The Charlottetown Festival announced yesterday that it’s cutting the size of its orchestra from 19 to 13. My friend Dale eloquently dicusses all of this from the point of view of a musician in the pit, and I highly recommend that you read his post.
I’m no great fan of Anne of Green Gables — The Musical — I am a victim, alas, of being part of the chorus for a staging of the musical when I was in grade 3, and so I have a strong involuntary flight response whenever I hear the stirring refrain “Anne of Green Gables, never change.”
But I’m the father of a die-hard fan — Oliver has seen the musical every summer for as long as I can remember — and as much as it pains me that Anne is the primary artistic output of “Canada’s National Memorial to the Fathers of Confederation,” I recognize the centrality of the musical to the cultural and economic life of the city and the province, and so, despite my artistic misgivings, I am forced to admit that, net-net, it’s a good thing.
I also have a lot of friends who are employed, directly or indirectly, by the musical’s annual staging: technicians, stage crew, carpenters, designers. And musicians. Indeed if you you want make a living as a professional musician on Prince Edward Island, the Festival’s pit is about your only option; and the contribution of those so-employed to the musical life of the province is inestimable.
So when the Charlottetown Festival cuts 6 positions from its orchestra, I pay attention: I’m concerned for friends, concerned for the musical itself, and concerned for what the unanticipated side-effects of such a cut will be for the Island.
What really bothers me about the announcement of this cut is the way that it was spun by the Confederation Centre administration: CEO Jessie Inman was quoted by the CBC saying:
“I think the magical theatre experience that we have offered to our patrons of Anne — The Musical for so many years will be maintained. The integrity of that score will be maintained, and I don’t believe that our patrons will have any lesser experience,” she said.
Which I read as “we never really needed those 6 other musicians anyway, and nobody will notice they’re not there.” Setting aside whether this is true or not, this shows tremendous disrespect to the players whose positions will be cut: if there will be no “lesser experience,” then, presumably, they were just dross taking up space in the pit.
It’s fine to spin the “magical theatre experience” bullshit to bus tour companies, but this kind of talk has no place when addressing so serious a cut to an Island audience: these musicians are our friends, our neighbours, our music teachers, the parents of our kids’ friends, the people we see on the street every day. Whether or not economic realities of the Centre’s operation require this cut, Ms. Inman owes all of the musicians employed by the Charlottetown Festival an apology for her callous disregard to the role they have played in the success of the musical and in their importance to the Island community.