This is an entry in which I am going to talk about thoughts and feelings I do not understand. To do so is always dangerous. But here I am.
Category Archives: My Writing
MOA has prepared budgets for the fiscal years 2014 through 2017, which assume settlement of the labor dispute and the return to regular performance season consistent with its strategic business plan
Assumes settlement WHEN? Because your revenue and your contributions are going to be drastically different if the dispute is settled in 2014 as opposed to 2017… Don’t you think you need to maybe, I don’t know, like, account for that? Otherwise the numbers are meaningless.
And consistent “with its strategic business plan”? Your strategic plan is no more. It’s dead. The last year killed it. Literally about half the things in there, if not more, are now impossible to achieve. So draw up a new plan. And do it right this time.
The conclusion to the letter is just blah blah blah blah blah. Nothing new, so I’ll skate past it.
So! Now let us look at the long-awaited 2013-2014 season…
It is a season so terrible that I’m actually relieved the players were locked out and prevented from performing it.
There are so many horrific highlights. Rocky Horror Picture Show. Endless Christmas celebrations. Jim Brickman: Be My Valentine….on Valentine’s Day. A program called: “Midtown Men or Meghan Hilty or Alan Cumming or Bond & Beyond with the Minnesota Orchestra.”
MOA has prepared and planned a full schedule of concerts for the fiscal year 2014 (F2014) season, to be presented when the labor contract is resolved. A copy of the full F2014 Concert Program is enclosed as Exhibit A.
I think by “full schedule of concerts for the fiscal year 2014″ you mean “The Sh%&%$#st Hypothetical Orchestral Season Ever Known To Man (TM).” But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself…
The program includes concert programs with the Minnesota Orchestra, in some cases with guest artists and conductors
Actually, in most cases with guest conductors…SINCE WE HAVE NO MUSIC DIRECTOR.
as well as concerts by other groups and performers, such as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Duke Ellington
Today some reports from the Minnesota Orchestral Association hit the blogosphere, courtesy of audience advocacy group Save Our Symphony Minnesota. An Annual Report of Hall Operations and a Legal Opinion Accompanying the Annual Report? Oh, it’s Christmas!
I think I’ll aim for a three-parter. Why not? I’ll also title the article with some exciting adjectives like “happy fun exciting” to lure unsuspecting readers in.
Okay. So. Here are my preliminary reactions.
As long-time readers of the blog know, I have a weakness for Advent calendars, even when they don’t include chocolate. (Although…chocolate is good.)
So here’s the second annual virtual SOTL Advent calendar, sans chocolate. After the introductory entry of December first, each day will feature a Youtube video having to do with Christmas or winter music, along with a favorite memory of 2013. (Perhaps astonishingly, given the circumstances, I have a lot of favorite memories.) Yes, it’s a weird tradition – I don’t think any other classical music blogs do this? – but I get a kick out of assembling it, and I like to spread the joy of Advent calendars, so…
Entries are queued to post at 12am every morning. So enjoy, and warm holiday wishes to you and yours.
If you’re not sure what to buy for yourself or your family members this holiday season, you should really consider purchasing tickets to see the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians in-concert later this month in their Tchaikovsky extravaganza. Because everybody loves the Nutcracker, am I right?
Question: Can I mock the Minnesota Orchestral Association while still leaving its CEO, board chair, and immediate past chair in the Bin of Irrelevancy?
Answer: This is my blog, I’m the queen of my blog, and I’ll do what I want.
Because the inspiration for this entry was just too beautiful in its absurdity to leave alone. I know I’m a few weeks behind the times, as this was sent out on November 1st, but this is a Mona Lisa of absurdity, and I’ve been pretty busy this month and haven’t gotten around to it yet, and I want so badly to mock this Thanksgiving Eve, and like I said, I’m the queen of this blog, and I do what I want, so there.
The thing that strikes me: by all rights, we should be despondent. And yet – I don’t think I’ve ever been to a more joyful concert.
The Minnesota Orchestra should be playing in its newly renovated hall in downtown Minneapolis. And yet – thanks to a fifteen-month-long musician lockout, they aren’t. Ted Mann Concert Hall on the University of Minnesota campus has been rented for musician-produced concerts instead, and it works just fine.
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the former music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, is ninety. Most men his age are crippled or dead. He shouldn’t be physically able to lead magisterial performances of Brahms and Wagner. And yet – here he is tonight, graciously accepting our wild applause, magically drawing forth music, gladly flouting his former employer in the classiest possible way.
The musicians should be performing on a newly renovated stage, fresh from triumph at Carnegie Hall. And yet – their Carnegie concerts are canceled and their music director is gone. Instead, they’re learning the fine art of PR, renting halls, serving on fundraising committees, debating repertoire, coordinating educational activities, and selling out concerts.
My volunteer audience activist friends should be occasional concertgoers and amateur musicians who go to concerts, enjoy them, and then go home to their families. And yet – now they’re devoting endless hours to poring over various orchestras’ financial records, while befriending influential politicians and studying the principles of non-profit management.
I should be curled up at home, a woman in her mid-twenties happy in her anonymity, writing essays about Victorian violinists that nobody reads. And yet – thanks to the lockout, I recently went on a WQXR podcast talking about the impact of social media on the arts with the former head of social media with the Dean campaign.
The last fifteen months have been one long story of “x should be, but y is.” Unintended consequences abound. People have tried to control them, but those who try, inevitably fail.
“It would be easy to be bitter, but I am thankful,” horn player Ellen Dinwiddie Smith tells us before the Brahms symphony. She is thankful for the audience, she says. For her colleagues. But most importantly, she is thankful for music.
Yes, I think. Yes.
We’ll soon announce a star-studded self-produced season to begin in the New Year, Ellen then says, very coyly, and the audience murmurs with excitement.
I know I’ve deposited Michael Henson in the bin of irrelevancy. And trust me, I’ve enjoyed leaving him there. But occasionally I can’t resist peering into the bin, especially after Bonusgate…and I want to take another peek now.
I was doing some research for a friend the other day when I came across this article from the Strib.
Minnesota Orchestra trims its staff
It’s from May 9, 2012. In it, the Minnesota Orchestral Association announced the axing of nine full-time positions (thirteen percent of its administrative staff) and seven part-time positions. In all, sixteen people received the soul-crushing news that their jobs were disappearing. Yes, it was acknowledged that some part-timers might come back after the hall reopened in “the fall of 2013″ (how’s that workin’ for ya?), but the full-time position reductions were apparently permanent.
But on the plus side, the MOA was going to save $450,000 over the course of the 2012-2013 season!
Of course the November 2013 reader says, “Hey, wait a minute…”
Here’s the last part of the November Lark Notes, the third part of an essay called The Schumanns, Symphonies, and Brahms. Part I here; Part II here. Buy tickets to the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians’ show here.
It took many years, and many pieces, for Brahms to come to term with the Schumann prophecy.
His first piano concerto, dating from 1859, was his first large-scale work featuring an orchestra. Portions of it had come from the sonata for two pianos in d-minor. Many historians have noted that the initial theme of the first movement bears a resemblance to a fall: Schumann’s leap into the Rhine, perhaps? He admitted openly to Clara that the glowing second movement was a portrait of her. As for the last movement, he was so conflicted about what to do, he unabashedly copied the form of Beethoven’s third piano concerto.
When he finally got around to writing his first published work for orchestra alone, he tried calling the piece a symphony, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. So he hedged his bets: he labeled the D-major serenade a “Symphony-Serenade.” But he soon realized he was kidding himself, and he so he scratched out the word Symphony entirely. He wrote to Joachim: “I had such a beautiful, big conception of my first symphony, and now! – ” The dash said it all.
He was getting nowhere with the highly anticipated Big Work. During this frustrating time he circled back to Clara for intellectual and emotional companionship. In January 1861 he wrote to her, “I sometimes wish to see [you] for the first time again, so that I might be able to fall in love with you all over again. But all the same things are well as they are. Don’t you feel the same?” Practical as ever, she returned, “I by no means wish you to see me again for the first time in order that you may be able to ‘fall in love with me’ (if indeed that can ever have happened); rather love me dearly, truly, and for ever and ever – that is the best of all.”
In 1862, she received a packet of music from Brahms: “imagine the surprise!” she wrote Joachim, “the first movement of a symphony.” It was indeed. Unfortunately, she’d have to wait over a decade for the music to be finished and performed. Once again, Brahms had gotten stuck. He began to look like a horse in quicksand.
Here’s the second part of the November Lark Notes, an essay called The Schumanns, Symphonies, and Brahms. If you want to see a Brahms symphony in the flesh, buy tickets to the Minnesota Orchestra Musicians’ concert here. Part I is here.
In 1850 Robert Schumann had accepted a music directorship in Düsseldorf. His time there was unfulfilling. Bluntly, he wasn’t suited for the job. Worse, ill health led him to become increasingly withdrawn. In rehearsals with the local chorus, Clara provided piano accompaniment and made suggestions to the singers when Robert was uncommunicative. Although Clara didn’t – or couldn’t – acknowledge it, his career was in decline. Robert, his energy waning, saw Brahms as someone who could take up his cause and bring it further: a Joshua to his Moses.
Accordingly, both Schumanns immediately began encouraging Johannes to write on a larger scale. In his famous article, Robert wrote, “If he will sink his magic staff in the region where the capacity of masses in chorus and orchestra can lend him its powers, still more wonderful glimpses into the mysteries of the spirit-world will be before us…” In her journal Clara wrote, “A great future lies before him, for when he comes to the point of writing for orchestra, then he will have found the true medium for his imagination.” There was something to that assessment. The piano works that Johannes had played for the Schumanns were big and bold, and it was tempting to imagine what such genius might produce for orchestra.
Maybe given time and health, Robert could have helped Brahms give voice to a symphony. But Robert had neither time nor health. On 27 February 1854, while Clara was consulting with a doctor, Robert slipped away and jumped into the Rhine. He was saved by fishermen. Clara only caught a glimpse of him before he was taken to an asylum. The next time she’d see him would be two years later on his deathbed.