Teeth whitening for musicians?

By Maxine Kwok Adams  -  14 August 2015

Crossover music. That very term sends a shiver of revulsion through most classical musicians I know, but why?

I personally don't have a problem with certain aspects of crossover music, there's a obviously a market for it judging by the popularity of the album sales. I admit I myself was excited spotting Bond backstage at the 2012 Olympic closing ceremony and I'll put up with the regulation 'Il Divo' Christmas album at my parents' every December.


Delving deeper I think the anger from classical musicians stems from the public's need to group these specific entertainers under the classical musician umbrella. Nothing riles "proper" musicians more than hearing about opera star Katherine Jenkins who, to all intents and purposes, is a beautiful lady who sings nicely. But the term opera singer surely should be reserved for the true artists performing demanding roles at the Royal Opera House or La Scala. The top ten selling classical albums are usually made up of artists we wouldn't really term as classical musicians. Perhaps the fact these people always seem to be marketing friendly and CD cover ready, seeming to skip by many years of training and hard graft to hit the big time lends an air of suspicion and riles us. Crossover musicians certainly seem to be a good looking bunch. 

 However, I have yet to come across an entertainer who draws as much vilification from my peers as Andre Rieu. Certainly it can't be said that he owes his success down to looks, but he seems to have discovered an untapped area of the market and has sold so many albums he has been able to himself buy a castle. In fact one of his albums topped the 2014 classical album in sales and the top thirty is littered with other albums he has released. His concert cinema release last month became the highest grossing concert shown at the movies and was broadcast to 195 countries. 

For a man who spawned a Facebook groups called "I want to punch Andre Rieu" and another whose title has the words (in no particular order..) "Andre Rieu and turd" this is pretty impressive stuff. After all he plays simple tunes on his Stradivarius in front of a swaying orchestra of women in pretty ball gowns. The teeth whitening upkeep alone must be fairly substantial. The whole setup is terribly old fashioned or perhaps that should that be refreshingly old fashioned. Perhaps this is his appeal, the "show" smacks of a different era and is so easy listening that a dozen other tasks can be accomplished whilst the Blue Danube waltz is on. 

There are certainly those who made their name in the classical music world first, the most well known being violinists Vanessa Mae and David Garrett. True instrumentalists in their own right on the classical stage before veering off down the path of mainstream success. Can one blame them? It's tough enough becoming a world renowned classical soloist let alone holding onto a spot up there with all the stresses the lifestyle brings . Why not appeal to the masses with good looks, gyrating, minuscule outfits and popular tunes? 

 Ask the average person on the street to name their favourite classical violinist and no doubt a name such as Andre Rieu rather than Janine Jansen will trip off the tongue. Both are wildly popular in their differing spheres I know who I would rather listen to and admire for the sheer musicianship and skill of mastering the instrument. But we cannot deny the millions who love to listen to crossover music. Perhaps we could start having album charts that are more clearly defined, not pitting Beethoven symphonies against the latest pre-packaged popular singer with an operatic warble singing musical hits. Perhaps then everyone would be happy. Until then avert your eyes whenever the classical charts are rolled out ...




About Maxine Kwok Adams

Fashion correspondent and violinist of the London Symphony Orchestra

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