Venezuela orchestra is held hostage in rehearsal

Venezuela orchestra is held hostage in rehearsal


norman lebrecht

February 16, 2016

In the lawless state of Venezuela, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Falcón was attacked in mid rehearsal by two armed men. Players were forced to go down to the theatre basement while the intruders cleaned out their pockets and wallets. They made off with cash, and around 50 mobile phones.

There are no reports of injuries and no instruments were taken.

Report here in Spanish.



  • Mark Henriksen says:

    Stealing from the poor…well, not a couple of Robin Hoods, just robbing hoods.

  • Sam McElroy says:

    Of course. Venezuela has imploded. It is a failed state, the “Zimbabwe of the Carribean”. It is now facing the highest murder rate in the world, hyper-inflation and the lack of just about all basic foods and medicines. The narco-kleptocratic mafia of a government has successfully contrived to disintegrate an entire society – straight out of the Castro playbook – while sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves. Quite something. The people of Venezuela are facing a major crisis. Don’t take it from me, though. Do some googling of recent reports from the NYT, Economist, Washington Post etc.

    Maybe now, finally, the music world – agents, promoters, record labels, journalists – can begin examining what they have really been selling all these years, if not the oil-sponsored soundtrack to a bitter deception of vast proportions. Not quite the “Fiesta” Deutsche Grammaphon would have you believe, for sure…

  • Janis says:

    Oh, damn. 🙁 So much for the “learning to play classical music is so awesome it can help avoid the inevitable collapse brought about by rampant corruption, murder, and horrible social injustice.”

    They really played the self-absorbed first-world classical music community like a fiddle, which is the right metaphor I guess. You’re all just so fabulous just by existing that if we so much as like the same music you do, all of our problems will be over! It was a big ego-stroke for spoiled people who like imagine they can solve the world’s ugliest problems just by letting their inherent awesomeness ripple out into the universe.

    Well, apparently not. Apparently it’s not by stroking the egos of spoiled first-worlders that the rest of the “savages” will “progress” to our level. (I shouldn’t have to label this with a sarcasm alert, but I know I have to.) It’s by the same unglamorous crap it’s always been — legal challenges, protests, international watchdog organizations, all that plodding, slow stuff that hasn’t got a thing to do with Strauss or Webern.

    Sometimes I really wish classical musicians would get over how fantabulous they all think they are, and start acknowledging that they are not the center of the universe nor the grand priesthood of all that is good and holy. Venezuela does not need Beethoven. They need justice, a sane economic policy, and a government that won’t treat their natural resources like their own personal treasure house to be plundered. They also need stuff like food, toilet paper, and medical help — that’s a lot less fun and less ego-boosting than saying that they need Mozart, though.

    I’ve said this before, but we are not the sacred priesthood of the creative power behind the universe, people. We bang levers, pull strings, and blow into hunks of pipe for a living. Some of us just stand in front of people who do that and wave sticks. If we get over ourselves, maybe the next time a couple crooked charlatans come along and tell us that blowing into a hunk of pipe will save starving children, we’ll meet their claims with less naivete and more constructive solutions.

    • Minutewaltz says:

      That is a powerful post Janis. Venezuela sounds a terrifying place.

    • Michael Endres says:

      Nobody in their right mind would claim that classical music can be a substitute for sensible policies. It’s a different thing altogether.
      What classical music does — like other music or art — it gives some food for the soul.

      • Janis says:

        Which I suppose a good joropo just can’t compete with. They need outsiders to sail in and teach them not to just bang rocks together.

      • Janis says:

        I guess another way to say this is:

        Why do you think that Indian classical musicians are not inundating Venezuela with sitars and bansuris saying exactly the same thing? What response do you think they’d get if they went up to a poverty struck American neighborhood and told the “simple, charming natives” there that if only they learned to play Carnatic music, all their troubles would be over?

        This is egotism, pure egotism — and a unique form of it on the part of western classical musicians that I find really bothersome given how much I love this music.

    • Maraquero says:

      Where are you getting all this? Who exactly said that having orchestras in Venezuela would solve all the country’s problems? Yes, Venezuela is completely messed up. Its figures for homicides, overall crime and violence, impunity, corruption, inflation, devaluation, shortages and unemployment are amongst the highest in the world. But no one in El Sistema ever said that making music would solve any of that.

      Last time I visited El Sistema’s Los Chorros nucleo in Caracas it had 1,200 students enrolled, most of them from Petare, one of the biggest slums in Latin America, and it had a waiting list of more than 1,000 kids. Parents in the slums know that El Sistema is one of the only hopes they have for their kids to not get involved with gangs and drugs. Have you ever met one of those parents? Have you ever asked them how their kids’ lives would be like without El Sistema? I doubt it. You are just sitting behind your computer speculating.

      If you did know how it is to grow up in a “barrio” you would understand the powerful impact that playing music and being in an orchestra has on these kids. But no, 700,000 young people in orchestras will not solve the huge crime problem in a country of 30 million. It will just help those 700 thousand try to stay away from crime.

      El Sistema is not about Venezuelans needing Beethoven or Mozart. It is about them having the right to play Beethoven or Mozart if they want to. And if they want to join one of the Alma Llanera ensembles and play Venezuelan folk music, they can. Or if they want to play jazz or rock or salsa they also can. El Sistema is not compulsory. No one is being forced to play music they don’t like.

      I do agree with you that classical musicians are not superior to anybody else. I’ve met more than a few that are absolute idiots, both in England and Venezuela. But I’ve seen enough cases of kids and families that are having a better life because their kids are playing music, any music. Is music the only way to do this? I doubt it. José Antonio Abreu wasn’t planning 41 years ago on creating a social programme. He just wanted to give kids from the slums a chance to play music, and it turned out that playing music had an effect on other areas of their lives. I’m pretty sure Sistema-like programmes with sports or other forms or arts or debate clubs would have a similar impact. But as a Venezuelan I do know we need programmes that will make our kids appreciate hard work, discipline, creativity and team work. If El Sistema is all we have, I will take it no matter how imperfect it is.

  • Gabriele says:

    Yes and no, Janis.
    As Brecht quite correctly said, first comes food and then morality.
    But you must agree that classical music is the most incredible
    dimension, which if you start to understand, cannot be replaced
    by anything. It opens to those poor children in Venezuela
    a door to a universe they could never have otherwise.

    • Janis says:

      If those kids don’t get fed, vaccinated, and their parents aren’t safe from murder and kidnapping, NO universe will be opened to them. And if they do get fed, vaccinated, and are safe from violence, they can open their own doors to universes created by Venezuelan music just fine.

  • Carlos Aransay says:

    I conducted that orchestra in 2005. They are lovely people and Falcon was then a very welcoming place. Their conductor is Teresa Hernández. Both of us studied at the RCM. I hope Venezuela will see more peaceful days very soon.