J. Christopher Fahlman - Manager September 7, 1975 Lincoln Evening Journal Lincoln, Nebraska
Big Festivals Use Soft Rock to Lure Crowds By John Rockwell (c) 1975 New York Times New York -- For decades, people have gone to American summer music Festivals to hear classical music. But now they are just as likely to encounter the Carpenters or Neil Sedaka as Seiji (kswa or James Levine. Festivals like Tanglewood, Ravmia, Saratoga, Hollywood Bowl and the Blossom Music Center near Cleveland are booking more and more youth-oriented popular music these days. The festivals are still best known for their classical music activities, and will remain so, But pop acts fill up otherwise unused dates, especially in midweek, bringing in a youthful audience that may spill over into the classics, helping defray deficits incurred by less lucrative "serious" artistic endeavors. "If you're a major festival, you have an obligation to offer a wide spectrum of music," said Thomas D. Perry, executive director of the Boston Symphony, which owns and runs the Berkshire Festival at Tanglewood. "That was what we kept telling ourselves when we started presenting pop concerts in 1968 and 1969, and that, in fact, was the case, Now it turns out to be quite profitable." The older summer festivals were not all strictly purist in their bookings. Ravmia, just outside Chicago, enjoyed its biggest prewar crowd in 1938 with Benny Goodman. But the real change came in the late 1960s, when the Woodstock nation seemed the coming coming thing and the pop-music business was escalating escalating into the gigantic money-maker it is today. Most of the leading classical-music summer festivals tend to focus on the sort of pop and soft-rock acts that will appeal to a young crowd, since teen-agers constitute the most numerous and free-spending pop-music audience. On the other side of the spectrum, overtly hard-rock acts are rarely heard on this circuit, circuit, since unregenerate rock fans tend to remain remain impervious to classical music and they also tend to damage the facilities. "People who come to hear Linda Ronstadt or Three Dog Night will come back to hear the Cleveland Orchestra," said J, Christopher Fahlman, assistant manager of the orchestra in charge of its Blossom Music Center. In some of the newer festivals -- those with expensive modern amphitheaters, such as Blossom and Saratoga -- the very expense of the facility itself acts as an added inducement inducement to use it as much as possible. "We have $9 million invested in this center," said Fahlman. ''We have to make as much use of it as we can." In a few areas competition from other promoters in the vicinity has proved daunting. daunting. Ernest Fleischmann of Hollywood Bowl, said that competing facilities in Los Angeles had proved more attractive than bowL Another, and more pervasive, difficulty has been resistance from conservative board members and surrounding neighborhoods. Ravmia is in a 36-acre park "smack in middle of a densely-populated residential community" -- well-to-do Highland Park -reports Edward Gordon, executive director of that festival In 1972 Ravinia offered 17 pop events, it has since dropped to around 10 annually and banned hard rock. The reason was. community objections to noise, large crowds, rowdyism and litter. Still pop at major summer music festivals seems likely to remain.