are millions of people in this country who have been in “the mire of economic depression” for decades. That’s the kind of reality no amount of obscure, smug concerts can change. Now they will be joined by millions more.

    It seems like some people have learned nothing since Nero picked up his fiddle………..

  3. Philip says:

    But it shows all the little englanders wqhat we would miss if we followed the UKIP line & booted all these people out. There is an immesne creativity in the UK, often unappreciated & certainly far too risky for banks to fund. At the same time, we have a significant number of people who have been let down by the education system (because of where the socio-economic system placed them where they were born)but who also appear to believe that it isn’t any of their responsibility to do anything about it. But I also don’t think that an employer that freezes pay, increases pension contributions, requires its staff to work longer before retiring, changes the value of those pensions by using an index they expect to produce lower increases, changes early retirement/severance rules for the worse, cuts jobs all at the same time can hardly expect its employees to take it lying down. Comparedsto most of the world, the UK has a competent, uncorrupt public sector which tries to do its best for its customers despite constant change & interference by politicians & regular often unfair criticism by the media whenever anything goes wrong.

  4. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Music is that thing, that almost spiritual stuff that elevates man when nothing else does.That sexy Argentinian music we witnessed and watched Chelsea and Pash dance to on strictly or the soul searching uplifting triumphant beauty Beethoven speaks to us about, when ironically ,others are deaf to understanding.

    We have to escape out of the mire intermittently to be able to deal with reality. We can listen to music from the top of our heads, from deep within our guts, from nostagia thereby rekindling memories,we can pull on it from somewhere in the ethos or direct from nature, we can psychologically even deal with wars and grief . Music is the balm to excite ,soothe and heal all souls. On my death bed I hope I can listen to Ricardo Strauss’ last song of four which talks about the soul freeing from the body and taking flight.I live my life surrounded by ecstatic beauty in my own musical bubble and no one can touch me.

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      of course that should be ether… but have ethics on my mind and I talk about nostalgia not nostagia.
      Obviously a little too proud to let that mistake be!!

  5. Tanya Spooner says:

    Honestly, Philip, you are a miserable so and so. I read Jon’s comments on this recently formed quintet with a little lift of the heart. I certainly agree with him about the spirit-lifting properties of Latin music. It is charming that this group met at our Royal Academy of Music, where so many great musicians form long-lasting partnerships and become a British export of which we can all be proud. Why on earth should this lovely concert be called “smug”?

    1. Philip (the other one!) says:

      Well said, Tanya

  6. Bob says:

    Like many in the music, arts or creative industries we are all beggars. Politics makes us poor, as does the availability of freebies of pretty much every genre. But isn’t it still something to be able to have an uplifting effect on someone or give life meaning. Regardless of the economic state of disaster it’s good to know someone, somewhere is playing a song, people are dancing and there’s a picture on the wall that can distract us from the cold, bitter & lonely reality that many of us live during this time of economic hardship. What do we have without our culture? If our live’s don’t have any meaning then how will we ever meet another person who identifies with us? It’s almost like a polar opposite of the destructive drinking culture that has destroyed so much of our younger generation. I believe in art above all but it’s becoming increasingly unaccessible in areas hit hard by the depression. This is the luxury of London in a sense being surrounded by the publishing industry, media and art’s world makes all this so much more possible. Cultural relativity & lack of commerce is difficult. If only there was a god. This is why man invented whiskey and other destructive substances…

Comments are closed.