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".