ok, this was written in a dayquil haze, so if it doesn’t make sense, that’s why…
Well, on most days. You’d think from the title that I might be talking about my kids, but not today. Today it’s me.
For almost two years, I have played in a community orchestra. The orchestra has improved greatly in the time I’ve been there. Our conductor is really great, and the music we are playing is increasing in sophistication with each concert. By this I mean more original edition classical pieces, advanced pop pieces, and full film suites (which are fun, btw), and not necessarily more difficult pieces. Difficulty is relative when it comes to a particular part in the score. Some pieces have ridiculously difficult brass and wind parts, while the strings are snoring, and vice versa. For the most part, playing with this orchestra is a satisfying experience.
Except for one thing. There is this one family that has been part of the group since the orchestra was founded. And I mean family in that there are nine children in it, six of which play in the orchestra with their father. As you can guess these are very hyper-conservative Christian types, complete with long skirts and long hair. They are a very talented bunch and are a fine asset to the orchestra. That being said, I think they are holding the orchestra back. They are forcing their values onto the orchestra by influencing music selection and performance.
Last season, we had selected a Duke Ellington piece which would be played at our concert in Sun City, Texas. Quite appropriate, given the demographic (which makes me wonder if they will come up with a Duran Duran suite for the Gen-xers, but I digress). These seven musicians, and about five others who share similar values, refused to rehearse or play that piece because of the “questionable morals” of Duke Ellington and jazz. They sat there, instruments in their laps, while the rest of the orchestra played. Twelve musicians out of 75, mostly in the strings. It was noticed.
Questionable morals? Hello? Have they not been paying attention to the lives of the great composers? I then come to find out that some pieces for Christmas were nixed because they could be objectionable to this family. That really got me. Recently we were told that we would not be playing the film score to “Pirates of the Caribbean” in the spring as originally planned. It wasn’t announced that they were the reason, but when I inquired, the response was, “Who do you think objected?” I’m particularly annoyed by that one because it was expensive for the orchestra to acquire and we don’t have a lot of financial resources.
On the one hand, I admire them for standing up for their values and refusing to participate in something that offends them. On the other hand they joined a community orchestra that serves, well, the community. We are performing to the community standard. The community is going to expect a certain type of performance and this group is starting to prevent that from happening.
I don’t think there is anything I can do about it. And a (large) part of me thinks I am blowing this out of proportion. But people did ask me what the deal was at that concert with all of those people not playing. We may be a community group, but we can still act professionally, and that concert was not professional.
What’s your take on this? Have any of you been in a similar situation? Have you ever been in a group that, in an attempt not to offend its members, endangered or could not complete its mission?