An interesting musicology presentation on Dutch orchestras and Dutch composers in the period 1945 to 2000 prompted me to ask how orchestras are doing today.
In the Netherlands, a country with a population of 16 million and land size of the US state of Maryland, there is a professional orchestra in every major city and many more amateur orchestras. The research study differentiated between resident orchestras and broadcast orchestras. I have to ask the presenter just how many orchestras there are today.
Yet in my subsequent phone conversation with a composer in Hawaii, I was shocked to learn that one of the oldest orchestras in the Western part of the United States has filed for bankruptcy. Founded in 1900, the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra is now under new management to reorganise. How did this happen? Where are the musicians?
The musicology seminar I attended at Utrecht University concerned the topic of “Dutch music performed by Dutch orchestras.” Dutch musicologist Emanuel Overbeeke’s abstract began as “Symphony orchestras play a crucial part in Dutch musical life. They not only offer composers the possibility to present their works and audiences the possibility to get acquainted with new music, they also have their own ideas about the relevance and presentation of contemporary music, the relation between known and unknown pieces on a programme and between composer and audience. Ideas on these issues differ between orchestras and have changed over the years.”
To what extent did Honolulu Symphony Orchestra play a crucial part in life in Hawaii?
How many people have never attended an orchestral concert? How many people have missed out and will miss out? I don’t know. I simply can’t imagine not having an orchestra.