Manchester’s orchestras are muted in face of terror attack

Manchester’s orchestras are muted in face of terror attack


norman lebrecht

May 24, 2017

The Halle has issued no response to the atrocity, either on its website or via social media.

The first we heard from the BBC Philharmonic is a tweet: ‘This afternoon’s 2pm concert and broadcast will be going ahead as planned.’

UPDATE: The BBC have drawn our attention to this tweet:


They further specify that the BBC Philharmonic’s first response was at 0859 on Tuesday morning with a tweet which read: Our thoughts are with all those affected by the attack at the concert at Manchester Arena last night.  Music unites us in peace and love.


The Manchester Camerata responded: ‘Here at Manchester Camerata we know better than most how integral music is to the lifeblood of this great city and we are immensely saddened that so many young people experienced their first taste of live music in such tragic circumstances. Our thoughts are with the families of those affected by last night’s incident.

‘We also know the people of this city and they’re already proving that Manchester has an unshakeable proud core – it is a city of compassion and a city of kindness. Manchester we love you.’


UPDATE: Music giant reflects on Manchester.


  • Ellingtonia says:

    What on earth does NL want them to do, issue some pious, handwringing, virtue signalling but meaningless statement. Sometimes silence is the most appropriate response (and I speak as someone who was born in Greater Manchester and lived and worked in the city for several years). I am sure Mark Elder will speak before the next Halle concert, and that is how it should be.

    • fran says:


    • norman lebrecht says:

      Acknowledge the world outside their bubble, maybe?

      • norman lebrecht says:

        For instance:

        • Sheila Taylor says:

          The LSO concert on Radio 3 was programmed already. The introduction was welcomed by all, especially those of us in Manchester. How dare you introduce a sour note into the aftermath of this dreadful event. It just looks like mean minded attention seeking,

        • Sheila Taylor says:

          Actually to perfectly honest with you, I have just re-read what you wrote, and it has reduced me to tears. You have no idea what we have been through and are going through.

      • Ellingtonia says:

        As I said, why the need for political posturing and virtue signalling by issuing something on their website, a more appropriate response can be made at the next concert. I am getting a little tired of all the emoting done by the “luvvie” brigade, show a bit of bottle!
        And as various commentators have said today “no amount of candle lighting, laying of flowers or listening to pretentious poetry (is the man a professional Northerner?) will make any difference in dealing with these followers of the religion of peace”

        • Alexander Davidson says:

          I have to agree about that poem. The English may once have been regarded as a people without music, but our language boasts probably the largest and finest body of poetry in the whole history of human civilization. Surely something suitable could have been found in the Authorized Version of the Bible, Shakespeare, John Donne, William Blake, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Blessed John Henry Newman, Thomas Hardy, T.S. Eliot, A.E. Housman, Robert Bridges, Laurence Binyon, Rupert Brooke, W.H. Auden, Philip Larkin, E.E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, and so on.

      • Sid says:

        Quite! I dislike the term ‘virtue signalling’ intensely – it certainly shouldn’t be applied to an arts organisation acknowledging (or not!) that a terrible event has occurred in the community they serve.

        • Holly Golightly says:

          Virtue signalling is a laser accurate moniker about an entire demographic which wants to emote and wring it’s hand and write hashtags. It is the modern emblem of narcissism and has as much to do with real empathy and feeling as Islam has with a religion of peace. When you don’t want to actually DO anything you virtue signal. Ergo, I agree with many of the comments here.
          Burning candles, holding hands, laying flowers – this is ostentatious mourning. And when anybody has the temerity to discuss the connection between muslims, Islam and terrorism and signallers just reveal confected outrage.
          If you care about the horrendous events which continue in the name of Islam and its fanatics I would suggest a first point of departure is an end to multicultural enclaves in favour of integration and social cohesion. That way ‘celebrating diversity’ becomes ‘celebrating society’.

          • Alexander Davidson says:

            I think one can only go so far in blaming terrorism on multiculturalism, lack of integration, and the existence of enclaves. In London, where I have spent most of my life, there are a number of communities which are relatively poorly integrated into the wider society and which live quite separately, both geographically and in other ways. We have quite well defined and well established enclaves (if that is what you want to call them) for Orthodox Jews, the Irish, Poles, Russians, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Iraqi Christians, south Asian Hindus and Sikhs, Brazilians, Portuguese, Spaniards, Italians, Chinese, Koreans, and West Indians, to name only those which immediately come to mind. With the exception of an extremely small minority of people in the Irish community some time in the last century, I am not aware of any of these groups being involved in terrorist activity. Furthermore, Muslim terrorists have been drawn from a number of different communities, including Arabs, south Asians, and Africans, as well as white and black converts. If multiculturalism/lack of integration/existence of enclaves were sufficient to explain terrorism there would be presumably be Polish Catholic terrorists, Iraqi Christian (Church of the East) terrorists, Indian Hindu terrorists, Hardei Jewish terrorists, etc. The problem, it seems, must lie within Muslim communities in the West, including members of those communities who are, or have been, part of mainstream society.

      • Hans Richter says:

        Ugh! Not Mahler 9! Bruckner 7 followed by Tod und Verklarung, far better.

      • Sheila Taylor says:

        That really is a low life remark in the circumstances.

  • Alexander Davidson says:

    I am inclined to agree with Ellingtonia. It seems that these days everybody has to release a statement about everything. Perhaps they do so at least in part because they know that they may be criticised for failing to do so. I cannot see what would have been achieved by a statement from the Hallé Orchestra. More appropriately, perhaps, the orchestra could have assembled in the open air to give a free concert of suitably chosen music, such as Strauss’s Metamorphosen for 23 Solo Strings, Berg’s violin concerto, The Death of Åse from Peer Gynt, the Asrael Symphony, and so on. On the other hand, this may have fallen wide of the mark, seeming to be self-serving and elitist. I suspect that a concise statement from the podium at their next concert followed by a brief work dedicated to the victims would be quite sufficient and more appropriate.

    Perhaps the most eloquent response to any such tragedy was Erich Leinsdorf’s on the assassination of President Kennedy. He learned of the president’s death in the middle of a Boston Symphony Orchestra Friday matinée as he was about to conduct a suite from Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel. Instead, he addressed the audience for approximately 32 seconds, saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a press report over the wireless. We hope that it is unconfirmed, but we have to doubt it. The President of the United States has been the victim of an assassination. We will play the funeral march from Beethoven’s third symphony.”

  • Tom in Manchester says:


    BBC Phil went ahead with a live concert broadcast on Tuesday afternoon, and actually added a short piece to the program, Walton’s “Touch Her Soft Lips and Part”, which they dedicated to the memory of the victims and all those affected.

    A little bit of fact checking for your stories would go a long way.

  • Marg says:

    Perhaps an opportunity to show the power of music to bring people together, touch raw emotions, and lift spirits … an outside concert by an orchestra or ensemble as has happened in other places after attacks, earthquakes, and so on. I’d bet many people who never attend classical concerts would show up because of feeling they wanted to show solidarity, be with others, grieve together etc.

  • Tom Bangbala says:

    Dear Norman, regarding your criticism of the BBC Philharmonic’s lack of response to the recent tragedy, you state that all that was heard was a tweet saying ‘This afternoon’s 2pm concert and broadcast will be going ahead as planned’ what you either don’t know or chose not to mention is that we added a piece at the beginning of the live broadcast concert dedicated to the victims of the tragedy. We played Walton’s ‘touch her soft lips and part’ and asked for no applause from the audience. Thank you.

  • John Summers says:

    Norman – this is unworthy of you. Tweets or comment on Facebook are not the place for events of this profound seriousness. As soon as the event occurred we took steps to make sure that all of the Halle family, and their children were safe. Apart from the orchestra there are over 400 people, many of them children and young people involved in our ensebles and youth choirs. We needed to show that we were supporting, in the right way those involved in the terrible events of Monday night, not tweeting about it. We have also been planning, since first thing Tuesday morning – together with our colleagues in the City – an appropriate event in support of the ideals and values Manchester holds so dear. This will happen very soon and be announced in the next few days.

  • Simon Webb says:

    Norman – here is the BBC Philharmonic’s twitter feed.

    You will note that we posted a response at 8.59am on Tuesday 23 May responding to the terrible events in Manchester the night before, followed by the tweet about our concert that day going ahead as normal.

    At 2pm at the start of the concert which was live on BBC Radio 3, the BBC Philharmonic played Walton’s ‘Touch her soft lips and part’, dedicated to the victims of the tragedy. You can hear presenter Tom Redmond’s introduction followed by the music here:

    We look forward to seeing a correction of the inaccuracy on your website as soon as possible.

  • Dan says:

    Just tasteless, Norman. Please don’t preach about how we grieve.

  • Normski says:

    Norman, why are you drawing attention to this non-news? Even your correction sounds bitter. Manchester, including its orchestras, needs love and support at the moment, not castigating for not doing something as banal and ineffectual as sending a tweet.

  • Frank Spencer says:

    So Norman….
    Now that you and your ‘eagle-eyed’ team are finally in possession of some actual rare as hens’ teeth facts, maybe an apology from yourself to all of the above, not to mention all those in any way affected by the Manchester bombing, will be imminent?

    Whether or not this apology comes it would perhaps be wise for you yourself to be muted on such sensitive issues in the future…….

    One can only hope.