Some of us in New Hampshire are beginning to guess that The Knights will be invited to participate in the New Hampshire Music Festival next summer. On September 2, 2009 the chair and vice chair of the board wrote in a letter to patrons that Jonathan Gandelsman is to be the new “Artistic Director,” and The Knights were mentioned.
Normally I would be thrilled to hear that The Knights would be visiting, with their link to a previous concertmaster, and their wonderful music-making. But why on earth hasn’t anybody mentioned them before? Why have all cards been concealed until the 11th hour? The New Hampshire Music Festival is a charitable, non-profit corporation that depends upon the good will of its public. Why has its public been treated as irrelevant?
This message has 4 parts, of which the first matters most:
1) the musicians’ website: nhmfmusicians.org
2) the next few paragraphs, with additional website references
3) p.s. with optional expanded background
4) p.p.s. the current roster of players
I belong to the executive committee of the group of audience members called “SOON” – “Save Our Orchestra Now” – who host this website, but I am writing this posting as myself only.
The board and the management have spent a lot of time telling us (the audience) that “despite aggressive marketing,” our festival’s “declining audience” is because the music isn’t good enough, and they have spent ZERO time asking us what we think, or letting us know any of their plans until after they execute them. The manager, David Graham, got the board to hire Henry Fogel as “Festival Director.” These two men have created a management nightmare.
I think it would be fantastic if those board members who are dissatisfied with this festival would get off its board and form a NEW non-profit, with a new name, and hire away those two men and start a NEW festival around here – there are plenty of culture vultures here, especially in summer. If the new “Susan Weatherbie Music Festival” brings The Knights to NH, I’d definitely come hear them. It would be exciting if the unhappy board members would get off and start something from the ground up, and they are free to take that risk with their wealth.
But a lot of us faithful NHMF attenders deeply resent their telling us that our orchestra player friends, whose concerts we love, aren’t good enough, and that we should risk OUR patron dollars on THEIR desire to experiment. They don’t want to hire a music director/conductor at all – very odd – and they only started talking about an artistic director, who was to be a player as well, after a lot of protest. (It is good that they backed off from re-auditioning the entire orchestra and making them write three essays.) The nearest thing to a music director is a pair of management men who are trying to be music directors.
Henry Fogel has talked circles around the board, and many of them haven’t been able to see through him yet. I’ll bet that Jonathan Gandelsman as artistic director would be subject to an awful lot of kibitzing from DG & HF, way beyond the appropriate management input.
This summer’s orchestra was around 45 players (after about 15 years of 60-plus for the big, late 19th-century pieces that David Graham (manager) wanted Paul Polivnick (conductor) to play).
The first inkling we had WHO might be replacing almost half of the players was in a meeting about 4 weeks ago, when someone asked the co-chair of the board, Susan Weatherbie, the name of the group she had loved so much on a field trip. She replied, “The Knights.” Some of us said, “Aha!”
(Susan Weatherbie, the co-chair of the board, and Rusty McLear, the chair, have been the only board members who were allowed to speak to the public all summer. Other board members always said they couldn’t discuss anything.)
If you don’t have time to read my words way below, a pretty good notion of what’s happening can be found at
A) the musicians’ website www.nhmfmusicians.org
(Note especially A) under “From Management,” the July 7 “Selection Criteria,” as an example of poor management;
B) the clear and informative letter to the board by Keith Johnson, trumpet, of August 3, 2009,
C) the letter to SOON by Rachel Braude, flute 2, written shortly after the end of the July-August six-week season)
2) Henry Fogel’s blog, especially this entry:
3A) this hilarious entry, whose advice he has actually consistently encouraged the NH Music Festival’s board to disobey:
Thank you for reading this far – from Marian Archibald
optional p.s. below:
* * *
I have been a patron of the NH Music Festival since 1983. The fine playing of classical works, and the adventuresome programming for which they had received many ASCAP awards, drew my husband and me initially to the festival. Then we made friends with many players, and our son became friends with many of their children.
I remember that when David Graham became the manager of NHMF in around 1988 or so, he began pressuring Tom Nee to do fewer new works. When Paul Polivinick came in 1993 or so, after Tom’s retirement in 1992, Paul was allowed to do an occasional new work by two or three of his friends who wrote very conservative stuff. Since 1993 the programming has been quite stuffy, compared to the marvelous mix of very old, old, new, funny, experimental, good, bad, but always excellently played music that Tom did. It’s still excellently played, but the programming has become quite boring, thanks to David Graham’s pressure. Lots of repetition of war-horses. (Now some of the audience may prefer that! – you can’t please everyone all of the time!)
Last summer (2008), DG warned the musicians that their jobs were safe for 2009, but not necessarily for 2010. No further detail given. Unsettling for their winter. At the beginning of 2008’s summer, Paul had revealed that he would resign at the end of the 2009 season. (Many of us believe that he was squeezed out.) Later management cut him down to just the first week of 2009, and hired 5 guest conductors. (They were NOT auditioning for music director, but many in the audience assumed that they were.). One was unspeakably bad, two were passable, and two were excellent.
This spring, we patrons had learned that Henry Fogel was the new “Festival Director.” Mr. Fogel’s articles in the NHMF newsletter told us that our programming had become too traditional, our concerts were not thrilling enough, they adhered too closely to the composers’ directions on the printed page, and that “despite aggressive marketing,” our audience was in decline, so he would be “experimenting with Romantic excess.” (As I mentioned above, one may check out his blog, “on the record.”)
In April we learned that we were not going to have a chorus, for the first time in about 45 years. I wonder how much more decline that announcement caused, since the chorus of about 100, and their families, were quite upset. . .
For the last ten years, I have never seen a poster for NHMF, nor heard a spot on public radio about it. Those used to be common. “Aggressive marketing” doesn’t quite cut it.
This summer, on July 1, 2009, the news broke that the players would ALL have to re-audition, submitting three recordings and writing three essays. I attend most rehearsals, and I stuck around after the first rehearsal, July 7, and heard the meeting where DG and HF tried to explain their audition process to the musicians. Some players had practical questions, such as “if we’re all supposed to rotate positions often, how do I know whether to audition for first or second flute or piccolo?”
Finally Ron Pattterson, who has been sharing the concertmaster spot with Malcolm Stewart for the last several years, spoke up and said, “If you really want to destroy the festival orchestra as it is, why don’t you just say so, and fire us, instead of this elaborate game?” (or words to that effect)
At the Thursday concert of Week 1, the players were sporting purple ribbons on their tuxes and shirts, and Ron spoke to the audience briefly to say that this might be the last summer when this orchestra would be on stage. The whole audience gasped. The next week, and for the rest of the summer, the vast majority of the audience was wearing purple ribbons too, as a bunch of us got together and starting writing letters to the editor, handing out ribbons just outside the exits, etc. etc.
Neither David Graham nor Henry Fogel attends the weekly chamber concerts. Their literature is full of how symphonic music needs to be done as if it were chamber music, but apparently actual chamber music is not interesting enough for them.
On the very last day of the 2009 festival, an accord was announced between the musicians’ negotiating committee and the management, and the management’s letter about it makes it sound as though everyone was happy with it. But as you can see from the musicians’ website, the musicians are mostly very saddened by it. It IS a reprieve, but we all imagine it is only a one-year reprieve for maybe half of this year’s small group.
The elephant in the room is the Red Hill Inn property, which the festival bought about 8 years ago in the hopes of building its own concert hall. It is my theory (and others’) that the decline in attendance which DG says began after 1998 was partly due to people – such as I – who thought, well, that’s great, if a couple of donors have a gazillion dollars for it, but I’m not in THAT league – losing heart a little bit.
They announced, when they announced that “accord,” that thanks to an anonymous donor, the 20 new people would be funded for next summer.
I’d love to know how much they spent on a lawyer, Ralph Craviso, who claimed he was not actually acting as their lawyer – “they have counsel in Concord,” – but he was present every time anybody talked with anybody else. Etc., etc.
The current management has no transparency and no civility. I think this may be because they have no money.
I know that lots of people have stopped giving because they are so upset. This recession certainly doesn’t help. It is quite possible that the organization is about to fail. That shouldn’t happen.
In my Shangri-La music festival scene, there would be TWO festivals going, a fledgling experimental one with outside performers such as The Knights, on the Red Hill Inn property (which the advocates of change would have purchased from NHMF), with David Graham and Henry Fogel in charge;
and the NHMF one, which would have new top management, would hire our beloved musicians, and would hire a capable, inspiring music director, and perform in any number of the fine venues that exist in our area.
And then maybe, somehow, our beloved players could continue to play in a group still called by its historic name the New Hampshire Music Festival.
Then I’d have even more good concerts to go to each summer. The already-bonded-from-within group that’s been here, AND The Knights’ bonded-from-within group TOO.