Concertmaster falls out with her orchestra

Concertmaster falls out with her orchestra


norman lebrecht

September 01, 2019

The energetic concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, Holly Mulcahy, is suing the company for breach of contract.

The filing says the orchestra has failed to fulfil a solo performance on October 6. She is seeking up to $25,000 in damages.

Neither side is saying more, perhaps because it’s a holiday weekend in the US.

Whether this is a complete breakdown or a temporary blip remains to be seen.

Holly, who is also concertmaster in Wichita, is married to the orchestral consultant Drew McManus, whose compensation analyses appear annually in Slipped Disc. She has greatly raised the Chattanooga orchestra’s profile over the past half-decade.




  • Anon says:

    Her 10/6 performance of the Glass American 4 Seasons Violin Concerto is listed in the season brochure which is posted online. It was scheduled for their chamber series.

    Trying to fathom how this could have happened. It’s odd. DId the orch. suddenly realize that the rental parts for the piece (Glass) were too expensive? Did the conductor, after having a look at the score decide he didn’t want to conduct it? Is there another soloist or piece they want to substitute all of a sudden? Or did mgt. abruptly decide the piece was too avant-garde for their audiences?

    All of the above are things they should have considered before programming the piece.

    That being said, what I don’t understand is why this situation is being litigated instead of mediated. That’s what odd. Chattanooga is not a major ensemble. When you are dealing with an organization of this caliber, you know it’s not the NY Phil and mistakes are going to happen. It seems a lot more appropriate to negotiate with them than take them to court.

    If they don’t like the Glass, or if there are problems with the material, she should propose a different concerto. If they don’t want her as a soloist on that concert, she should arrange a new date. There are plenty of ways to work around a situation like this artistically before you litigate.

    I can understand Holly’s point of view in that it is disrespectful to her as the solo artist to cancel the performance. But litigation will create bad feelings, probably not respect. Audiences don’t understand this kind of conflict. The public shouldn’t need to know about this. Someone has to be the bigger person and suck it up for the sake of the orch’s public image. Considering this is Chattanoogo not Berlin, I think that person should be Holly.

    Yes, the orch. is probably in the wrong. This is why they have an obligation to try to find a solution for Holly. She, in turn, has to be flexible and accept a compromise. Taking legal measures in a situation like this, with the parties involved, is very high-handed, IMHO. It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water. It looks bad for Holly and it looks bad for the orchestra.

    I think that Holly should propose a variety of solutions – new concerto, new date, whatever is at mgt’s disposal to offer her in place of this concerto. There has to be something they can offer her as a compromise. This says no less of Holly to accept a compromise. Great soloists and conductors do this all the time.

    Holly’s championing of Chattanooga has been wonderful. I hate to say it, but despite this, you can’t teach a pig to sing. She certainly has made a valiant effort. Chattanooga will always be Chattanooga and not Chicago or NY. I would think that Holly would understand that better than anyone, so it puzzles me that she would take this legal action. Unless there’s more to the story here, and with her appointment in Wichita, she’s ready to leave Chattanooga.
    Perhaps Chattanooga’s mgt. is simply unwilling to make any compromises at all, in which case, yes, I understand the legal complaint.

    This is a surprising situation. I’m sure that both Holly and her husband will read this but will not be able to comment for obvious reasons. I admire them both very much and wish them both well. It will be fascinating, to say the least, to see how this unfolds.

  • Larry W says:

    How unfortunate that this matter could not have been resolved short of a lawsuit. Mulcahy was scheduled to play Philip Glass’ Concerto No. 2 with guest conductor David Rahbee. It is possible he thought there was insufficient rehearsal time to prepare the orchestra, or maybe he didn’t feel comfortable with the difficult score. In any case, a rescheduling or an alternative piece could have been arranged. Perhaps Mulcahy has decide to leave her position in Chattanooga and focus on Wichita, where she has two solo appearances this season plus Scheherazade. There is no positive outcome for this ill-advised action. Holly, go lightly.

    • Paul says:

      “maybe he didn’t feel comfortable with the difficult score” or maybe Larry W is just speculating and knows absolutely nothing about what any of the reasons were?

      • Bill says:

        He almost certainly is speculating. I’m glad you pointed that out, as none of the rest of us could have sussed that out on our own. What was the tip-off for you?

        Speculation or insider knowledge, I don’t see anything wrong with his listing some circumstances that could cause an upsetting of the apple cart. Szell yanked the premiere of Roy Harris’ violin concerto because he thought there were too many errors in the parts, and Gingold was furious, but didn’t file a lawsuit, and never got a chance to perform it.

      • Larry W says:

        Not so much speculation as searching for justification for an action that threatens 1% of the CSO’s annual budget. Since you must know something, what is your good reason for that, Paul?

        • Paul says:

          What is my good reason? Well, for starters, I read the well worded comment that David posted here yesterday, and my other valid reasons do not need to be shared in a public forum of rumor mongering.

          • Larry W says:

            So, for starters, you didn’t read the lawsuit, and you think it’s valid to share your accusations in a public forum. Got it.

          • Paul says:

            Sorry, Larry, but I have worked with all involved, have read the documents, and spoken with the person whose character you are attempting to assassinate while you are the one admitting pure speculation. Rightly so, we must then speculate that you have some personal agenda or grudge here. Most importantly, one should allow the accused his respectful comment which has long been posted here.

          • Larry W says:

            I’m not sure who you think I have “accused,” but David posted his comment after Anon and I posted ours. Please explain what I have not allowed.

            If you know and have worked with all involved, please shed some light on the need for this lawsuit. I’ve tried, but I don’t understand why it had to be.

          • The Other Anon says:

            “Assassinate”?? Oh, come on. You seriously consider the suggestion that a conductor might not be comfortable with a score an “assassination”? And that coming from a well-meaning but curious non-musician. Larry sounds like he’s probably just an member of Chattanooga’s audience, nothing more.

            Are conductors’ egos so massive that an innocent comment like this is considered an “assassination”?? With a response that strong, you are either the conductor’s lover, spouse, agent, best friend or maybe the conductor himself. No one else would respond in the way you have. It’s something only a conductor with a fragile ego, or someone close to him, would say.

            You’ve attacked Larry harshly and unfairly. He’s a curious aficionado, probably a Chattanooga season subscriber who’s just trying to figure out why this happened and you hit him over the head with your egomanianical, ultra defensive sledgehammer.

            Shame on you. And you’re not doing any favors for your fragile egoed conductor friend.

        • Common Sense says:

          1% of their budget? You did catch that bit in the filing about the amount simply not exceeding the jurisdictional limit of the court, which is $25.000, correct? That means it could be anywhere from $1 to $25.000 yet you somehow “know” the amount is for the maximum. How did that happen Larry? Do you work for the CSO and you’re here simply spreading gossip. You certainly seem to be against the soloist and levying all sorts of baseless accusations against the guest conductor while being all kinds of gung-ho for the managers.

          • Larry W says:

            If you read my post carefully, you will see I wrote “an action that threatens 1% of the CSO’s annual budget.” That means, it is the amount at risk in this lawsuit. It was the litigator who included the jurisdictional maximum, not me. There is no gossip to it, only the failure to read correctly and exercise common sense.

          • Common Sense says:

            Once again, nowhere in that filing does it say the amount listed as damages is $25.000 maximum.

            That’s a fact and while you seem happy rooting around the muck of alternative facts, your behavior indicates you’re either too embarrassed to simply admit misreading the filing, are actually that stupid, or just a troll who gets off on harming conductors and musicians.

          • The Other Anon says:

            Oh, brother. Are you the same person as Paul, just writing under a different name? Your reaction to what Larry is saying is so far over the top and so maniacally defensive that you are clearly the one with a vested interest in this case.

          • Larry W says:

            “Against the soloist”? I am against actions, like lawsuits, that make musicians look bad. And the lawsuit is because she will not be soloist. I realize that may be confusing to you, but do your best. “All sorts of baseless accusations against the guest conductor.” And what were those? For reference, you may quote me. “All kinds of guns-ho for the managers”? Man, have you got a wrong number. Common sense. Please.

    • Allison Kiger says:

      I would never doubt David Rahbee and his skills for a moment. This site is a gossip rag and no good for the music business.

  • David Rahbee says:

    Dear all,

    It was a CSO decision, and I had nothing to do with it. I understand the interest in speculation, however this is how rumors begin, just wanted to clear that up.

    David Rahbee

    • Larry W says:

      Thank you for clearing that up, David. With an all-Haydn program, you are the ideal person to provide Chattanooga with The Haydn Experience.

    • Gig Musician says:

      Wait, was the Glass replaced with something from Haydn? If that’s accurate, was this your decision maestro is was it decided by the orchestra and they forced “here’s a change, conduct this instead of the Glass” marching orders on you?

      In my experience, guest conductors at orchestras this size don’t usually have much, if any, control over programming but it would be good to know.

      I would be none too happy if a solo work from Glass was replaced with a (yet another) Haydn symphony or other work.

  • Anon says:

    LOL, only classical music fans would assume lawsuits are filed over programming decisions.

    • The Other Anon says:

      We can only hope. We prefer to believe it’s programming rather than some vendetta by Chattanooga because they now have to share their concertmaster with another orch. I was kinda wondering how they’d react…

      • Veteran Musician says:

        Exactly. I was wondering the same thing. They wouldn’t be the first regional orchestra to do it.

      • Musician says:

        I think that one or more of the board members of the CSO got bent out of shape because Holly is now also the concertmaster in Wichita. Maybe they think that her loyalties will be unfairly split, as she is not only concert master in Wichita, but also has a title having to do with audience engagement. The old boy network that controls most of the boards of non profits and other organizations in Chattanooga thinks they know best. They will turn on someone that they backed in an instant if they think that their loyalties may lie elsewhere. This happens time and again in Chattanooga.

    • Larry W says:

      The suit filing states it is “related to Plaintiff’s confirmed solo performance contract on October 6, 2019,” meaning the suit is over a decision to change the program. At least classical music fans can read.

      • Anon says:

        Based on that line of thought, if you were a doctor, you’d diagnose a hangnail as cancer. Point out where in that filing it says anything about program changes (spoiler: it doesn’t).

        And just for fun, here’s the entire bit:

        “Breach of contract, misrepresentation, tortious interference with business relationship and international reckless acts to the same for both compensatory, incidental, consequential and punitive damages, not to exceed the jurisdictional limits of the Court in and amount of $25,000 or less related to the Plaintiff’s confirmed solo performance contact on October 6, 2019.”

        There’s nothing here indicating any reasons, only that the claim doesn’t exceed the maximum value allowed and the contracted performance date.

        • Larry W says:

          “Breach of contract….related to the Plaintiff’s confirmed solo performance contract on October 6, 2019.” That is clearly related to her not performing a contracted solo. Sorry you missed it, but it’s clear.

          • Clear as mud says:

            where does it is say the filing is the result of cancelling the solo? It merely says it’s related to that solo. No where does it say anything about it being related to cancelling the solo. So unless you plan on letting everyone in on how you are certain that’s the case, it seems everyone is content with knowing you’re full of nonsense and guessing.

          • Larry W says:

            What I know is what is clearly written in the lawsuit, that the program is changed, and now, that the conductor had nothing to do with that change. Kindly make clear what other purpose the lawsuit would serve.

          • Anon says:

            Paul, or “Common Sense” or “Age of Enlightment”, or “Clear As Mud”, you sure sound like the same person writing under different names.

            You are angry and defensive and you’re someone close to the case.

            You’re going way over the top. You sound completely manic. As several people have commented, no one is attacking the conductor. That is your own paranoia. In fact this conductor seems to have his own pack of loggionisti supporting him here. You seem to be one of them, or perhaps you are the conductor himself. In any case you are not reflecting well on him.

            You unneccesarily attacked a well-meaning member of the public here, this Larry person. Quite brutally. We are all wondering why. You’ve dragged this whole situation into the gutter with your bitter, rabid attacks. Holly or her husband would never demean themselves to react this way. You’re def. not from Chattanooga mgt. either.

            So the only conclusion is that you are in the conductor’s camp. I can understand why he’d be angry and defensive. But I repeat, you are not doing him any favors.

  • Enquiring Mind says:

    Has the profile of the Chattanooga orchestra been “greatly raised?” How?

  • Allen says:

    I guess we see now where the “Glass” ceiling is for Chattanooga 😉 And yet that looked like a cool program (which they still have announced on the PDF on their website). Now that they have all this media hype, I hope they just go ahead and play it with her as originally planned.

    • anon says:

      Well played.

      I’m trying to think how I would feel if I purchased a ticket. I would be pretty upset that there’s no solo at all and disappointed that they replaced what probably a work that hasn’t been performed there before with something most have heard too many times already. Does that strike anyone else as bait-and-switch?

      Someone here mentioned that the orchestra is still billing the solo, does anyone know if they informed subscribers of the change or will they spring it on them at the concert?

  • Allison Kiger says:

    Anyone who knows David Alexander Rahbee knows he is a musician and conductor of great integrity. It’s too bad for everyone that this happened.

    • Paul Mauffray says:

      Amen to that. I too will vouch for David Rahbee’s integrity. I’ve known him well for over a dozen years, and these kind of problems just don’t happen around him.

      • The Other Anon says:

        And yet somehow it did. As I said in my 1st post on this thread, this is Chattanooga and sometimes you just can’t teach a pig to sing. Or to quote Benjamin Franklin – “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas”.

        I have a hunch this may get nasty. Maybe this conductor should reconsider his involvement with the concert and with this orchestra.

  • Anonymous says:

    Of course this is unfortunate, but by speculating what it could be creates rumors and unnecessary gossip that detract from the music and the wonderful music Chattanooga has to offer.

    • Larry W says:

      Unfortunate indeed, but lawsuits are not rumors, and litigation detracts from the music more than speculation. In some instances, litigation is necessary. Based on the filing, this is not one of those cases. This makes musicians look bad.

      • Age Of Enlightenment says:

        Well then, it’s a good thing you don’t know the first thing about reading legal filings and this one clearly doesn’t have anywhere near enough information to draw any conclusions about the cause. The best anyone can say is there’s not enough details to know.

        Yet you seem to have all the answers. Are you in some way connected to the lawsuit and have inside information? I doubt it.

        The more you talk, the more you expose how little you understand.

        • Larry W says:

          I refer you to the lawsuit filing, copied above by Anon. That will hopefully answer your questions, at least regarding the filing.

          • Age Of Enlightenment says:

            You’ve made nothing clear. You’re behaving like a two-bit troll know-nothing who can’t produce any basis for his speculation because nothing you’ve asserted is made clear in the lawsuit. You’re cornered by your own assertions and flailing about deriving some perverse pleasure by hurting the conductor and soloist.

          • Larry W says:

            I have made no assertions, made no hurtful remarks about the conductor, and I have not tried in any way to hurt the soloist. I am trying very hard to understand why this dispute has come to litigation, and so far, I have been attacked for that attempt. Not one of the responses here have served the process of clarifying that question.

        • The Other Anon says:

          Another pompous, sanctimonious voice joins the Slipped Disc know-it-all reader choir. Why waste your time chastizing other readers on Slipped Disc? You are clearly so enlighted and superior that you should get together with a few other commenters here who know everything and start your own religion.

          • Larry W says:

            Sir, or madam, your ad hominem attacks sound hollow. Since you may not know what that means, I will include the definition. It applies to many posters here:
            Ad hominem, short for argumentum ad hominem, is a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.

          • The Other Anon says:

            I’m with you, Larry. I was referring to the very pompous “Age of Enlightenment” and a few other commenters here. I don’t agree or disagree with you, it just bugs me that so many people, like AoE, writing here consider themselves to be experts and chastize others in such sanctimonious tones. It seems to me that people should be able to express their opinions and address one another more respectfully.

            If AoE and these others were really as astute and knowledgeable and superior as they make yourselves out to be, I seriously doubt that they’d be spending so much time in these comments sections.

          • Larry W says:

            At last, a moment of civility! My attempt to share thoughts and have a cogent discussion about this very public matter was met with the kind of verbal attacks and distorted thinking that helped elect our embarrassing President. We will have to wait for the outcome of this matter. For now, I’ve had my fill of the Chattanooga chew-chew.

  • Just another musician says:

    Very sad to read this is ending with litigation. I have performed with Holly in summer festivals and have gotten to know her a little bit. She is a good musician but unfortunately, she is not shy about telling you how good she thinks she is. All the time. I’ve met a handful of musicians who are good but think they are world class. They will talk your ear off trying to convince you of that. Right or wrong, it’s difficult to work with people in this mindset. After a certain point, nobody wants to work with divas.

    • An actual musician says:

      Please, anyone who actually knows Holly would know you’re full of it. She’s one of the most selfless musicians around and the absolute last person to anyone would call a diva. You sound more like someone who works at the orchestra trying to spread poison. If you know her so well, why not put your name to your comment?

      • A Composer says:

        Just another musician is exactly right. Anyone who really knows Holly would never claim that she’s a diva. She is the antithesis of a diva. Holly openly combats elitism in classical music in her publications, and she would be the last to put on those airs. She frequently performs classical music for inmates in prisons and interacts with them to further their understanding of the music. Does this sound like something a diva would do? No. It sounds like something a really good person might do, not some self-absorbed diva. It is pretty clear that Just another musician is writing a hit piece. This person is probably a member of the CSO management.

  • Anon says:

    IMHO this is likely the very last resort. I have been a friend and colleague of Holly for nearly 2 decades and have consistently known her to be a champion of Classical Music, a hard worker, and a gracious, inclusive leader.
    She speaks forthrightly and humorously about her weaknesses foibles and flaws. She laughs at herself in the best and most honest ways. There is a difference between one who trusts friends enough to share successes and one for boringly brags.
    She is putting her self forward to be treated fairly and would support anyone in her position as well.
    As a leader, she has the interest of the whole company first in her heart and her actions.
    I have immense respect for Holly and her husband.

    • Harold Kupper says:

      Exactly my experience as well; a wonderful spokesperson for classical music, gifted instrumentalist, writer and bridge builder. I can only imagine the amount of abuse and bull crap she had to put up with before deciding ENOUGH!
      I’m in Holly’s corner 1000% because I know only too well the way musicians are treated by arts administrators. They forget that they actually work to support the music and musicians and not the other way around.

  • muslit says:

    The 2nd concerto for violin by Glass? Certainly not a difficult score. Perhaps too long by 30 minutes. Listen to any film score of Glass and you have the gist of this concerto. We’re not talking Ligeti or Carter in terms of modernism. The culprit here is something else. Follow the money.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    WIthout knowing the facts, it seems like a lawsuit is a poor way to solve an issue in a long term relationship. Obviously this will not have a happy ending for one side or the other and there will be bitter feelings all around.

    Seems to me that there are many ways to resolve this including programming the work in the future, offering multiple future appearances of more standard works, or offering a monetary settlement that compensates the artist for the time spent in preparation of the solo.

    In any case, it would appear that the artist should focus on her other position going forward and let this one go.

    A lawsuit versus management is a great way to burn a bridge.

    • Bill says:

      Probably the lawsuit didn’t get filed until it was evident that the other things were not going to happen, and the relationship had already been damaged.