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Ex-BBC boss is named in plan to cut Irish orchestras

December 1, 2017 by norman lebrecht

6 comments.


The former head of BBC Radio, Helen Boaden, has been named in the Dail, the Irish Parliament, as an adviser who has been engaged by RTÉ to help it merge two orchestras into one.

RTÉ has announced an ‘independent review’ of its orchestras to be carried out by Boaden and a consultancy called Mediatique.

Labour TD Joan Burton said: ‘The symphony and concert orchestras, founded in 1948, are an intrinsic part of our culture… Are we just on the road almost to a plot you might see in an opera, where music and particularly classical and orchestral music in RTÉ, is going to be killed by death by a thousand cuts?’

 


Comments (6)

  1. Ryan Walsh says:

    RTÉ founded and is responsible for the only two full-time professional orchestras in the Republic of Ireland, so it has a very special cultural responsibility here. Over the years it has on occasion done well on this front.

    However it is obvious to every informed music lover in Ireland that under current management there has first been an appalling neglect and financial starvation of them , and in recent months a very clear agenda to remove at least one of them via a ‘merger’.

    Several early management steps on this road have already been taken . The last-minute, ‘independent review ‘ is a post-facto, post-media-discovery pr gesture to attempt to justify unjustifiable and Ill-considered actions already well in train.

    The choice of UK broadcasting consultants Is telling and troubling. While they may well be excellent in their core competences, I have searched in vain on their online profiles to find evidence of professional orchestral expertise and ( no surprise in any foreign consultants) an essential deep understanding of Irish culture -the context in which the RTÉ orchestras are so uniquely crucial .

    One worries that the RTÉ management who chose them
    Is either spectacularly incompetent or cynically dishonest . They could hardly be both, could they ???

  2. Robert Roy says:

    I wonder how much money would be saved by merging Helen Boaden with the unemployment office…

  3. Ryan Walsh says:

    RTÉ founded and is responsible for the only two full-time professional orchestras in the Republic of Ireland, so it has a very special cultural responsibility here. Over the years it has on occasion done well on this front.

    However it is obvious to every informed music lover in Ireland that under current management there has first been an appalling neglect and financial starvation of them , and in recent months a very clear agenda to remove at least one of them via a ‘merger’.

    Several early management steps on this road have already been taken . The last-minute, ‘independent review ‘ is a post-facto, post-media-discovery pr gesture to attempt to justify unjustifiable and Ill-considered actions already well in train.

    The choice of UK broadcasting consultants Is telling and troubling. While they may well be excellent in their core competences, I have searched in vain on their online profiles to find evidence of professional orchestral expertise and ( no surprise in any foreign consultants) an essential deep understanding of Irish culture -the context in which the RTÉ orchestras are so uniquely crucial .

    One worries that the RTÉ management who chose them
    Is either spectacularly incompetent or cynically dishonest . They could hardly be both, could they ???

  4. Deepsouth says:

    However extensive and distinguished Ms Boaden’s career has been in the field of broadcasting in the UK, please will someone correct me if I am wrong in noting she is neither a musician nor an arts administrator with any experience of running a professional orchestra. Whilst it may suit RTÉ to engage someone who is not tainted by such experience, for those of us who live and work in Ireland, this appears to be yet another nail in the coffin of RTÉ’s public service remit with regard to orchestras, choirs and chamber music ensembles.

    Since John Kinsella took early retirement as RTÉ’s Head of Music in 1988, the music profession has witnessed the post being downgraded and occupied by a succession of people, some of whom failed their remit in spectacular ways. The standard of the two orchestras has risen, but RTÉ’s management has fallen short in every way: budgets are determined specifically so they can be declared not to have been met; posts are not filled – not just across the membership of both orchestras (which is bad enough), but specifically including the Principal conductorships of both orchestras! (and please don’t let anyone think that every dog in the street doesn’t know John Wilson left his post as Principal Conductor of the RTÉCO for precisely the reasons I’m talking about); a combination of poor programming, B-list guest conductors & soloists (and that’s being charitable in most cases!), and low morale have undermined players and audiences alike; and that’s all before the implications of double-jobbing in RTÉ’s “music department” are factored in – particularly double-jobbers who are not musicians and have no actual experience of running a professional orchestra! (And let’s certainly not talk about lawsuits and side-ways moves, which every dog …)

    Is RTÉ, through the nth-rate management it has offered its orchestras to be held to account? No, of course, not! Just tender for a safe-pair of hands from the outside, get that person to author the report that the organisation wants (one, not two orchestras), and then implement its “recommendations” because they have been made by an outside “expert”. Of course you mustn’t have anybody Irish involved because they will tell you what you don’t want to hear … and you mustn’t address the problems by putting in place good management from top-to-bottom of the administration … but when you do seek to fill a rank-and-file position in one of the orchestras (with ‘when’ being the operative word!), you get to choose from hundreds of applicants, just some of whom are put through a gruelling audition process and, even fewer a trial period – and the “successful” candidate is still subject to a probationary year’s membership … All this is right and proper, but please don’t anyone try telling me there is any sort of parallel in terms of the management!

    Music in Ireland has developed and improved in so very many ways over the last three decades, but no thanks to the management of the most valuable performing resource in the country. All of us who care need to make sure Ms Boaden knows the full context pertaining to the musical lambs RTÉ wants to sacrifice to address its other problems.

  5. Deepsouth says:

    Thank you, Ryan Walsh – I only wish I could have expressed myself as incisively and as eloquently as you have. Lots of us care passionately about this disastrous situation – let’s just hope enough of us put our heads above the parapet …

  6. Jean Haas says:

    Baden-Baden, RTE, etc … Next ? Radio-France ? Back to Neanderthal…


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