in: News & Features

June 27, 2018

BSO Chorus Is a-Changin’

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When in the course of symphonic events a new music director materializes, contracts likely protect performing personnel from firings. By contrast, when the new director of a volunteer chorus asks its members to reaudition, especially when doing so pointedly, and taking a new tack, few impediments exist. Why would any arts news organization pay attention?

Nevertheless, when some veteran singers complained of their new director’s impolitic course correction for the beloved 48-year-old Tanglewood Festival Chorus, we took notice.

Only the second conductor to lead TFC since John Oliver founded it, in 1970, English choral man James Burton inherited a contingent with long service and deep institutional loyalty. It cannot have been an easy role to assume. Before accepting the new title of BSO choral director, last February, Burton agreed to take on the dual roles of preparing the chorus for concerts and building, maintaining, and shaping the ensemble through auditions and selection. BMInt announced his appointment HERE. Contributor Stephen Owades, one of arguably two active charter members remaining, was told to reaudition, and got culled. Owades observed, “If I were among a modest number of people weeded out, I would be unhappy but not aggrieved. Yet the sheer scale of the retirements and cuts, far beyond anything that TFC has suffered in its history, tells me that—in contrast to the explicit, published assurances of our new director—he and the BSO are taking the group in a dramatically new direction.”

The changes in approach to the evaluations troubled some singers. Reauditioning is a fact of choral life for ensembles of high quality and high aspiration (and others), even for volunteer choruses. TFC singers had always been told when it was their time, asked to sign up for an available time slot. “This year, we (those chosen for the first round of these reauditions) received a letter saying that our tenure in the chorus would end at the end of the coming Tanglewood season. If we wanted to continue with the chorus, we’d have to reaudition—meaning the default state is no longer continued membership but removal. The signup form also offered the option of withdrawing from the chorus, also a first,” Owades notes.

Other singers, including BMInt writer Laura Prichard, who is not scheduled for exams this year, waxed more philosophical. “James Burton brings emphasis on vertical tuning and requires a working / more advanced knowledge of music theory (especially reading multiple clefs and analyzing your own place in each chord). That marks a shift from John Oliver’s practice, which was more linear and operatic in conception. John Oliver was an excellent vocal coach, most at home with both of his hands on the piano, playing from full scores and peppering rehearsals with anecdotes from the dozens (hundreds?) of vocal masterclasses he taught and attended. My husband took small-group voice repertoire classes with him as an undergrad at MIT, which is how he started singing in the TFC at age 19. So the feelings about the Chorus run deep for many.”

Asked whether too much is now being asked from volunteers, Owades pointed out that there appeared to be no appetite on the BSO’s part to pay a chorus. “We have never felt that we have the leverage to form a union, although we have worked with the orchestra players on various matters in the past. We are all volunteers, and although you might think that gives us more leverage, it actually seems to give us less.”

And a veteran listener and musician who is chorally experienced as well opined, “It is clear the whole business is supported by BSO management and music director Andris Nelsons.” A longterm chorister (not TFC) who works as a management consult noted only, “The sound Oliver demanded mystified most of those I ever sang with. To us it seemed strained and shouty. But I know personally that there were many singers in the TFC who were both talented and hardworking, and who would have been capable of singing differently had they been asked to. Burton’s concern, perhaps, is that habits can be hard to change — fair enough, but it makes for a very sad situation.”

Some newsworthy questions with answers from the institution:

Owades: My estimate is that of the 107 people asked to reaudition this year, 40-some chose to withdraw, or asked for leave and were terminated anyway. Of the remainder, something like 15 were given three-year renewals, 15 were given one-year probationary membership, and 30-some (like me) were terminated. Are these numbers correct?

BSO: Since the auditions are considered a private internal matter, with each audition handled with the utmost confidentiality, we cannot discuss the process or specific details of the results publicly.

We are happy to provide the following information. Over the course of the fall and winter, James Burton had shorter, preliminary, “sing-in” sessions with each member of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus to gain an initial sense of each singer’s vocal abilities. Information about the formal audition process was sent to the chorus in late March. The group of singers who Burton felt he needed to hear first regarding their vocal technique and musicianship were scheduled for the first round of formal auditions this past spring (subsequent auditions of about 100 each will take place in spring 2019 and spring 2020). Concerning the recent auditions, some members of the group decided to step down from the chorus without taking the audition; some were told that their membership was on probation and were asked to reaudition in spring 2019; some didn’t pass the audition and were asked to step down from the chorus by the end of the summer; and some passed the audition with flying colors.

All were aware that they had the option to reaudition next fall or whenever open auditions were scheduled.

Once this initial series of auditions are over in 2020, all singers will be required to audition once every three years to maintain their membership.

Do you have any numbers for past reaudition cycles in John Oliver’s time? My guess is that a lot fewer people were terminated or chose to withdraw then, but it would be interesting to have some actual numbers.

The chorus’s committee was consulted about the audition process in advance, and it was confirmed by the group at that time that there had been auditions in the past but that they were less formal than the process currently in place. Following preliminary research into the matter, we have not found any formal records that indicate what exactly the audition processes, including results, were like in the past.

Has there been any consideration given to providing more feedback to the terminated people? Your letter said that we were welcome to apply for chorus membership again in the future, but without some idea of why we didn’t make it this time, that seems like a futile idea.

James Burton responded: The reaudition process for any group is inherently fraught with difficulty, yet it is an absolutely necessary part of the protocol which needs to be in place to maintain the highest standards of performance so closely associated with our choir. Perhaps the most difficult part of this process, inevitably, is that singers who haven’t been able to continue to maintain their vocal technique and musicianship, for any number of understandable reasons, will need to be asked to step down from the chorus. Everyone involved in this process has been sensitive to the disappointment that may be felt by anyone in this position: in some instances, singers have been in the chorus for decades and this is a big change for them personally. I am acutely aware of this myself and have said so to the chorus. Perhaps there is little anyone can say to comfort someone who is experiencing disappointment like this, but I expressed my solidarity with the group, and we have reached this tricky moment and will proceed beyond it together. We had thoroughly productive rehearsals last week, and I hope that everyone who is singing with us this summer does so as proudly as ever. We have encouraged singers who are inspired to do so, to consider reauditioning in the fall or whenever we hold open auditions throughout any given BSO season. For those who are stepping down, we are currently working on plans to have their outstanding service honored by the chorus and the orchestral management at the end of the summer.

The BSO’s Tony Fogg, in communication from Leipzig, where members of the orchestra are participating in BSO in Leipzig week, reminded TFC:

The BSO has always been and continues to be deeply grateful to the hundreds of singers who have given generously of their time—some for multiple decades—to volunteer to be part of the BSO’s acclaimed chorus throughout its 48-year history. The TFC has contributed greatly in creating some of the most memorable concerts for our patrons and audience members here in Boston, in the Berkshires, across the country, and around the world.

Starting this summer, we are committing to a new tradition whereby all singers at the time of their stepping down from the chorus are formally thanked and honored for their years of service to the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. To my knowledge, this had never happened before. We are determined to work with the chorus to find the best way to acknowledge the truly remarkable dedication and commitment each singer has made to the extraordinary success of the TFC. We will begin this over the coming weeks in time for the end-of-season TFC party on August 24th.

We are also looking at other ways in which TFC members who are no longer part of the active roster for BSO or Pops performances can still remain closely involved in BSO life … through the creation of a TFC alumni group and performances away from the main stage.

Andris Nelsons officially states:

The Tanglewood Festival Chorus has an extraordinary tradition as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s acclaimed choir, and we are all so very fortunate to have an all-volunteer choir on the level of the TFC. As the chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus must always strive to constantly reach and surpass the highest standards of our field in order to bring our wonderful audiences, along with the supreme musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the most inspiring and uplifting experiences possible.  It is most definitely this unrelenting and persistent pursuit of excellence that defines the greatest orchestras and choruses across the country and around the globe. We are truly blessed to have such a fine conductor as James Burton leading the chorus into their next era of artistic achievement and accomplishment and building upon the great 45-year legacy of John Oliver.

Ryan Speedo Green, Bramwell Tovey, with the BSO and TFC (Hilary Scott photo)

TFC member Sarah Telford opined through the good offices of the BSO:

Rehearsals with James Burton are intense, exhilarating, and fun! And most of all, they are artistically satisfying—everything he asks of the group is in service of the style and beauty of the music. It can be challenging at times, but you walk out of rehearsal a better singer and musician than you walked in. James Burton is a phenomenal musician, a gifted communicator, and a choral singer’s dream. There is an incredible thrill, a rush even, every single time you walk out onto the stage at Symphony Hall or Tanglewood. And when the orchestra starts to play, with that gorgeous, refined sound that is the hallmark of the BSO, you have to pinch yourself! To know that you are sharing the stage, sharing the joy of making great music, with the finest musicians in the world.

Over 48 years, the publisher of this journal has found the chorus in full cry invariably and often memorably exciting, and also under certain conductors, deep and subtle.

Readers will be able to hear some of the old guard together for the last time this summer. In addition to a Celebration of the Life of John Oliver in words and music on July 15th, the Tanglewood season includes seven performances in which the outgoing contingent of the TFC will participate: La Bohème on July 14th, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms on July 15th, a Prelude concert on July 20th under James Burton, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass on July 21st, Mahler’s Third on August 24th, the Bernstein 100 Gala on August 25th, which will include the finale of Mahler 2 and as-yet-unannounced Bernstein excerpts, and of course Beethoven Nine on August 26th.

35 Comments

  1. Who is that chicken anonymous quote from “purposely ugly sound”. Idiotic and completely false.

    Comment by Henry Lussier — June 27, 2018 at 6:58 pm

  2. I learned through a TFC member friend of mine that only today, probably in reaction to all the hubbub, did Mr. Burton and the new TFC Guard offer, through a sign-up email to share the results of each cut-off member’s audition in terms of what he/she could do to musically improve at their next audition. This was supposed to be an inherent, original part of the process.

    Comment by Bruce Harris — June 27, 2018 at 8:48 pm

  3. Re: the comment by anonymous “chorister (not TFC)”. Why on earth would anyone add insult to injury at a time like this? I can understand any news writer’s desire to demonstrate differing opinions about their topic, but to include that blatantly FALSE and extremely rude opinion about the beautiful sound of this choir is cowardly and mean.

    The TFC family of musically brilliant, loyal singers already suffered devastating loss only months ago with the death of John Oliver—their indisputably gifted conductor who had pure musical vision. To include untrue defamation of this choir’s stellar sound and character is merciless; terrible timing. One would hope that at least in Boston there would be a gentleman’s/woman’s code of ethics—a higher road (always a choice)—and some kindness.

    Comment by Gwendolyn Soper — June 27, 2018 at 9:19 pm

  4. One more thought to the anonymous quote person. JO expected a chamleon’s versatility fromTFC. I sang a gorgeous b minor mass with Seiji. Eight on a part. I have a recording. It is stunning. Next to a hair raising Mahler 2. Listen to the TFC’s anniversary CD and you’ll hear a GORGEOUS Martin Mass next to luscious Bruckner and surprisingly stunning Lotti. And, yes, those were accomplished with “volunteers”. The MOST beautiful choral singing I have EVER heard was from the TFC/BSO when I was in the audience. Dream of Gerontius. Tears come to my eyes eve now.

    Comment by Henry Lussier — June 28, 2018 at 12:11 am

  5. For versatility worthy of a chameleon I would submit the 1984 performances of “The Mask of Time” as an achievement that was definitely professional caliber, and I’m guessing there may be current/former members who sang that piece. Alas, there is no “high road” to be found in “it’s just business”, and for this to have been handled differently the leadership would have had to have acknowledged that it is not “just business”. And that’s not how business runs (anymore).

    Comment by Lauren Park — June 28, 2018 at 2:30 pm

  6. Burton, et al, can eliminate chorus members at will but I doubt that they will find devoted and long committed members easily, who will be willing to work around the TFC’s schedule for free. Perhaps some new music major graduates looking for experience will fill the bill with short term commitment. The turnover will be quick and often.

    Maybe that is what Burton wants. But even those types of volunteers will need to be treated like human beings. Certainly, there will not be many “alumni” who want give more of their time to benefit Burton’sTFC after the way they were used.

    Remember, they are still expected to perform a heavy schedule of unpaid work this Summer.

    Comment by V. Baterina — June 28, 2018 at 6:09 pm

  7. When did the TFC take over from the Chorus Pro Musica? Or should I ask, when was the latter eased out? And why?

    Comment by Clark Johnsen — June 28, 2018 at 6:11 pm

  8. Sounds like the disgruntled ex TFC singers need to take a vocal check. They clearly like the sound of their own voices judging by comments in the globe, the problem is not everyone enjoys their sound. Not today and not in recent years either.

    Comment by Alice Schertle — June 28, 2018 at 7:12 pm

  9. To Clark Johnsen: CpM sang its last concert with the BSO in 1973. I joined CpM a few months later, and the following year, Alfred Nash Patterson, the founder and conductor of the chorus, announced that he was reauditioning all members. A number of founder members (the group was founded in the late 1940s) were dropped from the roster. I don’t remember it making the news.

    Comment by David Frieze — June 28, 2018 at 7:35 pm

  10. The article says that TFC is 48 years old. I believe that their role was to do everything that CpM or other choruses had been doing until then.

    Comment by Camilli — June 28, 2018 at 7:36 pm

  11. 1, Before the creation of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus the BSO used several local choruses. As I remember it their principal chorus was the NEC Chorus directed by Lorna Cooke DeVaron. That is the chorus on virtually all of their recordings.

    2. Also, in response to one comment, we all have memories of wonderful performances given by the TFC however a performance given in 1984 tells us little or nothing about the condition of the chorus in 2018.

    3. Is it really any surprise that there is turmoil in the chorus as it faces changes? Since it’s creation nearly half a century ago it’s only leader has been the man who founded it. Any organization undergoing such a profound change after so many years, particularly one that has so many long standing members, is going to find change traumatic. Most of the stories we are hearing are from those members who are no longer going to have a place in what to them had become a 2nd home. Perhaps these changes have been handled in a ham handed way, but I suspect that the reaction would be the same no matter how delicately these issues were handled. The bottom line is that a house cleaning is taking place and that is never a pleasant experience for anyone. Perhaps the rest of us need to wait until the dust settles before we pass judgement.

    Comment by Jim — June 28, 2018 at 8:14 pm

  12. >> NEC Chorus directed by Lorna Cooke DeVaron. That is the chorus on virtually all of their recordings.

    Huh?

    >> suspect that the reaction would be the same no matter how delicately these issues were handled.

    Not a chance. If you have ever been fired, there are ways and there are ways. I take the article’s opening quote from our contributor and TFC founding veteran at its word.

    Comment by davidrmoran — June 28, 2018 at 8:40 pm

  13. Yes, there were some wonderful recordings of the NEC Chorus with the BSO. L C DeVaron is still around at 90-something, apparently. Listen to the young sound here. Daresay the much more mature current TFC would have trouble if called upon to produce tones like those. And in that chorus, there was 100% turnover every four years.

    Owades may be correct in his speculation that the BSO might want to take the TFC in a new direction, post Oliver.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — June 28, 2018 at 10:06 pm

  14. Other pre-TFC choruses included the Harvard Glee Club and Radcliffe Choral Society under both Munch and Leinsdorf, performing at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood.

    On a couple of occasions there was a summer general-grapevine-call for chorus extras with rehearsals in Cambridge before we went out to Tanglewood for the performance with a chorus based in the Berkshires. We were housed in school dorms, as I recall.

    Comment by perry41 — June 28, 2018 at 11:36 pm

  15. The polincheto comment under Gay’s Globe article sums it up.

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2018/06/27/harsh-notes-amid-purge-bso-chorus/lqWMXNpTcRGz0TiSkmwvzH/story.html#comments

    (search polincheto)

    Comment by davidrmoran — June 29, 2018 at 2:36 am

  16. By far the majority of comments i have seen are based on hearsay. The Globe published subjective opinions of aggrieved people who have been let go, and which contain many factual errors. Poor quality journalism.

    Comment by Momus — June 29, 2018 at 8:25 am

  17. Context is everything (n.b. my original comment was in the context of the one above it, not the current state of the chorus). And the context is this: you have a dedicated, sacrificing group of longstanding VOLUNTEERS, whose bond has been largely built around their shared experience (of sacrifice, but also the production of world-class performances.) Now, when it comes time to “clean house” (which it seems was needed, and this has received little debate), no apparent thought, concern or attention was paid to this context. The (organizational) need to move forward fully superseded any care or consideration of those being left behind, many (maybe even most?) of whom had dedicated huge chunks of their lives. It’s bad enough when this is done (as it is so often these days) in the paid, for-profit world, but it’s reasonable to expect more from those benefiting from VOLUNTEERS in the non-profit world. I agree with Jim, and disagree I do not believe that the reaction would be the same no matter how delicately these issues were handled.

    >>Not a chance. If you have ever been fired, there are ways and there are ways.

    Any thoughtful observer will realize that this debate is not about WHAT took place, but HOW it was handled…

    Comment by Lauren Park — June 29, 2018 at 8:57 am

  18. Lauren’s comment above is, to my mind one of the most fair and sensible I have seen amongst the hysteria.

    Comment by Momus — June 29, 2018 at 9:30 am

  19. Reading the comments thread in the Boston Globe is an unpleasant experience. I doubt whether most of those who post so judgementally and pompously about Mr Burton and their perception of his motives, would even recognize him if they saw him on the street, let alone have any meaningful ability to comment on him musically or personally. The Globe comments are based on the subjective statements made by aggrieved singers, which, incidentally contain many factual errors which have now been so often repeated, they are now accepted as fact. To put the record straight in at least one example, the idea that the audition consisted of “advanced music theory” is a total myth. Never happened. I took the audition myself. Singing and recognizing pitches – you know, the type of thing singers have to be able to do in choirs.

    Comment by Momus — June 29, 2018 at 11:09 am

  20. Lorna Cooke deVaron, founding director of the NEC Chorus who produced some of the most ravishing choral recordings with the BSO, is 97 years old and still going strong, although she retired from conducting a few years ago when she relocated to the Philadelphia area.

    Comment by Janet McGhee — June 29, 2018 at 4:01 pm

  21. One is left wondering about all those years if glowing reviews under John Oliver?

    Comment by Fredrik Wanger — June 29, 2018 at 4:59 pm

  22. FYI, here is the Polincheto comment from the Globe:

    To address some of the comments- I am currently in the chorus and was not affected by the purge, but am heartbroken and appalled not just by the purge of so many excellent singers, but also by the way it was done. One thing none of the articles mention is that James Burton was explicitly asked and said in an interview only last year that he didn’t plan to purge the choir and that such fears were unfounded (read here. Then out of the blue, a portion of the singers were given 4 weeks to prepare for very theory-heavy auditions and were then dismissed with unsigned letters. I know a lot of the singers who were let go and they weren’t simply ok, they were excellent, a lot with one or more music degrees and many with additional high-level music engagements. These are singers who gave every minute of their vacation not only to prepare for and sing concerts for the BSO, but also stuck through a very draining selection process for the new choral director. They stood behind and with James Burton and the BSO, and were not only willing, but excited to put in extra work to match their skills to what the new leadership expects. In return, they were treated like disposable pawns in a game of chess. It is a paradox that these people donated their time, their exceptional skill, and their money (yes, their money, because parking, babysitting, unpaid vacation really do add up) and then they were not only dismissed in a condescending way, but also had no way of fighting back exactly because they were volunteers (no unions for volunteers). There’s a real sadness to all of this. I don’t know how to continue singing.

    Comment by Bill Blake — June 29, 2018 at 5:18 pm

  23. I retired from TFC after the 2017 Holiday Pops season, sensing changes in the expectations and management/conducting of the chorus that suggested to me that what had been a de facto professional chorus under John Oliver was being treated as an amateur chorus under our new director. The group’s membership has always included many professional musicians – school music teachers, voice teachers, and choristers and soloists paid by other organizations. As a professional chorister myself for some 45 years, I did not relish the sorts of changes I sensed. Long and, to my mind, useless warm-ups; no longer performing off-book; and no longer encouraged to participate in the sort of give-and-take with the conductor in rehearsal that allowed for chorus input and clarification in the process of music making were among the signs that things were going in a direction I did not like. In conversation with long-time BSO/TFC audience members, comments about “seeing the tops of the chorus’s heads and not their faces” abound. I hope the pride we took in performing with one of the world’s foremost orchestras will survive the changes. I miss the many friends I made in my years with TFC, and I miss the opportunity to sing with and for the BSO.

    Comment by jaylyn — June 29, 2018 at 6:02 pm

  24. As long as we are cross-referencing, this is droll, a Globe comment from Owades on the MGay report:

    ‘The ensemble’s slide has not gone unnoticed. Writing in 2016, Globe critic Jeremy Eichler noted that while the chorus was “still capable of delighting,” it also exhibited “an unevenness” and “more than a few patchy moments.”’
    The linked review was of a performance of Berlioz’s “Resurrexit” and Te Deum led by Charles Dutoit in 2016. This was during the search period, when we worked with a different guest choral director for each program. And the preparer for that program was none other than James Burton ….

    Comment by davidrmoran — June 30, 2018 at 1:58 am

  25. Mention should be made that under the pre-TFC regime even the Chorus Pro Musica needed to get ringers from H&H and elsewhere for big productions. The famously utterly complete Lohengrin under Leinsdorf in 1965; my father (now 100!) was brought in from H&H for it and our family went to stay in a cottage near Tanglewood for a week. Later there were recording sessions for RCA in Boston he was involved in. This led to his next musical adventure, being in the on-stage chorus acting in Moses und Aron with Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston. Yes, H&H did cull him in the late 1960’s when Tom Dunn changed its focus. We can grasp why the BSO went to having the TFC rather than ad-hoc set-ups for each choral production but this necessarily means the “care and feeding” of volunteers. Time will tell how all the new arrangement works out; yes, the BSO DID have some less than stellar moments: the French horns in the mid-1960’s stand out in a memory of muddle blowing Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten–but that’s not choral.

    Comment by Nathan Redshield — June 30, 2018 at 2:14 am

  26. I was surprised to learn from this discussion that the members of the TFC are volunteers. This fact surprised me. I always assumed that, considering the caliber of the orchestra they work with, and the musical wisdom and time they provide, these musicians would be paid.

    A query: does this choir’s volunteerism extend even to the realm of royalties from recordings…or do they get some compensation from that source?

    Comment by Jonathan Brodie — June 30, 2018 at 9:44 am

  27. TFC is not paid, period. At the end of the year, they are given a list of the dates of the services they sang in and are allowed to report that as a tax deduction for travel expense, I believe.

    As far as I know, the only major symphony orchestra in the country that uses a professional chorus of their own is San Francisco. They have a core membership that is AGMA (union for stage singers and dancers) and above those numbers they supplement with high-level volunteers.

    Professional choristers are expensive because the numbers add up quickly. Boston Baroque and H+H are smaller in size, but doing a big piece like Creation or St. Matthew Passion uses a chorus that probably costs between $40-60K for a week of rehearsal and performance time.

    Comment by Thomas Dawkins — June 30, 2018 at 5:26 pm

  28. Thank you Mr. Dawkins for the information.

    “The ensemble’s slide has not gone unnoticed. Writing in 2016, Globe critic Jeremy Eichler noted that while the chorus was “still capable of delighting,” it also exhibited “an unevenness” and “more than a few patchy moments.”

    Patchiness and unevenness sprinkled amongst delightful moments sounds good to me. To my ear, such a sonic scenario makes the delightful moments stand out and have a new significance. Better yet, the performance that Mr. Eichler heard was delivered by a venerable community of wise and generous musicians who had worked together for years with consanguinity.

    What an honor to hear such a chorus!

    Certainly “purging” (what a sadly accurate word) might smooth things out a trifle and make the crooked straight.

    But at what cost? Judging from the personal stories I have read in this discussion…at a high cost indeed.

    Give me crooked over straight any day.

    Comment by Jonathan Brodie — June 30, 2018 at 8:21 pm

  29. Thank goodness for the voice of reason amongst the bias and mis-information of the Globe article and it’s ensuing mass hysteria.

    Ihttps://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/clarence-fanto-acrimony-aside-time-for-a-unified-voice-for-chorus-conductor,543624

    Comment by Momus — July 1, 2018 at 12:59 pm

  30. Well, the hed and the lede paragraph are pretty well made comical by the rest of the article, which amply confirms the charges of deep inconsiderateness in the Globe piece (and ours). Complete with even more of those modern-style evasive tone-deaf quotes from Fogg and still-doesn’t-get-it Burton. “Perhaps there is little anyone can say to comfort someone who is experiencing disappointment like this” — man, he sounds like a prizewinning people manager, doesn’t he?
    Which of course has been the whole point, from the start.

    Comment by davidrmoran — July 1, 2018 at 6:39 pm

  31. I don’t agree with your take on the Berkshire Eagle piece. My take would be partly – it’s a mistake to confuse the process with the result. Singers experienced a double whammy. First being let go, and second being told in an unsigned letter from BSO management. When, as you said, James Burton was quoted as saying “Perhaps there is little anyone can say to comfort someone who is experiencing disappointment like this”, he was referring to the feelings of people whom had failed the audition and not commenting on clerical errors. That is perfectly clear, to me at least. People can accept and come to terms with the need for change, and perhaps their own shortcomings I think. The BSO administrative snafu poured salt on a wound. I fail to see how this article shows how Mr Burton doesn’t “get it”. My experience is that he “gets” many things more than most. And to put everyone’s record straight, because this misnomer keeps appearing with monotonous regularity – I took the audition, and it contained absolutely no advanced musical theory whatsoever. Singing pitches up, down or in the middle.

    Comment by Momus — July 2, 2018 at 7:30 am

  32. Here is a link to another item from the Berkshire Eagle, from a writer you may recognize.

    https://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/letter-tanglewood-choristerswere-treated-shabbily,543847

    Comment by Bill Blake — July 4, 2018 at 2:56 pm

  33. “It is clear in Mr. Fanto’s excellent article that the choral director, James Burton, and the BSO management handled the new audition policy clumsily, with little regard to the consequences of treating devoted members so shabbily”.
    That doesn’t mean that the devoted members should not be asked to leave.

    Comment by Momus — July 4, 2018 at 10:35 pm

  34. Asked to leave, or eased out with just a bit of tact and consideration? Have you missed Feldman’s point? No one is advocating or has advocated musical mediocrity; no one is disputing right to cull. Why conflate quite distinct matters?

    This looks to be textbook gratuitous creation of ill will. Clerical errors, huh. Someone posted to slippedisc.com that ‘If James Burton had said, “I want a more youthful sound than this chorus has traditionally had; I want a more ‘English’ choral sound, one that is cooler and less passionate; and I want singers who have a background in theory, so we don’t have to rehearse quite so many hours as you’re used to,” then his actions would have been seen as goal-directed and reasonable. Instead, he had promised coming in that he did NOT want to make such changes,…’

    It’s good to hear Burton is a choral wizard. A Globe letter today includes “We enjoy singing with James as much as, if not more than, any other conductor we’ve worked with.”

    Now, the unreported aspect of this mess is the charge that some cut or resigning are fully capable musically, to say the least. So what else might have been the criteria?

    Perhaps as a TFC member you can speak to that — now, or later.

    Comment by davidrmoran — July 4, 2018 at 11:26 pm

  35. I have read many comments. I would like to says that CpM is still the North East Premier chrous for the Boston Philharmonic and other orchestras in the North East. My daughter sings in CpM. There is a duality of singers who sing in both. Every organization, even volunteer ones, go through change. I read all the articles. It is up to the New Conductor to make the changes neccessary for the choirs success. I am sure sone would have decided they to leave on their own. Personality conflicts would be a part of it. Growing pains & change is hard. I was a professional Flautist,however, I had to stop because MS caused problems. It was sad, but, I was not technically good as I was before. These things happen. I also think that the assumption of current college graduates would be chosen & they are more transient maybe true for some. My daughter has been with CpM for 6 years, she holds 2 degrees Vocal Performance & music theory. She has a minor in Music Diction. She lives Boston & does not plan on leaving. She loves being with CpM & was just offered a chance with TFC. As a musician, I understand the hurt that comes with change. I hope those who were released can remember the wonderful times they had. Also, if any older women who are looking for another venue to sing, My daughter is the Director of Harborlights. I am not a proud Mom :-) I wish everyone the best current & past TFC members. You all have a full Summer. Enjoy it. I live in Idaho so I don’t make it to BSO/TFC concerts. I welcome any recordings. Bless you all!

    Comment by Tammy COOK — July 5, 2018 at 4:22 am

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