Libby Larsen on the orchestras

Acclaimed Minnesota composer Libby Larsen spoke to the Westminster Town Hall Forum Thursday.

20130221_libby-larsen_39.jpgThe Grammy Award-winner’s topic was “What You Hear is What You Get: A Composer on Composing.” As you might expect her address was both informative and energetic.

And as you might also expect, when she took questions from the audience at the end she received several queries about her thoughts, as a composer, on the current labor conflicts at the Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

This is what she said:

Because I am not an orchestral musician, nor am I an administrator, I can watch and consider the situation from a little different perspective, though I am a performing musician and I sat on the Orchestra League Board of Directors for a number of terms, and also the Minnesota Orchestra Board of Directors for a number of terms.

So I think I see the 100 year situation that is currently afoot here in the Twin Cities. And it’s a tragedy, because no music is being made. And to not hear the music and to only hear about the current business situation of the music is really a tragedy.

Now, will it be solved? Yes, it will be solved one way or another. Are there sides? In my opinion there are no sides. It’s a huge situation that has gotten out of control. Not with this orchestra, with ALL orchestras in the country. And it needs to find its new footing – whatever that is. And Minnesota is the place where I think we are going to find out. We are after all pioneers. We love great ideas. We love to see how things play out. After all we did elect Jesse Ventura!

So I have high hopes that however the situation plays out, it will be played out in the Scandinavian collective way we do things here in Minnesota. And if it plays out well, which will probably be long term, then we can be a very strong model for really what is about a 100 year problem. Which I’d be happy to lecture on, but probably not today.

You can hear Larsen’s entire address on MPR News Presents at noon today and will be posted later on the program’s web page.

Here is an example of Larsen’s work sung by the San Francisco Girls Chorus:

(Submitted photo of Libby Larsen)

  • Performing Artist52

    Ms. Larson,

    I do not understand what the “100 year old situation or problem” is. It would be interesting to know what you might be referring to.

    I do not have high hopes that the solution to the problem will have a positive outcome for the musicans. Does Mr. Henson and the board of directors really want to continue to have a world class orchestra or are they more interested in Orchestra Hall being a performing venue for more pops concerts and hiring a “professional orchestra” a few times per year to play classical music. There is so much money being utilized for the new lobby with millions left over for “artistic initiatives”. Wouldn’t the musicans be part of artstic initiatives? This is just so wrong!

    Yes, Minnesotans are pioneers but this is one area that I would rather not be a pioneer.

    This is a tragedy for classical music here in the Twin Cities.

  • Julia Douglass

    One of the reasons we moved here two and a half years from New York City was because of the Minnesota Orchestra. We needed a city that could give us a world class culture fix. We needed an entity that could compete with the “Big Boys” like Berlin, New York, London, and not have a qualifier “really good for a city of it’s size” attached to it. The Minnesota Orchestra was such an entity. And so we came and went to the symphony every Friday and it was fantastic. We could go and the symphony was ten minutes from our apartment. Not the case when we lived in New York when it took us an hour and a half to get anywhere. And so we thought we had beat the system. And felt quite smug. Well, things certainly are different now. Never would have thought Minnesota would allow the quality of it’s top symphony to deteriorate to a second tier or third tier status because they didn’t want to pay for it.