Music for the man on the street

Harrison Birtwistle, arguably Britain's greatest living composer, was once asked what he thought the "man on the street" would make of his music. His initial response was a pause, accompanied by a slow-spreading grin that cut cleanly through his thick bristles, and through the composure of his shuffling interlocutor. After a carefully timed pause - worthy of any Sinfonietta percussionist - he answered. "Who's this man on the street? I think I've got a problem with the man on the street."

The throng of men and women on the street who, over the weekend, had joyfully reclaimed London's newly-reopened Royal Festival Hall as their own, had more or less dispersed by the time of Monday night's opening concert. Round the corner it was business as usual, with ladies having tea outside the Hayward Gallery while kids practised their parkour on the Purcell Room's east wall. In front of the hall itself, passers-by were cooling down in the new water fountains and enjoying the kind of café pleasures that should have graced the South Bank long ago but somehow never did.

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