Opinion

Editorial, November: All about orchestras

- 1 November 2013

It would be hard to overstate the importance of orchestras to this industry. They form the solid core of what we all think of as classical music, around which cluster all manner of diverse forms of music making. They are a huge part of how musicians learn to be musicians, they provide employment, they commission new works and, of course, they’re hugely expensive and tend to be heavily subsidised by the state.

April 2015 could see this landscape begin to be seriously eroded ‒ or not. One of the major problems facing our orchestras at the moment is that they have to plan further ahead artistically than they know what the state of their Arts Council funding ‒ or indeed the Arts Council itself ‒ will be. Many orchestras have responded to budget cuts so far by becoming leaner and meaner, but there are concerns that any further attrition will threaten their viability. Even for our top-flight cultural institutions private money hasn’t miraculously flooded in to save the day.

The forthcoming Association of British Orchestras conference, which we’re previewing in this issue, is going to tackle those big issues and more at the end of January at the Barbican. The ABO has clout enough to put culture minister Ed Vaizey and Arts Council chair Sir Peter Bazalgette on the podium to address the industry, and hopefully there’ll be a little good news to deliver.

As Mark Pemberton and Keith Motson (the ABO’s director and membership manager respectively) point out, there may be some doom and gloom, but the idea isn’t to wallow ‒ it’s to get constructive, look at successful models at home and abroad, and plan for the future.

Orchestras as we know them may be a recent invention, but they’re not about to fade away quite yet.

If your organisation is tackling these same issues in a creative way, or if you have any predictions for the UK classical music industry will look like in five or ten years, do share your thoughts with us by writing to letters@rhinegold.co.uk

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