Orchestra Digest: December 6th

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This week: Orchestra London's shaky finances, the Toronto Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra buck the shrinking orchestra trend, and Calgary's visually-enhanced Turangalîla. Here are stories we're following....

First the bad news...

The London Free Press obtained an internal message from Orchestra London Board Chair Joe O'Neill, describing the orchestra's finances as "precarious" while expressing confidence in Executive Director Joe Swan. O'Neill warns that "further restructuring to reduce expenses is inevitable."

The New York Times reported a downsizing trend among some major American orchestras: Roll over, Mahler: U.S. orchestras are shrinking. Exhibit A is the Atlanta Symphony, which has recently reduced from 95 musicians to 77.

...and then some good
"You seldom shrink your way to greatness," Toronto Symphony CEO Jeff Melanson told the Toronto Star. The TSO posted a surplus in 2013-14, as Melanson promised an era of growth and bold thinking.
The Calgary Philharmonic teamed up with artists from Alberta College of Art and Design for a multimedia performance of Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphony last weekend, an Alberta premiere. The Globe and Mail posted a preview, and Giller Prize-winning novelist Sean Michaels posted a review for the National Post.

The Cleveland Orchestra posted close to a $1 million surplus last season, with record fundraising and a surge in attendance, the Plain Dealer reports. The success came as the orchestra launched a new initiative to bring in young people, and toured Europe and the US.

The Minnesota Orchestra's annual report didn't match the glitz, but came as remarkable news from an orchestra recovering from a lengthy lockout, as the Star Tribune reports. The MinnOrch's deficit of $650K was less than expected, and comes amid a major rebuilding campaign.

Read more: Orchestra Digest: December 6th

Orchestra Digest: November 21

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This week: Ling to leave San Diego Symphony, an airing of grievances at Orchestra London, and the Toronto Symphony goes for laughs. Here are stories we're following...

  • Having served a decade as music director of the San Diego Symphony, Jahja Ling will step down after the 2016-17 season, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
  • On Tuesday, the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma reached an agreement ending a 2-month standoff with musicians, the NY Times reports. Musician representatives described the agreement as "bittersweet"; it included pay cuts and a no-strike pledge, and Riccardo Muti had already withdrawn from future engagements.
  • A letter leaked to London Free Press describes musicians' and stagehands' grave concerns about Orchestra London's leadership: “Downsizing and pay cuts, coupled with ill-considered cuts to our operations and structure, have left us in a downward spiral.” The letter was submitted to the OL board, signed by London Musicians Association president John Noubarian and the head of the stage employees' local, Terry Barker.
  • The Toronto Symphony will collaborate with leading improv-comedy troupe Second City for two performances next weekend, "The Second City Guide to the Orchestra", Digital Journal reports. The TSO also made the long list for CBC Music's Artist of the Year (the "Top of the Class Award") - anyone registered with a CBC profile can vote online, once a day through Dec. 1st.
  • And in a recent post, The Guardian (U.K.) lists 10 of the top classical music parodies of all time, including Victor Borge, Dudley Moore, Florence Foster Jenkins, and South Park.


Compiled by Matt Heller, OCSM 1st VP. Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOM and ROPA. Visit OCSM online at: http://ocsm-omosc.org/index.php.

Orchestra Digest: November 14

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This week: Light at the end of the lockouts; tough week for music directors; and orchestras covering themselves. Here are stories we're following...

Emeging from lockout

Last weekend Atlanta Symphony musicians ratified a 4-year agreement, ending a 2-month lockout, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. The ASO returned to action last night, with a program including Beethoven's 9th symphony; though the AJC reports that financial problems at the Woodruff Center persist.

A poll in the Atlanta Business Journal asks "Do you care if Atlanta has a symphony orchestra?"; the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with 94% responding affirmatively.

The Minnesota Orchestra's strong rebound from lockout has come under the watch of interim President/CEO Kevin Smith. Smith this week accepted the job on a long-term basis through the 2017-18 season, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

Others in the news
One of the longest-serving managers of a major orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra executive director Gary Hanson, announced plans to retire after nearly 28 years, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Hanson is a native of Toronto.

Vancouver Symphony music director Bramwell Tovey's car was robbed last Saturday, and among items stolen were two irreplaceable scores, CBC News reports. One was the manuscript of a new string quartet to be premiered this evening, which Tovey has been scrambling to recomplete.

Another kind of crisis faces Calgary Philharmonic music director Roberto Minczuk: his family's application for Canadian permanent residence has so far been stalled by red tape and immigration bureaucracy, the Calgary Herald reports.

Etc.: Opera sees red, and orchestras hire reporters
Despite soaring attendance, the Canadian Opera Company faced a $2.9 million budget shortfall last season, the Globe and Mail reports. The COC Foundation helped lower the deficit to $952,000 with a $2 million transfusion, and the reduction of one production could help prevent future deficits, board chair Philip Deck says. The National Ballet of Canada meanwhile reported a small surplus for 2012-13.

With newspaper arts coverage dwindling, many organizations are hiring their own arts journalists, the Washington Post reports. These include the Chicago Symphony, which launched Sounds & Stories last December, and the Baltimore Symphony's newly-launched BSO Stories.

Compiled by Matt Heller, OCSM 1st VP. Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOM and ROPA. Visit OCSM online at: http://ocsm-omosc.org/index.php.
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