Sarah Sands: Don't force Handel on a headbanger

Moshing will never catch on at the Proms
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The Independent Online

The Proms are the best thing about British summers. Rainy car journeys hold no terrors for me, because I can tune in to Radio 3. And on an almost sunny Sunday in August, I merged with hundreds of other floral dresses and Waitrose bags at the Albert Hall for Mozart's Symphony No 34 followed by the Beethoven Mass in C.

What I didn't realise was that the gentle, crosslegged Promenaders are cousins of the head-banging fans of Black Sabbath. I did not see any moshing, as conductor Richard Hickox turned to the City of London Sinfonia, but maybe I came on the wrong day.

Newspaper reports of a university study showing that lovers of classical music had "virtually identical personality traits" to fans of heavy metal, delighted in the odd pairing. We might bear no resemblance to each other (heavy metal fans being profoundly deaf), but we share introverted and creative natures.

Heavy metal fans and classical music lovers should thus join forces, like Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. If Handel were alive today, he would call himself Goblin Cock or Bullet for my Valentine.

There are figures of reconciliation already in this field. The rival to Barenboim is a Capuchin friar who performed last summer in the Gods of Metal festival. "Metal is the most energetic, vital deep and true language that I know," he said. Who needs Bach?

It is true that musical taste does not have to be exclusive. The joy of iPods was to string together thousands of random pieces of music depending on your mood. I have Mozart and Verdi alongside Debbie Harry and the Kinks. I have just been watching on YouTube Sailor ("A Glass of Champagne"), Sparks ("This Town Ain't Big Enough") and Steve Harley ("Come Up and See Me"). But we have to be realistic about the personality stretch. I like optimistic harmony. Iron Maiden and Motorhead are never going to work for me.

In the spirit of "Country First", I whooped when I read that Sarah Palin had named her son Trig Paxson Van Palin, in homage to the American heavy rock band Van Halen. And while many complained that Jimmy Page's performance of "Whole Lotta Love" at the Olympics made us a national laughing stock, I thought he was great. Heavy metal does very well in communist countries and northern Europe. John McCain joked that he would "take the roar of 50,000 Harleys" over the applause of Berliners. I reckon he could have made the same gag in Berlin.

I am indulgent towards the energetic absurdity of heavy metal, just as I loved punk. I do not know what to make of Slipknot's "thrash metal riffing", but they also promise "additional cymbals". I like the sound of that.

But it is psychological banality to band us together. It is much better to leave us to our mutual ignorance. I once made the mistake of writing a breezy piece about My Chemical Romance and their fans, the Emos. I have never heard the end of it. Forget matchmaking university professors. I am sticking to the Proms.

Sarah Sands is editor in chief of British 'Reader's Digest'

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