Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mea culpa...

One really should have ones ducks in a row before marching them off into the ether, there to hang about forever and ever, amen.  The gist of my last piece was questioning the wisdom of letting the Harrington String Quartet go as principals (not principles as I typed over and over and over) and asking how much the symphony is really saving by doing so.

It has been brought to my attention that the $80,000 stipend I mentioned comes to the HSQ not from the Amarillo Symphony but from the Harrington Trust. This annual sum was given to WTAMU to help fund the quartet, I'm told. 

That begs the question, if the symphony is not saving $80k, why the split?  It is fact the members of HSQ were paid as principals by ASO.  How much?-- $500 per performance?-- I don't know, that's just a figure I dreamed up.   One might reasonably assume the musicians filling those spots as principals this season are being paid as well. The same "$500"-- maybe, maybe not, I don't know. But I do know this, money isn't everything and to quote my old pal Willie Gates, "it only costs twice as much to go first class".  Pony up for any "savings" and bring the HSQ back!

Here's another thought.  Say the rift between the symphony and the quartet remains. Why not promote from within the symphony? Why bring musicians in from outside to fill the principal chairs?  Without a doubt even the musicians sitting in last chair are quite accomplished.  First chair material, perhaps not, but why not give the violinists, the cellist and the bassist sitting second chair a shot? Given the opportunity to rise to the occasion, who knows?

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I have to say again the Amarillo Symphony has done its reputation no favor by bailing on its long term association with the Harrington String Quartet.  Both entities are better for that association and for that reason alone steps should be taken to restore it.

Is Henry Kissinger still alive?


Monday, November 25, 2013

Principle carousel...

Saturday evening's ASO concert was fabulous, however...

After the Theatricality concert I sent a piece to the AGN opinions editor. It didn't make it to print. At least I never saw it.  It was prompted by a blurb in the Get Out insert of a Friday Globe News touting an upcoming concert by the Harrington String Quartet . The gist of that submission-- that our Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, while still great, is something less without the HSQ in the principle chairs.  As the principles, the quartet had been for years the visage of the AS, the constant with prestige in its' own right that lent a bit of extra polish to the ASO apple.

As anyone who cares knows, during the off season, the ASO board made the decision to part ways with HSQ.  Reportedly, and perhaps even understandably, the firing was due to the $80,000 the quartet was rumored to have earned as a stipend for their services. What has this divorce gained, or cost, the symphony?

This is the deal as I see it.  Another concert, another round of strangers in the principle chairs?  All extremely talented and passionate artists in their own right I'm sure. But I'm left to wonder what is this revolving principle door saving the orchestra.  Surely these talents are being paid for their time. Are they being flown into Amarillo like the guest artists on ASO's dime? Are they put up in the Ambassador, given a car to use while here? Assuming these principle musicians are not appearing with the orchestra gratis and even if the bulk of their stay is comped by the Ambassador, or the Street Motor Group or supported in some way by the many generous corporate and private supporters of the symphony, the bottom line is the savings over the course of the seven concert season is likely something less than $80,000.  Thousands and perhaps tens of thousand less. I have no idea what the compensation these for the four principles might be.  For the sake of argument let us say they are flown in and each airline ticket is $400; that comes to $11,200 for the season. Throw in a principle stipend of a nominal  $500? per performance and you've wracked up another $28,000 over the season. Total, $39,200.  Other costs are likely and the total tab for the subs to be determined. To be sure I know nothing of  how the finance of this parade of substitute principles is being handled but if my guesstimation is anywhere in the ball park, then what?  No figure, not $40,800 in savings, not even "saving the whole $80,000" can make up for HSQ not taking the stage with the symphony. Any monetary "saving" in this instance is still a loss in my book..

The real cost of not having the Harrington String Quartet associated with the Amarillo Symphony is beyond measure. No dollar figure the accountants might compute will ever adequately justify the loss to our symphony's soul.  When it was decided the symphony would distance itself from the quartet, the mystique of both parties took a hit. Admittedly, this comes from one on the outside looking in, not being privy to the why and wherefore that led to the decision. I only know what I know and that is, to me, the nucleus of symphonies past is missing-- and I want it back.

Black eyes all around the table in my opinion. I can only hope  those in a position to right this wrong can see the incalculable value of bringing the HSQ back as principles for our Amarillo Symphony. In the words of Captain Picard, "make it so",  if not before the end of this season, most assuredly before the first down beat of the 90th season.  Please, "bring them home".


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pictures in Music...

Attendance was scant at tonight's ASO performance.  Rightly so perhaps as all roads leading to the Globe News Center had much in common with the Bulls hockey rink just across the street. Wise as it may have been for the aging symphony faithful to forgo the concert in view of the weather, the many who were absent missed a dandy of a concert.

I am starting to discern a deftness in programming choices under Jacomo's baton. The theme for tonight's concert, "Pictures in Music" was evident in each of the pieces presented. There is continuity as opposed to the sometimes discordant programs of the past.

Schoenberg's "Finding Rothko" was as fine as frog hair split four ways. Elena Urioste deftly limned "The Lark Rising" and did the Gypsies proud in her rendering of "Tzigane". Jacomo's conducting and the orchestra's performance of "Pictures at an Exhibition" was deserving of the standing O from the audience and the seated O from the musicians. The evening was as delightful as the weather outside was frightful. Thank you, one and all.

I wonder what wonder the next concert and the rest of the season will bring?  I can hardly wait to see and hear whatever it may be.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

happy birthday....


It is hard for me to fathom that my first son, a son not by birth but my first son nonetheless, is going to be 44 years old today.  His mom has often said "the only reason he married me is so he could have him." While that is not true at all getting a son in the bargain was a bonus, one that has blessed me with a wealth of fond, funny and poignant memories. I've watched him grow into first a strapping youth, then a young man, becoming at last a responsible, productive adult. I've witnessed the life events that led him into a career in teaching where he is quietly molding young hearts and minds, imparting the ability to look within themselves and beyond themselves to see the possibilities.  He makes me proud.

Happy Birthday, Son!