Violinist Nigel Kennedy cancels Royal Albert Hall concert over Classic FM row

The musician has dubbed the station “Jurassic FM” as he calls the decision “culturally prejudiced” and a case of “musical segregation”.

3 mins read

Violinist Nigel Kennedy has refused to perform a concert at the Royal Albert Hall after accusing Classic FM of disallowing a Jimi Hendrix tribute.

The musician now calls the channel “Jurassic FM” as he calls the decision “culturally prejudiced” and a case of “musical segregation”. He’s been asked instead to perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

The plan was for Kennedy to perform Hendrix songs with Chineke!, an orchestra of young black and ethnically diverse musicians, on September 22 until the radio station ruled it “not suitable” for the target audience. Afterwards, he proclaimed he had no other option but to withdraw from the concert.

Chineke! was founded in 2015 by Chi-chi Nwanoku, a leading double bass player, who sought to provide young black and ethnically diverse musicians with more opportunities. The orchestra themselves were not in agreement that Hendrix should be played during a classical concert:

“We had nothing to do with Nigel pulling out of this”, said Nwanoku to the Guardian.

“It’s not up to us what we play in the Classic FM concert. It was decided by Classic FM, who rightly insist that repertoire played at their annual Royal Albert Hall concert is familiar to their loyal listeners. They did not want Jimi Hendrix on Classic FM. No blame shouold be laid at our feet.”

Kennedy is best known for his outlandish punk-rock style and recording the world’s biggest selling classical hit in 1989 with the Four Seasons which made him the bestselling violinist of all time. But he’s also a massive Hendrix fan. In 1999 he released The Kennedy Experience which comprised classical renditions of eight Hendrix songs including Purple Haze and Third Stone from the Sun.

He was going to play Little Wing, one of Hendrix’s most commended songs, for Classic FM which he would’ve reworked to sound in the style of Ralph Vaughn Williams.

“This is musical segregation”, Kennedy said.

“If it was applied to people, it would be illegal. If that type of mentality is rampant in the arts, then we still haven’t fixed the problem of prejudice. This is much more serious than my feathers being a bit ruffled. Prejudice in music is completely dreadful. They’re effectively saying that Hendrix is all right in the Marquee Club, but not in the Albert Hall.”

Kennedy dedicates his success thus far to his unprejudiced style of musicianship and views the conflict as his last straw.

Classic FM have declined to comment.

Featured image credit: BBC

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