Covid talk: We don’t cancel, we suspend

Covid talk: We don’t cancel, we suspend


norman lebrecht

May 14, 2020

The manufacture of euphemisms for cancellation is turning into a Covid boom industry.

Here are some of the latest:

The Board of Trustees of the Riga Jurmala Music Festival today announced the decision to suspend the Riga Jurmala Music Festival until 2021.

Grand Teton Music Festival (GTMF) announced today the cancellation of its summer festival in favor of an immersive filmed experience that will be streamed on August 21, 22, and 23

The Savonlinna ⁦Festival⁩ has announced that it has successfully rescheduled the whole of this summer’s program for 2021.

With sadness, I announce that the (Three Choirs Festival) Association’s board of Directors have met and agreed that this summer’s festival should be postponed till 2021.

The Queen Elisabeth Competition … are pleased to announce that we are able to postpone this piano session until May 2021.

Inaugural Helsinki Biennial moved to summer 2021


What’s the point of all this spin? If it’s off, it’s off.


  • Tiredofitall says:

    It’s a matter of faith. Either you believe in an afterlife or you don’t. Obviously you don’t.

    • V.Lind says:

      It has been a tough year for Mr. Lebrecht. New movie, new book…not an easy year for someone with major artistic output, what with cinemas closed and book tours cancelled (no two ways about the word there).

      But he should take heart — the book will survive all this, and the film is streaming.

  • Cello says:

    I think it might depend on the conditions :

    The Queen Elisabeth Competition has postponed its piano session, keeping all the same competitors for example (thank god for that!) – I wouldn’t call it a cancellation in this case?

    I had a competition for which I was a finalist that was outright cancelled (and I haven’t even received a real letter from the orchestra regarding this) – pretty crummy situation, but hey, we’re all taking loss after loss after loss.

  • doge says:

    Wonder if there is some legalese involved, i.e. certain language can free the organization from certain obligations on payments and compensation to artists, etc.

    • M Le Balai says:

      Unlikely. Most organisations will be citing force majeure anyway (i.e. they are having to cancel for reasons beyond their control) and this will free them from the obligation to make payments. Not because – as seems to be the constant implication on this site – that they want to screw artists, but because they simply do not have the money to do so and will go under otherwise. The language in this case is most likely to be to avoid sounding completely negative: at least ‘postponement’ indicates that there is a future for the performing arts….

      • doge says:

        Got it. (Also, didn’t mean to imply there was malicious intent behind it. I agree that it’s not clear/taken seriously enough how much so many arts organizations are forced to do with so little.)

  • John Borstlap says:

    When the future is insecure and unclear, that also means it is open, so why close off possibilities beforehand?

  • Alexis says:

    I can’t speak on behalf of any of my fellow events folk, but at Three Choirs our choice of ‘postponed’ over ‘cancelled’ was down to accuracy: as a festival that changes location each year, cancellation naturally implied that no festival would take place in Worcester and we would move on to Hereford in 2021. In fact, we’ve taken the decision to halt that succession, by (broadly) repeating the festival we planned for Worcester, and then moving on in 2022 to re-establish our normal cycle through the other host cities of Hereford, then Gloucester.

    And like other commentators have said, it’s also about hope and optimism: something the sector desperately needs right now.

  • Nurhan Arman says:

    It is neither spin nor euphemism. It’s not as simple as “If it’s off, it’s off.” All performing arts organizations are trying to survive this crisis. At Sinfonia Toronto we postponed one subscription concert and a Northern Ontario tour to September. We secured concert halls and re-booked flight tickets. We sure hope to be able to perform those concerts. We also cancelled a subscription concert and issued refunds or credits. I don’t believe the organizations you cite are playing word games, they’re honestly trying.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Also booming are announcent shutdowns (cancellations, postponements, you name it) of summer festival. Does anyone of us seriously believe that anything will stay open in the foreseeable future?

    • engineers_unite says:

      We’re all doing FUNERAL music.

      Excellent booming business, excellent employment propects, good money, future proof.

      If you believed the other crap about COVID, deliberately engineered by the mass media and the British BS broadcasting service, then you deserve at least a stylish burial.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Europe is gradually reopening. How soon audiences will be able to return to concerts is unclear. But it is likely to be sometime in the Autumn. [Aside: this will depend on the rate of infection over the next few months, so we will have to wait and see.]

  • Brian says:

    Haha: “immersive filmed experience that will be streamed.”

    So they’re probably dusting off some concert footage and streaming it on-demand for 3 days.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I disagree. It’s not resorting to euphemisms, it is trying to utilize the power of language to inspire and give hope, where hope seems in short supply.

    General Douglas MacArthur COULD have fairly and accurately said “I’m getting the hell out of the Philippines, and not a moment too soon.”

    Instead he chose to say “I shall return.”

  • ivan says:

    You are a writer. You know words are important. Even euphemism.

    • V.Lind says:

      Of course you are right. And they are not euphemisms. They are statements of fact as people see them now.

      We’ve had this before — language choice in a headline not QUITE accurate in reflecting what follows.

      But the darts seem to be getting sharper.

  • Edgar Self says:

    With weighty matters such as habeas corpus, constitutional rights, and music festivals, suspension plays better than cancellation.

  • Bruce says:

    I think they’re trying to send the message that they’re not (at this point) shutting down forever. If they just say “The so-and-so festival is cancelled” and that’s all, then people are going to be less likely to check back later to see if anything’s going on.

    Just my $.02 (well, $1,200.02 with my stimulus check)