How can anyone guarantee consistent quality with a per-service arrangement? What about the perdiem costs for those who come from other towns?
Unless you have a substantial "core" - preferably 32 to 35 (6,6,4,4,2 + winds and brass) you're just a band a freelancers. The results would be highly inconsistent and the quality suspect from concert to concert. An orchestra is a team - not a pick-up ensemble! And you cannot fool the audience forever. A well run orchestra and a supportive board can make it happen the right way -- as long as not every concert has some bombastic romantic program that will require 60 to 70 or more musicians every time. That's a recepie for disaster. Where is Haydn? Handel? And just one little Beethoven work? I understand you have six xnadidates and they feel they must prove themselves. A late Haydn Symphony is no less challenging than Sibelius or Thaikovsky - and if you don't agree, you missed the classical period training periods.
And the so called chamber orchestra series has too many non-chamber works that will baloon the size of the ensemble well beyond the "chamber" genre and brake the bank. St. Luke's, Orpheus, English Chamber Orchestra, St. Paul, etc. can do that. Not the Charleston Symphony. After next season you'll again have severy financial issues. You need a more realistic, pragmatic mix. A sense of proportion and less ego. You need 'quality' more than "quantity" -- bigger is not always better. Certainly not six times in a row with a severly curtailed theatre capacity and an expensive, heavy chamber series loaded with romantic works again, performed only once and in a smaller hall yet! Has anyone hear of trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, septets and octets, for instance? The Mendelssohn violin concerto is not chamber and neither is the Fingal's Cave Overture. Who's doing all this overly ambitious programming for an orchestra that not so long ago was in a coma? Never mind. I know the answer and you're all in trouble!
Isn't that clarinet upside down?
The Holy City ? please folks come on .
What a load of hype, fed to a gullible reporter who seems to know nothing about either opera or what is going on in the world outside Charleston. Not elitist? Check out the ticket prices. Asking everyone but the principal singers to work for free? And how does that make for a viable future? (It's called exploitation.) Acting as if there is no history of non-traditional, unconventional opera production in Charleston. What was that all those audiences at Spoleto have been watching since 1977? Denyce Graves had a marvelous career and brought pleasure to audiences around the globe, but her appearance at the re-opening of the Dock Street was appalling. And why have Templeton and Flaherty succumbed to the cliche of having a "star" performer, whose shortcomings will do more to undermine the venture than help it succeed? Anyway, it's the same old story: the tickets are far too expensive for most folks, and all this talk about "community roots" and outreach is a smokescreen for the same old condescension and pretension.
As far as I know, many of the people involved in the production have forgone any salary until the company gets on it's feet. The chorus is entirely made up of local volunteers. They have also cast local singers as understudies for the principal roles. I am sure they are paying a lot for the principal singers, but that's what it takes to get good people. Opera Charleston has lofty goals that include educational outreach and community involvement - something I have never seen from the Charleston Chamber Opera. Hopefully Opera Charleston will succeed where others have failed and will become a performance venue for local singers as well as bringing national talent to Charleston.
There are others who have come and gone in the field of opera in Charleston. The issues have always been the same: expense. Opera done the way that Opera Charleston is pursuing it is very expensive. The cost of the orchestra, the cost of the "star" singer, the cost of sets, and his videos, are more than can generally be sustained.
There have been (in the last 38 years) two attempts to establish a full-time opera company here. In the 1970s there was The Charleston Opera Company that did a fine job and had many seasons presenting the classic opera repertory. Then in the 1990s Hastings Henderson and a group established another version of Opera Charleston which could not sustain itself financially.
Currently there is the Charleston Chamber Opera and they seem to be the only ones capable of mounting interesting productions with solid singers in intriguing performances. They present their performances in more intimate settings, like the Chamber Music Charleston does with their performances.
Symphony audiences have been "skewered" toward older folks for a long time, ever since local symphony groups stgarted popping up after world war II (many of them led by refugee European conductors looking for a job!) And younger folks have been regularly replacing the older people for over 60 years, so your assertion is basically untrue. Did you bother with any research (American Symphony Orchestra League and other sources) to find out if that statement wasa actually based in reality?
I agree with this but have some reservations. First, Charleston will support an efficient well-run, fiscally responsible orchestra. Second, half-fixing a problem more often results in additional, unanticipated problems.
After concluding season after season in the red, most recognize that the CSO had to do something and many of those recognize that the CSO sold itself short a year ago when it was “reborn.” We are getting down the the level of expense that Charleston can afford. However, to be fiscally “responsible” we can't stop now.
I ran into one of the former members of the CSO recently and I talked enthusiastically about the recent brilliant performance by Emanuel Ax and the CSO. I was surprised when he didn't share my enthusiasm. After talking further it was obvious there is deep resentment amongst the musicians regarding the recent layoffs. The selection of which instruments were eliminated from the full-time ensemble appears to have been haphazard without consideration for balance issues composers had in mind and it also failed to maximize on the cost savings of prioritizing instruments used more frequently. There's a feeling of entitlement with some that simply having succeeded in an audition years ago guarantees you a salary, regardless of whether you play a concert. I heard of a musician who was away all of last season but still received a salary! It seems that there is a legitimate gripe in this regard.
The error was on the board's part in not immediately restructuring to a fully per-service orchestra. This would have put every musician on a fair and level playing field (no pun intended!). You play, the CSO pays. You don't, the CSO won't. I learned that the CSO's pay per concert is noticeably less than what is paid in other places. It simply cannot afford to pay twenty-some-odd musicians full-time salaries for part-time work – and additionally be able to supplement these with out-of-town musicians at competitive rates. Pay well and the CSO can attract the finest musicians around – but make sure to be able to assure donors that each dollar they give will be respected and will be utilized for musical services actually played. This would not only be fairer, but the cost savings of this structure are substantial.
The recent concert by the CSO was a good start: they were playing – and the audience enjoyed a great show. I enjoyed hearing a “big” sound: I really don't care for the thin chamber stuff which I compare to watered down wine.
Only with a solid, non-wasteful business model is the CSO worth enthusiastically supporting.
This sounds like a beautiful line-up. I would love to gift my parents with two tickets... They are supporters of music and the arts and would love to attend this festival..Thanks for helping bring music to all ages.
He had the talent and stage presence unequaled!!
What a great article. Anne and I have been CMC groupies since the very beginning and cannot think of anything we enjoy more than the concerts of CMC. Sandra is truly the Wonder Woman of classical chamber music. Anne and Cisco Lindsey
I was the Exec. Dir. for the CSO from 1992 to 2002. That's quite a bit more than a "couple" of years back. Mr. Beckley is in fact the fifth Exec. Dir. since 2002. I have been in arts management, primarily as an Exec. Dir., since 1973. I have never missed a payroll, never ended a season early, never asked a musician to return anything that was promised and agreed upon in their labor contracts. I had the priviledge of working with Maestro David Stahl for a decade. One where the CSO performed around the entire state of SC and into NC. One where the budget grew frm $1.3 million to my last year around $2.4. If one looks back at the financial records during my tenure, you will find seven years with balanced budgets or small surpluses and three years( not contiguous) with small deficits. Hope this helps to clarify your misunderstanding as to whom you were confusing me with.
Darrell Edwards, weren't you director of the CSO for years a couple years back? Please correct me if I'm wrong. Weren't you the director who missed payrolls and had to end seasons early? Didn't season after season end in the red? I've read that this past season was the first in years which ended successfully in the black.
Mr. Beckley is rather naive if he thinks that public school music teachers actually want professional musicians invading their backyards. A masterclass once in a while will be endured, but to place any real emphasis on invading the public school music programs with a barrage of masterclasses is totally misguided. In the first place, the future of the CSO rests solely on someone on the staff producing revenue generating ideas, be they concerts, runouts, fundraising events, etc!! Masterclasses produce no revenue. They simply are window dressing when the staff has no other viable revenue generating ideas.
Secondly, Mr. Beckley's experience with web design might enable him to sit in a cubicle and write great gants! It certainly doesn't prepare one for interacting with the public. This is quite obvious when you read some of his arrogant comments. Hiring imports a year in advance is not a novel idea, it has been done at the CSO for last twenty years. Mr. Beckley doesn't seem to understand that musica
ts444308, you're right, the CSO did shut down suddenly last year, and there should have been some major action to prevent that, but the idiots running the organization didn't do that, and let the suspension happen. There's no forgiving that (not to mention that they illegally stopped paying their employees in the middle of last season)! I happen to know some of the musicians personally, and know they were kept in the dark about how dire the symphony's financial situation was, and had they known, I know action would have been taken. Mr. Beckley is trying to change that. With new leadership through a new board, a new executive director, hiring a new music director, and a much needed development director, let's hope we see a change in the next few years for the CSO's sake.
It's absolutely tragic the group cut its players (it's product) more than in half. Dreadful, and really stupid. But they did it, and the musicians agreed to it cause they wanted to work and play for their community. I love classical music, and want it in Charleston. I want a symphony. So say what you want, throw you ideas out there, but what's going to make that organization succeed is as much financial support as possible. Nothing can happen, or grow with $0 in the bank.
Musicluver21, while it would be great to have community members send in large donations now, why wasn’t the CSO making day and night phone calls during the months the CSO was shut down? Why wasn’t there a massive fundraising push in the weeks and months preceding the shutdown in order to avoid what should have been an absolute last resort? Why did the shutdown appear to come out of the blue and surprise the entire community? Was the CSO trying to cover its fiscal ineptitude? Was it throwing a temper tantrum that, like every other nonprofit, it actually needed to adequately and professionally fundraise? It doesn’t appear, from this article at least, that the CSO has learned from the mis-steps of the past or is focused on moving beyond its present mediocrity.
Any successful arts administrator will recognize that quality of the product is central to an organization’s survival. Donors contribute to organizations which inspire them through activity in their communities and constantly striving to retain and improve quality. Disturbingly, it seems that Mr. Beckley does not recognize this fact when he states that rebuilding the quality via necessary minimal core isn’t even a current goal. While the players are compensated less than they would like, that is an odd premise for future fundraising and likely one that would have minimal success at resonance in the community. The affluent Charleston audience members won’t continue to battle traffic snarl and congested parking to drive downtown from their island homes to hear even well paid musicians perform raggedly. There are certainly many worthy causes in the Charleston community and we can only hope the CSO can convince donors that it is dedicated to once again providing top quality musical performances to the community.
after reading all the comments so far, someone better be ready to pay some good $$, cause a larger orchestra of better quality with a huge core of strings takes a seriously large yearly budget. Are any of you who have commented and complained about the artistic quality diminishing ready to support the CSO to get that higher quality back? No?? Then you shouldn't complain, because THAT'S why there are only 24 musicians right now. Be glad there is an orchestra at ALL, cause at one point there wasn't, and it was threatened to never be again!
As a musician in another professional orchestra I can state with confidence that the quality of any musical ensemble, as in any sports team, is based on consistency. When an ensemble or team plays together, over years the individual members learn to adapt their individual styles to complement one another, eventually forming the unique and characteristic blending sound and performing elements which are evident in any established ensemble. If this article is accurately portraying Mr. Beckley’s vision, he seems to be suggesting otherwise, which suggests either a disconcerting lack of experience in the field, or a profound desire to obfuscate reality. From previous comments posted it is both clear and unavoidably obvious that there has already been a noticeable degradation of the artistic product: unfortunately not only will this not improve under this “new orchestral” model (forgive me for my frustration with this term because 24 musicians simply do not make up an orchestra), but it will continue to degrade as more of the talented musicians who moved to your beautiful city to play in your fine orchestra leave in search of a quality musical experience that the Charleston Symphony will no longer able to provide.
Charleston has never supported the CSO to the level that was necessary to sustain it. It was a great orchestra, but had outgrown the community's level of support. Because I never received ticket renewal info. one spring a couple seasons back and because it sounded like the CSO was on the verge of folding then, I've only attended the occasional concert in the last year or so. Because of friends I have associated with this organization, I've been following what's been happening - and contrary to Mr. Beckley's remarks, nobody predicts the quality will be anything like what it was (and judging by these comments and what I've heard from acquaintances the recent concert was a testament to that). However, Charleston is a small out of the way city with no large corporations. I wish the best for this symphony - but we simply can't expect the same quality that larger cities support.
Citadel57, unfortunately I have to agree with you. Having attended the concert on 1/14 I heard the same thing. I also attended the community forum discussions mentioned in the article and there were alot of really good ideas brought up - and ignored. I didn't hear anyone calling for such a plan which would degrade the quality of the orchestra, built up so masterfully over twenty-seven years by Maestro Stahl.
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