Error in the skies again

From a violinist friend- a professor at a medium-sized music school in Canada who organized a beginning-of-year chamber concert to open the season at her university (for which she received no extra pay whatsoever). 

“Ken–I did get your message today, I have been thinking all this time to call you. I have had 5 guests here to attend to, one of which didn’t get his cello until after the concert —the airline had lost it. The two other guests had to leave their instruments in England and we had to find instruments here…. I feel just too burned out -if I want to do a good job on Shostakovich and the gypsies–Ken, I can’t even describe my state of mental condition right now!!!!!

I just had lunch last week with the director of one of the top chamber orchestras in the country, and he revealed to me that he was, himself, having to rent and drive a truck with all the instruments in it for their tour to Ireland, as there was absolutely no money in the tour budget to hire a professional driver, and all the other staff had to travel with the musicians to handle hotels and travel. 

Then this, as quoted in the Guardian- 
“A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We keep security under review. Musicians are still subject to the same restrictions as other passengers. We would advise musicians to contact specialist handling companies.”” 
Specialist handling companies? Does he know what that costs? Does he know that, even packed in custom made flight cases, an instrument dropped from the hold will be destroyed forever? Has he ever seen a 375 year-old instrument that has been mangled in shipment? Does he know that for most string players, their violin is the only really valuable thing they own?

This is not about whether top soloists have to make other travel arrangements- their employers have resources to help them do that, although it is a colossal waste of money that could be better spent on music and education. This is about whether meat-and-potatoes, local chamber music projects survive, it is about whether chamber orchestras survive, it is about whether young musicians can study abroad, it is about whether up-and-coming chamber ensembles can enter international competitions, it is about whether young professionals can take auditions, and it is about whether folk musicians, classical freelancers and session players can keep their kids in school. 

This just in- I’ve just heard that one of the UK’s full time orchestras has been warned that they may have to leave all their instruments in quarantine for five days when they return from their US tour this year.

I am not making this up……

I wonder- how many tourists and business travelers have to quarantine their suitcases?

Remember, however—-

“Musicians are still subject to the same restrictions as other passengers”

And none of it makes anyone, anywhere any safer. Surely a laptop is a bigger risk than a violin- there are things on it and in it that can blow up. How does the size or shape of an object make it a security risk? Surely it is the nature of the object and the mind-set of the passenger that makes it a risk. 

What next: no passengers who can’t fit in a “size-wise” box? Too tall? Too Fat? Long Legs?  

“Sorry: for security reasons, we are only accepting passengers on flights out of the UK who are no more than 5’8” tall and 32” wide- and tall or fat passengers are still subject to the same restrictions as everyone else. We advise the un-averagely shapen to contact specialist handling companies.” 

We’re hearing a lot of reports that there might be some changes in UK transport policy, but “might be” and “have been” are not the same thing.

More at-
Jessica Duchen
Norman Lebrecht (writing on Sep 13, 2006)

Remember this-

“Business people had already succeeded in easing restrictions on carrying laptops and duty-free items had been exempted because of the potential financial losses involved, he said. But the monetary clout of musicians may not have been enough to have had an impact.”

Louise Jury in the Independent, Sep 11, 2006”


UPDATE- Promising news in the Guardian, but let’s wait to see the new regulations before we plan a parade. Fingers crossed.

UPDATE- Excellent piece from Salon
 c. 2006 Kenneth Woods 

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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