11/12/09 – Ron Ummel

To the Editors of The Laconia Daily Sun

In Reply to Jean Evvard’s Letter 11/05/09 relative to the NHMF.

It would appear the Jean’s comments come from a point of view that is in disagreement with the feelings of many loyal NHMF patrons and supporters. As one of those loyal supporters I would like to take this opportunity to comment on some of Jean’s thoughts concerning the musical festival as follows:

J.E. Quote: “SOON’s members have been less than enthusiastic and complacent with the status quo of the NHMF”

Comment: Jean, for your information and clarification “SOON” members consist of a large group of long time patrons, who are enthusiastic, loyal, and dedicated supporters of the NHMF. S.O.O.N. came into being on an “ad hoc” basis to protest the unkind, tactless, and totally unjustified insensitive treatment that the NHMF orchestra received this past season from the management of the NHMF. The members of SOON are very concerned about the future direction that David Graham and Henry Fogel have chosen for the orchestra’s future. As you so eloquently pointed out in your letter, “from 1987 to 2007 attendance at the concerts has grown 60%”. From my point of view and in discussion with past board members, this was largely due to the wonderful concerts that were presented during that time under the baton and direction of Maestro Polivnick. David Graham’s presence was mostly invisible during this period of time. As a matter of fact when the “magic presence” of H. Fogel began to be felt (2007 – 2009) David became “pro-active” and accomplished the following: 1.) He eliminated the “friends of the orchestra”, 2.) He eliminated the very popular and profitable choral concerts, 3.) He fired one of the finest musical directors that we have had the pleasure to listen to (M. Polivnick), 4.) He completely abandoned any semblance of advertising or promotion of the NHMF, 5.) He essentially abolished the educational programs, 6.) He is in the process of changing the bylaws of the NHMF to eliminate the “voting rights” of the incorporators under the guise of “protecting the festival from those who would jeopardize its future.” 7.) He has alienated many loyal patrons and contributors, and 8.) He has completely lost the respect of the musicians of one of the finest, dedicated, and talented festival orchestras in the country. Having been a faithful NHMF patron and supporter that last 10 years I have no idea where David conjured up his figures of “losing 25% of our classic audience” Almost every concert that I have attended over the past 10 years (1999-2009) was “sold out”.

J.E. Quote: “…the (NHMF) organization is placing itself in a position to become stronger than ever.”

Comment: David and the present Board of Directors under the influence of Henry Fogel have apparently made the decision to drastically change the direction of the Festival by instituting a rather questionable and untried classical musical experiment. Jean, I don’t think that you are aware of the fact that this new experiment will actually end up consisting of a smaller “group of musicians” who will be performing in an informal setting on a much smaller stage with a majority of the pieces performed being new and untried compositions mixed with arrangements of the classics by the performers. The performers will be collaborating with each other (read: music by committee) on the final interpretation of the works that they will perform. Although the initial impact of this kind of musical presentation appears special and sometimes exciting, it quickly becomes very uninteresting and banal! For lack of any other definition it is a “dumbing down” of the “classics”. I would suggest that before you endorse this musical experiment that you go to the websites of such groups as “The Knights” and “Wild Ginger Philharmonic” and listen to their performances. It is interesting to note that neither one of these musical groups (they can hardly be called orchestras) at this time are performing in any permanent venues. Although some very talented musicians play in these groups, the overall quality of their presentations is very “thin” and after listening to only two or three pieces quickly become tiresome. Contrary to your belief, the institution of this type of experimental “watered down” classical music will NOT make the NHMF “stronger than ever”. I would predict that there will be a mass defection from the NHMF once the patrons actually get a chance to hear and experience some of this experimental stuff.

J.E. Quote: “… a planned increase in the size of the orchestra will improve the sound and permit a more extensive repertoire to be performed.”

Comment: Jean, this new musical experiment that Dave and Henry are planning includes a “much smaller” orchestra. This new musical group is to include students and so called “non-incumbent” implants. These non-incumbents will most likely come from such musical groups as “The Knights” and “Wild Ginger”. It is highly improbable that this new group composed of “implants” and “students” will be able to handle the “more extensive” repertoire that you referenced in your letter. As a matter of fact the insertion of these students and implants will definitely reduce the overall quality of our orchestra. IF ANY THING, THIS NEW FORMAT WILL GREATLY LIMIT THE REPERIORE TO BE PERFORMED. Quite a few of the great classical works that we have become accustomed to hearing at the NHMF will no longer be performed!

J.E. Quote: “the Festival is a stable organization with an administration that has done a great job preparing a long range plan that includes the promise of even a greater musical experience.”

Comment: It has become very apparent during the past season that the management of the festival, in an heavy handed attempt to slam through Henry Fogel’s personal idea of classical music presentation (read: musical experiment), has completely alienated the NHMF’s dedicated and extremely talented musicians and in the process lost the trust of it’s most loyal and dedicated patrons. Although they try to convince you differently, the management and NHMF board chose to put this new music experiment into effect without any input from the NHMF musicians or it loyal patrons. This definitely is not the action of “a stable organization” or a management team that deserves the accolades that you mention in your letter. The “musical experiment” that they are attempting to impose on the festival and it’s patrons is something that, I fear, is doomed for failure and in the process will completely destroy the NHMF as we have come to know and love it.

Jean, I can see from your letter that you are indeed an enthusiastic and dedicated member of the festival family and I dearly hope for all our sakes that this rather dubious and untried musical “experiment” works. The music that I have had the opportunity to listen to from these “collaborative” music groups has been very disappointing and like all watered/dumbed down philosophies, they are very exciting and fun at first blush but become boring, banal and empty of substance very quickly. The new concert presentations that our present management is proposing will be similar to “rock concert” presentations where the “reinvigoration of the musical product”/pyrotechnics of presentation (i.e. the smoke, flashing lights, swaying crowds, short and ever repeated brain numbing phrases, constant 100 db background beats, etc.) overshadows and takes the place of the musical content.

I’m afraid that the NHMF management and board have been misleadingly enamored by Henry Fogel’s fame and are in the process of destroying a New Hampshire treasure. His experiment follows and is patterned after the dumbing-down of such institutions as: our educational system (disregard and trivialize the basics to make learning more fun and exciting); our religious institutions (ignore traditions and add media spectacular, make the service shorter and more exciting); popular music (read: mind numbing rock and rap concerts), etc. etc. It’s unfortunate that our society and apparently the NHMF management has become capable of only appreciating MTV like “sound/video bites” and have completely lost the importance of knowing and appreciating the deeper and lasting beauty of things. If the NHMF goes down this path, (and it looks like it is inevitable) we too will be deprived of something that was in the past very precious and special. I plead with the NHMF management and members of the board to listen to your loyal and concerned patrons and concertgoers and PLEASE don’t let this happen to our music festival.

Respectfully Submitted by a concerned and loyal NHMF patron,

Ronald Ummel