The 6/27/2018 edition of the Boston Globe published an article by Malcom Gay that reports on what appears to be a sizeable purge of the all-volunteer Tanglewood Festival Chorus.
Orchestra chorus’ have always occupied a peculiar stakeholder position inside the larger orchestra field. In many orchestras, chorus musicians are unpaid volunteers, which stands in stark contrast to their instrumental peers.
That’s how the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood Festival Chorus is structured so it may not come as a surprise to read in Gay’s article that existing chorus members are rather unhappy with the incoming chorus director’s decision to begin clearing house.
According to the article, the new chorus conductor, James Burton, created a re-audition process designed to force large numbers of veteran singers out of the ensemble (emphasis added).
According to several members who’ve tabulated the losses, roughly 70 choristers have resigned, retired, or been cut amid a recent re-audition cycle — the first of several Burton has planned for the ensemble’s nearly 300 members.
Simply put, expending the resources to create a multi phased audition cycle for existing volunteer chorus musicians immediately after appointing a new artistic leader risks reaching past being merely disingenuous into something darker.
While you’ll be hard pressed to find any musician that isn’t passionate about artistic standards, reconciling that need against the organizational benefits of unpaid artistic labor would almost certainly lead you to a place other than the audition process described in the Globe article.
In the end, it’s this sort of approach that contributes to apathy and low satisfaction levels among professional musicians and arts administrators.