Copenhagen Phil in danger – online petition

The current Danish Minister for Culture, Mette Bock, recently wrote a feature article in the Jyllands-Posten (Jutland Post) which suggested that Copenhagen Phil- Zealand region’s symphony orchestra be closed down. At the same time, politician Alex Ahrendtsen from the Danish People’s Party also proposed plans to close down the orchestra.

Copenhagen Phil needs your support!

The Danish Culture Minister aims to strengthen the Danish orchestra landscape.. however closing Copenhagen Phil seems to be the least constructive way to achieve this. According to Politiken newspaper, “..of the 5 Danish regional orchestras, Copenhagen Phil has been the most proactive in re-thinking the idea of what a symphony orchestra can contribute with new concert partnerships, pop-up concerts in the metro, and a strong working relationship with private businesses. Copenhagen Phil is an innovative center for the presentation of music for a growing and diverse audience in the whole region”.

Copenhagen Phil is the island of Zealand’s symphony orchestra and it plays for just as many audiences in Copenhagen as in the rest of Zealand. The orchestra is Zealand region’s local sympony orchestra, which regularly meets residents from all over Zealand and in the concert hall in Copenhagen. If the orchestra is closed, one entire region in Denmark will not have a symphony orchestra- a region with 2.6 million inhabitants and with the largest land area. How is it possible that Zealand may no longer have it’s own regional orchestra?

Help the orchestras  fight to save an innovative and modern symphony orchestra, which works in and for all of Zealand, including Copenhagen.

Sign the petition here!

Please note that you have to confirm your signature in the confirmation e-mail.
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Help sacked MPO players to fight their case at court!

A Malaysian court has tweaked the law to deny basic rights to seven foreign players who were summarily dismissed by the Malaysian Philharmonic, as reported earlier. The orchestra remains under an international musicians boycott.

This appeal comes from one of the disenfranchised seven. Please support this appeal if you can and forward this message.

“I am one of the seven musicians fired three years ago by the Malaysian Philharmonic. After an interminably long wait, the judge has finally delivered her verdict: despite our many years of dedicated work with the orchestra, including long service bonuses and contractual retirement clauses, and despite our unblemished employment records, we were all in fact fixed-term, temporary employees, and had no right to expect continued employment. She decided that the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra had every right to terminate our employment at the end of our current contracts, without giving any notice or reason.

From all the legal advice we have since received, and the case readings we have done, this decision goes completely against the Malaysian Industrial Relations Act, and against just about every precedent that has been set by previous cases. If allowed to stand unchallenged, it will affect every current and future employee of the Malaysian Philharmonic, and seems to give Malaysian employers the right to terminate any employee at will as long as they have implied their “intention” to use a fixed-term contract. Up until this case, under Malaysian law, the burden of proof was always on the employer to establish that the recourse to the fixed-term engagement of the workers was genuinely related to their establishment or undertaking. That appears to be the case no longer.

We believe that an injustice has been done, and are determined to exhaust all of our options to make it right. The legal fees involved are substantial, however, and all of us have had our future earning potential severely affected by our dismissals. To that end, we have established a fundraising campaign to help our supporters contribute, and would like to invite your readers to participate.

Donations can be made anonymously, and we pledge to be completely transparent with the use of those funds, and with our progress. Everything we receive will go to our legal fund, and at the end of the case, if we win a monetary award, we will either return your donation to you in full (if you wish), or make a lump sum donation of the full amount collected to a worthy youth orchestra.”

To support, please visit: www.gofundme.com/MPO7LegalFund

Gaining profile! Orchestras semi-autonomous and happy?

Orchestras in Germany (and elsewhere in the world) integrated into a multi-section house or opera house often have a low profile, their contribution barely noticed by audiences and underplayed within the institutional marketing mix. It is the semi-autonomous ensembles that have the freedom to create their own artistic programme and identity – which in turn can become a valuable complement to the activities of a theatre or opera house.

BOBAt the same time brand building is possible even within the limitations of a multi-section house: small concert series, outreach programmes and a clearly defined online presence on the institution’s homepage can all contribute to a much stronger profile. For example the Erzgebirgische Philharmonie Aue is a case study for a small theatre orchestra with a strong, regionally rooted identity. Grown from a merger of two ensembles – one a theatre orchestra, the other a concert orchestra – they have combined their respective strengths to become a key player in the cultural life of the region. By contrast, the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn is strongly resisting calls to be integrated into the municipal theatre, for whose opera programme it currently functions as a semi-autonomous “service provider”. This relative independence is important – both for the ensemble’s cultural profile, but also to protect it from the political fallout of ongoing budget quarrels.

The Staatskapelle Weimar is another example for – in this case, far-reaching – semi-autonomy: part of the Deutsches Nationaltheater und Staatskapelle Weimar plc, its labour committee even has a say in the ensemble’s controlling and is thus able to influence programming and touring. While the added responsibility requires considerable extra effort, it also adds greatly to flexibility. Perhaps the opposite end is represented by the Sinfonieorchester Wuppertal. While the past decade under Toshiyuki Kamioka was artistically very fruitful, the ensemble – doing both opera and concert “service” – has a somewhat indistinct profile. This is partly due to staff issues, but also comes down to details such as a hard-to-find webpage

Buenos Aires opens new Concert Hall

For a long time things didn’t run well in Argentina. And there are still many issues waiting to be improved, especially in the arts sector. Teatro Colón for example is suffering from severe mismanagement.

However, on May 21st 2015 a new arts centre (including a 1750-seat-concert hall) has been open in the more-than-refurbished former Main Post Office, downtown Buenos Aires (“Centro Cultural Kirchner“). Old architecture is combined with cutting-edge technical equipment. Acoustics are reported to be superb. One mustn’t agree with the Kirchner regime in political questions at all, but this new building seems to be an outstanding and interesting new hot spot for the National Symphony Orchestra as well as for internationally touring orchestras.

Watch the government “propaganda” video, which at least offers a good impressions of the new venue and the whole project:

Ongoing Crisis in the Teatro Colón – Open letter from the artists

There is no end of the crisis to be seen at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Artists recently published an open letter which you will read here in English translation:

Colòn artists say: BASTA!

Colòn artists say: BASTA!

“With deep regret Teatro Colón artists today feel obliged to report and make public abuse and neglect by those who suffer should give us the minimum necessary conditions to develop our professional work. Despite currently having the theatre with the highest budget in its history, we are concerned, as every year the programming of its artistic bodies is reduced, reaching the self-produced one of the lowest levels ever seen since its creation today.

The level of discomfort of their artists is, however, very high: the Teatro Colón is offering today the worst working conditions in the region. They should include the draining institutional abuse (and occasionally even personal abuse).

It is our duty to recognize that they are creating the conditions for the recurrence of conflicts that have not been resolved:
‘In 2011 the SWA issued the creation of a Commission of Career order to begin to solve the labor problem Theatre, but despite having worked hard for nearly two years, not a race was implemented. He just arrived in some palliative and temporary improvements.
‘In the past 22 months (almost two years) the artistic wage type has suffered a loss in the purchasing power of 23%. By the nature of some of those fleeting improvements, scheduled production decline further affects the salary of the artists and also the increasing tax burden of the National Government. Years ago, in deference to the public, artists endure mistreatment and management inefficiency and inability resolution of each claim to have presented aiming to recover our historical levels of production.

We must reaffirm that there is no correlation between the demand made institutionally, the remuneration received. Nor between our professional hierarchy and authoritarian and provocative treatment we offer (arrogant and offensive attitudes, sanctions, summaries and layoffs of colleagues). Old problems have not improved: unable to enjoy a dignified retirement, older artists must rely on lawyers to hold on to their jobs by amparo and precautionary measures, instead of resting after so many years of hard work. Those who do however opted for a voluntary retirement relying on a predictable wage developments, also is punishing them for the above.

On numerous occasions we have submitted proposals and offered to collaborate in finding solutions that allow us to concentrate on our work and activity. We have only received silence and disinterest, which today are already read by house artists such as trowels provocations.
For 11 months we have been warning repeatedly written about stress and distress prevailing, but do not see any change in the attitudes of those who should be most interested in your staff to feel mistreated.

Definitely, in this climate of unrest cannot fully produce neither art nor beauty.
By this today Teatro Colón artists we say ENOUGH TO ABUSE!
We want a quality theatre, open society and greater self-produced, decent wages and respectful and indiscriminate their artists who have won their positions through competitive international competitions and opposition background treatment.

Colon Theatre Artistic Bodies
September 2014”

Re-auditions: A wrong tool for orchestras

From time to time the re-audition virus breaks out in the professional orchestra world. The latest cases were those at the Symphony Orchestra of Brazil, the Malaysian Philharmonic  Orchestra and the Korean Broadcasting System Symphony Orchestra in 2012.

Internat. Orchestra Conference in Oslo, Febr. 2014: No re-auditions!

Internat. Orchestra Conference in Oslo, Febr. 2014: No re-auditions!

But there were earlier examples: Back in the early 1970s the Rotterdam Philharmonic management and its chief conductor decided to improve the orchestra’s quality through re-auditions. When in the 1980s three Dutch orchestras merged in the Netherlands Philharmonic, re-auditions also took place.

In Germany, shortly after the peaceful reunification in the early 1990s, some conductors in the new federal states started to try selecting a couple of musicians by re-auditions. But these attempts failed due to legal restrictions: In German law and in our national or single collective bargaining agreements an audition may only take place before the musician is employed for the first time, before he or she enters the orchestra. The issue of a re-audition is not regulated in any collective bargaining agreement for orchestras in Germany. Therefore no musician could be forced to take part in a re-audition. And even if he would participate in a re-audition process, there would be no negative consequences. A poor re-audition performance could never be a reason for dismissal.

If you analyze the re-audition cases of the past you will always find the argument from the management or the conductor to improve the orchestra’s quality. This means in concrete: at least dismissals or pink slips for musicians who don’t meet artistic standards, which are only in the brain of the orchestra manager or conductor. And this means too: despotism and unfair methods to kick musicians out of their jobs.

On the other hand: which are the most successful orchestras in the world? Everybody could name ten or more famous national and international widely recognized orchestras. And one can bet: none of these orchestras do have a re-audition system.

The truth is: every rehearsal, every concert, every recording session with the orchestra is a “re-audition” itself for every musician who has to perform on top-level. However, many musicians say that you don’t perform for the audience, but you perform for the orchestra colleagues. There is no stronger artistic control and social pressure as in the orchestra sections themselves.

To sum up: whenever the management or the conductor of a professional symphony orchestra tries to promote the re-audition issue, this may be an evidence for the inadequate leadership skills of these people and not an evidence for a poor artistic performance of musicians. Re-audition remains to be a wrong tool.

International Petition against radio orchestra merger in Germany

The fight against the Südwestrundfunk’s plans to merge the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg (SO) with the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR (RSO) did not abate following the publication of the composers’ and conductors’ open letters last year – rather, the protest has intensified and spread.

The organisation “Friends and Supporters of the SWR-SO” has made an appeal to Winfried Kretschmann, the minister president of Baden-Württemberg, asking him to take active steps towards preserving the existence of the SO, and this appeal has already been signed by more than 20.000 citizens of the German ‘Bundesland’. Politicians are also starting to finally take notice of this important problem: last weekend, a non-partisan declaration against the SWR merger was made public, signed by 40 members of the federal (Bundestag) as well as the provincial parliaments (baden-württembergischer Landtag).

But the fight is not confined to Germany’s borders: there have been numerous international protests against the SWR’s merger plans. The composer Franck Bedrossian has started a petition, aimed at all culturally engaged people worldwide, demanding that the SWR take back its merger decision. Unfortunately, this petition has not yet garnered the attention it deserves. This is why many composers and conductors are urging you: please, if you have not yet done so, sign the international petition to save the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, and forward this email or copy the following link and send it to your colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. This is a matter of great urgency and importance. Every signature counts!

Here is the link to the petition, which can be signed right away:

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/swr-s%C3%BCdwestrundfunk-international-petition-against-swr-orchestra-fusion-2