August 13, 2009
To the Editor
The 2009 New Hampshire Music Festival, in its 57th year, ends this Saturday. The last classical music concert of this year was presented last night at the Silver Center at Plymouth State University. The genuine disagreement between the growing number of long-time Festival patrons and the organization’s Board and management about plans for the Festival’s future is stark. Having followed this issue closely and the letters and statements made by the Festival’s President/CEO and Music Director about their plans, I am reminded of the dramatic scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when a booming voice tells Dorothy and her companions, “don’t look behind that curtain!”
Here’s why that scene comes to mind. Describing the terrible loss of classical concert attendance as the primary reason for the dramatic changes that have already occurred and are planned for the future, the Festival President/CEO responded to your reporter’s question about specifics, saying he “did not have a number or percentage of how much audiences have declined.” When asked about actual information about the finances of the proposed Red Hill concert hall, a significant financial burden on the Festival, he said he “had not had a chance to figure out how much money” would have to be raised. Asked about discussions with and plans for the orchestra, he said that he and Festival Director Fogel might have something to say “next week”, without noting that orchestra members will leave on Sunday and not be readily available to comment. The “aggressive marketing campaign for the Festival” he described as taking place is a myth, invisible or non-existent for some years now. None of the many letters and emails sent to Mr. Graham and Mr. Fogel by people who actually purchase tickets have been worthy of any kind of answer or acknowledgment, management’s response to suggestions or criticisms. The orchestra Graham and Fogel have criticized as simply “playing the notes as the composer wrote them” is and has been an area treasure, highly talented and greatly appreciated by the audience who reward them with standing ovations at every concert. Don’t look behind that curtain!
Anyone interested in gaining a more accurate picture of this issue than has been presented by management officials who have managed to avoid every specific question asked of them should read the groundswell of support patrons have written on this website: www.nhmfmusicians.org. Reading the concerns, suggestions and wishes expressed on that website by so many people who have been long-time supporters of the Festival might encourage all of us to take a look behind management’s curtain. Many of us fear that we have heard the last classical concert performed by the orchestra that has been the Festival’s strength, the real reason we attend.
Bridgewater, NH, 744-3341,