Exclusive: 28 musicians resign from troubled orchestra

About half of the musicians in Sweden’s Camerata Nordica have issued a public letter resigning from the orchestra, which was suspended by its former manager last month. The manager has walked away with a fat pension.

The players are outraged.

Here’s their letter:

With these words, the former freelance musicians of Camerata Nordica stand together one last time. Despite our best efforts, it has finally been deemed utterly impossible to work with the current board and administration of the orchestra. This winter, chairman Peter Högberg and his board cancelled two of our productions without warning, citing financial problems. This led to the resignation of our artistic director, Terje Tønnessen, followed shortly by the mass resignation of the freelance musicians who make up the orchestra. It was discovered that Mr Tønnessen’s contract had not been renewed and his emails had been ignored for six months. It was also discovered that the orchestra was running a deficit and that it would cost the county music organization a minimum of 3.5 million Kronor (nearly 370,000 Euros) to pay for the pension of outgoing Länsmusiken chief Kjell Lindström. Under massive pressure from the media, the board suddenly decided to pay the musicians for three cancelled projects, ultimately saving no money.

It has now come to light that the retirement cost of Kjell Lindström has somehow gone up to a minimum of 4.5 million Kronor. Högberg, while deflecting questions in the media proceeded to say he is not the slightest bit worried about the resignation of musicians stating: “I’m not a bit worried. Europe is full of professional musicians!”. We must publically voice our outrage at this disrespect. If one of Sweden’s beloved sports franchises were to magically lose 4.5 million Kronor and have all of its players resign amidst scandal, would it be accepted for those responsible to reply with: “I’m not a bit worried. Europe is full of professional athletes!”?

When the board started their assignment they initiated an organization-wide external investigation into the activities of Länsmusiken. While they have been withholding these documents and/or denying their existence, the report led to thorough condemnation of the administrations leadership and the running of Länsmusiken, while praising the orchestra for its success against all odds. Yesterday it was announced that Kjell Lindström has been rehired until his successor is found. In other words the board, while ignoring the musical backbone of the organization, is now planning a future with the help of their heavily criticized former leadership.

Our hearts go out to the administrators and local musicians with whom we had been planning a bright and promising future and who worked so hard on our behalf to run our organization against all odds. They are once again forced to work under a leadership everyone hoped was gone, and we cannot imagine how heavy this insult must be for them.

In the meantime the freelance musicians have presented creative and hopeful visions for the future on multiple occasions. Ways of cutting costs and running the orchestra effectively to bring back its irreplaceable freelancers and leaders and maintain its international network and recording contract, all of which would otherwise be lost. These propositions have been ignored without response or comment by Högberg and his board.

Because of these actions, we must confirm that as musicians we cannot be part of this organization in any way in the future. Högberg has declared “business as usual” and for the musicians who have fought for years to build up this internationally recognized ensemble, we know that this will simply mean a continuation of incompetence, gross wasting of precious government funding, and continued lies and disrespect towards musicians.

Those left in charge in Kalmar County have proven themselves entirely incapable of their jobs. While costs spiral out of control they continue to deflect questions while avoiding any form of transparency and responsibility. They show no respect for the cultural treasures they have been entrusted with, and their continuing actions can lead to nothing less than a boycott of performances in the region by musicians and audiences alike.

If this board is allowed to remain, they will be forced to face the consequences of having destroyed an institution that they cannot rebuild. And they will face it together with the leadership responsible for leading it into this situation, without their greatest assets, without their international network of musicians and leaders, without their recording contract, and with no artistic leadership. They have marked Kalmar County and its Länsmusiken as an organization that cannot be trusted, and a region where musicians cannot play.

The board initiated this process nearly two months ago, and what have they achieved? One continuous sequence of failures. To the civil service men and women and the politicians of Kalmar County who watched and allowed this to happen: we cannot understand how you allowed things to come to this without standing up for what is right and questioning this complete and utter madness.

To the many wonderful musicians, promoters, organizers, volunteers, friends, music lovers, fans, and above all our audiences in Kalmar County and around the world: thank you for everything from the bottom of our hearts, we will never forget all the wonderful moments we shared with you.

Signed,

Abbie Fenna, Anders Rensvik, Barbro Lennstam, Brusk Zanganeh, Catherine Bullock, Claudia Ajmone-Marsen, Daniel Bard, Dinara Mansurova, Eleanora Matsuno, Eva Bindere, Guy Ben Ziony, Max Mandel, Mihkel Kerem, Natasa Grujic, Nikolay Shugaev, Pål Solbakk, Per Nyström, Philippe Graffin, Robert Mende, Sadie Fields, Sergej Bolkhovets, Simona Bonfiglioli, Sofie Sunnerstam, Sophie Rosa, Terje Tønnesen, Ulrich Schneider, Vashti Hunter, Willem Stam.

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  • It’s a tragedy for these musicians to have to leave their orchestra. There is nothing lovelier listening to, and watching a group of musicians playing from memory. It enhances the whole experience, and this video is exquisite.
    Yes, they need to be compensated well for their commitment to performing, and should not have to be involved with administrative shenanigans. What a sad story

  • How could anyone consider destroying something so achingly beautiful? This is the music of God’s finest whispers – “may grass grow at the door” of those responsible.

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