Everything Old Is New Again

With all the attention these days on orchestras needing to get out of their primary venue and into unconventional spaces it is easy to forget that this is not exactly a unique idea. In fact, it’s been around for a lot longer than most folks realize and a recent trip to a favorite historic stock photo site drove that point home in a way that only photographs can do.

Case in point, here are a couple of photos of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra performing at a factories. The photos cover the orchestra’s factory concerts from the 1930s through 1940s and I’ll save you the trouble of Googling it; yes, the group is still very much in action.

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Factory concert by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hietaniemi, Helsinki, ca. 1945.
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Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra playing in a sugar factory, Helsinki, 1944.
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Conductor Toivo Haapanen leads the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in concert at the Hietalahti shipyard in Helsinki, 24.5.1945.
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Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra bassoonist at a factory concert, 1930s.

For reference, here’s a shot of the orchestra during a live broadcast performance from 1939.

Why yes, that is a score for Sibelius' Finlandia. Where you expecting something else?
Why yes, that is a score for Sibelius’ Finlandia. Where you expecting something else?

As an aside, if you’re every looking for copyright free historic photos, New Old Stock is one of the absolute best resources around. It beats the stuffing out of most stock photo sites and you can’t beat the price.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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6 thoughts on “Everything Old Is New Again

  1. Last year I read a fascinating piece about the Orchestra performances that regularly happened in Department stores in the US during turn of the 20th century. For anyone interested:

    “Commerce and Poetry Hand in Hand”: Music in American Department Stores, 1880-1930
    Linda L. Tyler

    Journal of the American Musicological Society Vol. 45, No. 1 (Spring, 1992), pp. 75-120

  2. I do remember the Milwaukee Symphony doing a concert at a large record store (Peaches, a long gone chain) in the late 1970s.

  3. In 1919 and 2008 (and possibly other times as well) the Philadelphia Orchestra played in the Wanamaker dept. store (now Macy’s) in conjunction with its famous landmarked organ.

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