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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On orchestral politics,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,
I am a long-standing 'member' of a professional freelance orchestra, but every time the person in front of me is away, the orchestra's policy is to drag in some 'friend' of the leader, so I never get to move up.
What's your opinion of this?
Disgusted (of somewhere other than Tunbridge Wells)

Dear Disgusted,

I don't blame you for feeling disgusted. I well recall, years ago, that this often happened in a period instrument orchestra I worked in, which routinely put extra players AHEAD of members. When I upbraided the person responsible (who owned the orchestra) she was astonished, saying blithely, 'It doesn't mean I rate them higher than you, quite the opposite! I just wanted to make them feel welcome!!!!!!' -- (not in the least clocking the fact that she was making her regular players feel completely pissed-off ...)

My view is that regular players should be moved up, as occurs in 99% of orchestras, while the vacant place at the back be awarded to the 'friend of the leader' or whoever -- who probably wouldn't expect to sit anywhere else in someone else's orchestra anyway. Depending upon your popularity with other principals in the orchestra (or the manager) you might venture to object to what happened or not (bearing in mind that the leader might get annoyed if he or she hears about it). Personally, I went ahead and objected, but nobody can make this decision for you ...


Copyright © 15 June 2007 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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