More than the rest

SMUS-Views-Bob

A favourite digression when I travel is to visit the local art gallery, in this case, the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain, which does have one of the finest collections of masterpieces in the world. This particular visit tests the senses, therefore. Although the imagination’s capacity to conceive is infinite, it seems one’s capacity to absorb it all into the rest of the psyche is limited. But one picture in particular, by Giuseppe Bonito, called “The Turkish Diplomatic Mission to Naples”, inspired some thoughts of SMUS. It wasn’t so much the painting itself, which is impressive, but rather the text description next to it. Here the writer points out how the painter lavished his attention on the central figure, the emissary from Istanbul, and dealt with the lesser figures in a more perfunctory way, as befitted (apparently) the relative importance of their roles in this historic event. Missions from Turkey to Europe were few and far between.

My path of association went like this: too bad for these lesser figures that they were glossed over, merely filler that could have been painted, it seems, by anyone with a modicum of skill. Then I thought of our school, and its efforts in artistic spheres – how different: how rich the experience is, from where I sit. In particular, for instance, I often observe to directors of our dramatic efforts that the quality of the shows is pervasively high – even the choruses, the lesser characters, are lively and pertinent. It is a truism of high school drama, for instance, that just about any show can be carried by a few talented actors at its core; what distinguishes a show of superior quality, though, is the success of the chorus and the smaller roles to contribute something important, to add to the texture by being more than wooden figurines in the background. I think I have made this observation about every show I have seen on our school stages. Which means, of course, that even those “bit” players are getting an experience that is maximizing their opportunity – and, to give them full credit, they take advantage of the opportunity to wring out of an apparently insignificant role all the necessary substance to make it significant. So also with our orchestras, our jazz bands, our choirs, that never depend on soloists, although they do feature soloists from time to time, as appropriate, and as special opportunities present themselves. Not everyone can be a soloist or a star, and frankly we have enough talent that to give all the potential stars their moment would require more shows and concerts than the calendar allows.

Bravo to the students, and to the teachers who create this fertile ground. Bravo. And of course, encore.

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden was Head of School at St. Michaels University School for 22 years, from 1995-2017.

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