From the LPO four controversy to the end of an era in Glasgow
?The whole London Philharmonic affair has made the orchestra look unbelievably, well, stupid. Last week, four of its players were suspended for adding their names to a letter to the Independent, denouncing the Israel Philharmonic as a cultural smokescreen for Israeli human rights abuses. The statement from Tim Walker and Martin Höhmann, respectively chief executive and chairman of the orchestra (which is run by its players), states that "the board's decision will send a strong and clear message that such actions will not be tolerated by the LPO".
The cultural and academic boycott of Israel has been going on since 2004. University lecturers have been signing letters by the dozen, identifying themselves by their workplace, for years. None of these people has been suspended, or are regarded as representing the institution for which they work – and yet, according to the LPO, it is because they named the orchestra that this sentence has been imposed on the four (two of whom are Jewish). The player-directors of the LPO may strongly object to the orchestra's name being dragged into Arab-Israeli politics, but they have merely inflamed the row.
Other signatories of the letter include members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Have they been suspended? No. Do readers of the letter assume that the OAE as a whole is up in arms about the state of Israel? They do not – although I understand the players involved have been reprimanded.
To somehow imagine that "for the LPO, music and politics do not mix", as the statement asserts, is absurd. (My colleague Tom Service writes more on this on his blog.) Politics runs through music: it is there whenever one plays a concert or receives a donation. Indeed, the LPO itself recently made a film in solidarity with Dutch musicians, in the wake of government arts cuts in the Netherlands: hardly an apolitical act. The baffling thing is that the LPO board have chosen to take such measures against senior musicians, who have devoted their careers to this wonderful orchestra; it is a distraction from their superb musicianship. The LPO plays its season opener at London's Southbank Centre tonight: if it is disrupted by protests, the orchestra will have only itself to blame.
?Sorcha Dallas, one of the best-known, internationally recognised commercial galleries in Scotland, is to close down, after the removal of £15,000 of funding from Creative Scotland. The problem, according to the Glasgow-based Dallas, is the lack of local collectors. Without passing trade, the bulk of selling has to be done at international art fairs – which cost thousands to travel to and rent space from. Creative Scotland's £15,000 grant, she says, covered the cost of one fair a year – enough to keep the gallery ticking over. With the recession putting further pressure on the business, it has proved impossible to continue: a real loss for the city's art scene. Fortunately, Dallas says she will continue to work with author and artist Alasdair Gray, to whom she has brought a fresh audience – and to "continue to work with artists in the city where I was born and bred".
?Arts leaders and headteachers are swapping jobs, briefly, this autumn, in a scheme run by the Cultural Learning Alliance. So we can expect Gus Christie, the very posh chairman of Glyndebourne, to be teaching some manners down at the Priory school in Lewes, David Bintley from the Birmingham Royal Ballet to be instructing the kids from Earls high school in Halesowen in some nifty grands jetés, and Jude Kelly to be imparting peace and love at Stoke Newington school in London. Good luck to 'em, and to their counterparts entering the wonderful (see above) world of the arts.
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