Louisville Orchestra

So tonight (rather, last night) I went to what might (or might not) be the last concert given by the Louisville Orchestra.  I had been meaning to get to a concert for some time but having the concert schedule I’ve had just made it so difficult (one of “perks” of constantly performing).

Needless to say, it was a bittersweet affair.  I don’t really want to imagine my neck of the woods absent a full time professional orchestra.  At the same time, I’ve been predicting the slow demise of these seemingly anachronistic ensembles for various reasons I don’t want to get into here (read some of my previous posts for some of that diatribe).

What I would like to say is that, for good or ill, I would prefer this situation not be the case and in some ways I’m beginning to see a reaon (or many reasons) for why it is a bad thing to lose such a wonderful ensemble not the least of which being that I have many friends and colleagues who have put in many long years of hard work into the organization.

What I am beginning to realize is how ridiculous the situation is and for a variety of reasons, the economic ones notwithstanding.  I won’t get into some of the typical arguments here about why such an organization needs to be saved since that’s been said over and over by advocates of classical music in general.  What I think I’m going to start exploring are much more objective economic reasons why the demise of any symphony orchestra is a bad thing.

In the meantime, I would like to direct to a youtube video by the Louisville Orchestra Musician’s Association which was shown before the concert:

As well as the website for the Lousiville Orchestra Musicians Association:

The latter link has information about ways you can help fight to keep Louisville Symphonic!


12 thoughts on “Louisville Orchestra

  1. When I read this I was reminded of the one and only time I went to see Sacramento Philharmonic play. They played well and I enjoyed the performances for the most part. There were, however, many many drawbacks. It was a sort-of “Russian Night” with Russian guest soloists, Russian music, a bandura, and much of the local Russian community in the audience. Before even going to our seats, I was getting weird stares from the other people there, which was largely due to me being 27 and the rest of the crowd being perhaps 67 or maybe 77 on average. I was dressed nicely in non-revealing clothes, but they were staring at me more than a group of 20-something guys would if I were in a bikini.

    Then, the performance was preceded with what is apparently SacPhil’s usual: the orchestra playing the American National Anthem, with the audience singing along. Very rarely have I felt so confused in my entire life, because I *thought* I was at the symphony, not a baseball game. I also thought it was Russian night, not American night.

    Then the audience, besides staring at me periodically, started clapping randomly. Not just between movements, but occasionally during movements often after the climax of a phrase but long before the movement was actually over. I’m assuming that the musicians were still playing beautifully, but I couldn’t hear, so I’m not entirely sure.

    The other problem was the badura. It was beautiful and the soloist played wonderfully. The orchestra played wonderfully too. However, they really didn’t sound good together. It was really unfortunate. The other soloist, a violinist, was a real joy to listen to and he was truly amazing with the orchestra. We had intermission then something by Tchaikovsky which was nice, but featured no soloist and was a bit of a let-down after the really wonderful piece before intermission.

    I really enjoyed hearing the music, but it was still a very odd experience and I haven’t gone again. I don’t really have anything to contribute to the why there’s a demise problem except that my own experience was less than stellar.


  2. This is very interesting to me. And I can relate a bit about feeling like the odd bird in an audience (or even in a performance for that matter).

    I would have loved to have heard the bnadura/orchestra work. If for nothing else just to hear the combination. I understand that it can be difficult to combine folk or non-classical instruments with a symphony orchestra–more times than not it can fall flat (as it would seem to be the case with your experience).

    Also, it can be difficult to have different audience expectations for behavior, especially in an environment (like a concert hall during an orchestra concert) with a fairly well known set of etiquette.

    I think, if you start to read my thoughts here at my blog that you’ll see I will often talk about issues like this.

    I know that I often get annoyed when folks make “noise” during a concert hall type performance–at the same time, I also understand that it’s precisely because of that etiquette expectation that many folks tend to stay away from the concert hall (amongst other reasons). That’s been one of the big issues for especially symphonic organizations–that audiences are diminishing in general and that most symphonies just aren’t sustainable as they are.

    Fortunately (for now) the Louisville Orchestra is still running (unlike the Detroit Symphony) and a court order forced the organization to pay the musicians their wages for the rest of their contract despite the Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And there seems to be talk of the musicians separating from the Louisville Orchestra organization (much as the Colorado Springs Symphony musicians did some years ago) to creat a more fiscally lean organization.

    Whatever happens, things will probably change drastically.

    The declining audiences issue is an interesting one, since as you’ve noticed the orchestras can cater to very specific ethnic crowds and have done so in the past with great success. I’m remembering in particular the Detroit Symphony had Simon Shaheen as a soloist playing a concerto for Oud and Orchestra and when the Indianapolis Symphony performed a piece written by an African American for which they brought in Ice-T to for the narration part. Both of those concerts sold out from what I understand.

    Whether or not things like this can be sustainable is a different matter-but in a way, some members of various ethnic groups may feel just as out of place at a symphony concert which tend to be filled with Caucasian-Americans (often matching the make-up of the orchestras themselves) as you did with the Russian audience.

    That’s one of the difficulties I face as a teacher of the cello with the understanding that the market is oversaturated with talent, while the audience and demand for trained classical musicians is slowly, but surely, diminishing. It’s a sad truth to have to face.


  3. I wonder often about diminishing demand and think back upon this experience. This violinist was wonderful and really knew how to work with the orchestra. If he’s ever in the area again I want to hear him play, no matter what he’s playing.

    But back to the orchestra. The two biggest issues I had were the weird national anthem thing and the part after intermission. The national anthem thing was tacky — even at a baseball game the singer is singing solo. The audience singing truly offended me. The other issue was that the Tchaikovsky piece was terribly uneventful. There was no solo part, it sounded generic, and I really didn’t care about it even though the musicians played well. I believe it was picked because the composer was Russian and it worked for the size of ensemble they were having play.

    It seems that large professional orchestras always pick songs which require the largest number of musicians and which don’t require a soloist. This way the most number of people get to play and they don’t pay for an expensive soloist. There are many things that I think people might be more inclined to pay to hear that no one ever plays because they don’t fit with the structure of the orchestra. I’d be willing to pay a lot of money to hear Vivaldi’s Cello Sonatas live, but they’re never played, not even by Baroque ensembles. I had them playing in my car when my teacher and I drove to her old teacher’s house this weekend and she had to ask me what they were. All she’s ever done is large ensemble and Baroque ensemble work, so I suppose I’m not surprised, but it made me sad. I enjoy them equally as much as Bach’s Suites, which is really saying something. I’d also pay a lot of money to hear those played live, although I suppose that would depend on the soloist. Unfortunately the Cello Sonatas require only 3 people I think. So they don’t happen either.

    I don’t think I had a grand point with this. More just seeds of ideas. Mostly that there are people (like me) who would happily pay to hear many classical (genre not era) performances but the ones played are always the same and never the ones I like.


  4. I would love to hear more baroque music live. I had just picked up an urtext copy of the Vivaldi Sonatas as one of my students was working on No. 5 and we needed a keyboard score for the accompanist. I’ve never actually worked on many of those pieces and after reading the notes in the urtext edition I’m really tempted to perform them.

    Which would just be along the lines of some future goals I have. I’m in the slow process of shopping for a baroque cello and am almost tempted to get back to school in baroque performance. It’s one skill I don’t have tons of experience in and I would really love to play the Bach Suites on a baroque cello. Also there are a number of baroque musicians in town and a couple of ensembles that play early music that I would love to get involved with (not that I need another group to play with, of course!).

    But yes, you are sot on about the repertoire of orthodox classical music ensembles–usually they play music from a narrow two century gap (18th-19th cent) and rarely play anything new or older and that’s a shame since there are still living composers as well as plenty of repertoire from the Rococo and Baroque periods that don’t see the light of day.

    Tchaikovsky can be excruciatingly boring if not played well. So much repetition and little development really overshadows the beautiful melodies he wrote.

    Th National Anthem thing sounds really odd for an opening piece!


  5. The people I’ve known who get into playing early music have all found modern cellos they loved and taken the instruments to the luthier for modification. Our high school has a baroque ensemble and our town’s luthier happens to specialize in period instruments. Do you know if there’s a maker anywhere in your area who you think could do this? If you come across an instrument that you like and think “Man I wish this wasn’t a modern cello!” it’s worth talking to someone about having it modified. I know Yo-Yo Ma has had his Strad modified back and forth between Baroque and Modern many times for various albums, so doing it once shouldn’t be an issue.

    Speaking of school, I have a rather off-topic question: do you know anyone (or know of anyone) who started playing cello as an adult and was able to either get a formal education or somehow end up with equivalent abilities?


  6. I’m a bit fortunate in that at one of the schools I coached at in the Louisville area, one of the school instruments happens to be a baroque style cello that’s been (poorly) modified into a modern cello! So with luck I’ll negotiate its release into my possession for a trade of a more modern cello student instrument (that I’m in the process of getting one fixed up) since that will be easier for the students to play on anyway because of how different a baroque instrument is compared to a modern one.

    Yes–the end problem is getting the instrument restored back to it’s baroque dimensions and finding a luthier near me that could do this. I would likely need to get to Bloomington (where the IU music school is located) to at least find someone who will know of any local luthiers that work with baroque instruments.

    That is REALLY awesome that your high school and town has such resources!!


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