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Royal Concertgebouw... all men?


Stephen  Fine

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It is the Vienna Philharmonic that is (or at least was, until very recently) the last all-male bastion. I believe they finally have their first woman--a harpist. There was quite a stir about this in the musical press two or three years ago. Many members of the orchestra went on record against admitting the first woman. Their arguments were uncommonly silly. I'm glad I don't live in Vienna.

Interestingly, the Boston Symphony had no female members until Doriot Anthony Dwyer was hired as principal flutist in the early '50's. It was by then the last major hold-out among big-league US ensembles.

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I know that I'll get flack for this, but it's no secret that having a female in a group of guys, CAN cause trouble.

At 37 years old, I've seen MANY groups, bands, who were all of one, male or female, let in the other, and the group falls apart.

I've seen the groups fall apart, and I've seen marriages fall apart. I am not talking off my hat here. I have a couple of very close examples that I wont go into here.

Connecting with someone through music, is a very soul-touching experience and often confused for love.

Now, of course, I know that there are many women and men who co-exist in orchestras all over the country and can keep their pants on. But given the right set of circumstances, the right people at the wrong time in their life, things can happen.

I'm sure that these Vienna guys had come to the agreement that "no women" would make their lives easier at home. And, I'd have to say that I understand where that's coming from.

I'm not trying to be prehistoric here. I'm just stating the facts. Does anyone agree?

[This message has been edited by crystal (edited 11-27-2001).]

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Crystal,

I agree that what you say is one of the arguments sometimes given for keeping groups all one sex.

Of course it's full of holes for lots of reasons, not least of which is that it also assumes that the gay people in the group will stay in the closet. Even within all-male or all-female institutions, it is very common for some pair-bonding to occur.

I never thought of orchestra as a sexy place, however. It's not like the close working relationships in a small band or chamber group. So I don't think the idea of romantic distractions holds water.

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This is a little off the subject, but yes, I agree with Crystal that co-ed fiddling can be a bit dicey (sp)at times.

Playing music is, by its nature, an intimate act, IMHO. (Singing is also.) So, we all have to be carefull in mixed company.

Someone once said of contra-dancing that is an, "acceptable form of physical contact with the oposite gender".

I kind of feel the same way about music. But, I would hate to think that the fact that it can be enjoyable and that some people could missunderstand their feelings, would ever be a reason to segregate... That would be a sad state of affairs.

Come to think of it, sometimes at our session, after a great set of tunes, where everyone is in the grove, (and after a pint or three) one of the guys will say, in a weepy, overy maudlin voice, "I love you guys!".

Naturally, we all laugh, but there is some real truth to what he says, and I think we all feel it.

I bet that people who play chamber music in small groups have the same experience.

The solution, as pointed out by Crystal, is simply to keep one's trousers on. That's just part of being a grown-up.

Anyway, as the french say, Vive la differance!

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quote:

Originally posted by fubbi2:

I speak as a man -

Men are weak.

When women are in the group, the attention wanders. It's not the women's fault, it's just the way we're built.

Women can keep their hormones in a seperate compartment...men only have ONE compartment.

laugh.gif

I guess that is why professional orchestras are such notorious hotbeds of unrestrained, non-consensual s*x!

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Pouring oil on what should be a raging bonfire soon, how come the Vienna Philharmonic is prehistoric but if someone announced the formation of an all-female orchestra it would be hip, cool, empowering, good role models, throughly modern and about time.

I think that if us boys want to form a club with a big no girls allowed sign, we should have that right, as should the girls. Speaking from my own gender bias, boys act differently when the girls aren't around. I'm getting around to agreeing with Crystal that there is a sexual factor in the equation that is zero in uni-gender situations.

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quote:

Originally posted by Cedar:

Speaking from my own gender bias, boys act differently when the girls aren't around. B]

Yes, they do. They do a lot more belching and f*rting and giggling about it. The time I spent floating around on US Navy ships as a young man--when only men went to sea-- was easily the most unpleasant of my life.

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quote:

Originally posted by bleeviola:

Crystal,

I agree that what you say is one of the arguments sometimes given for keeping groups all one sex.

Of course it's full of holes for lots of reasons, not least of which is that it also assumes that the gay people in the group will stay in the closet. Even within all-male or all-female institutions, it is very common for some pair-bonding to occur.

I never thought of orchestra as a sexy place, however. It's not like the close working relationships in a small band or chamber group. So I don't think the idea of romantic distractions holds water.

Dear Blee:

I don't know if you are male or female, but yes, my angle is very water tight. I am glad that for you, you have been around more together people who haven't gotten music and love confused.

I can name numerous examples of these situations" evolving from just professional co-workers, to what eventually became a relationship. Not saying that that relationship didn't also fall apart, because it was built on a rocky foundation in the first place.

Like I said, if you have two people, in the right circumstance at the just the right point in their lives, the bond formed from music is easily mistaken for love. I have seen it and witnessed it several times with my own eyes. My very own niece, for one, ran off with her guitar player and divorced her husband, with the dream that they were going to "make it big" playing their music together. But I also know of other more "professional" examples.

As far as gays, I cannot comment on that. Although I would say that if one had gay tendencies that were yet to be discovered, and found a fellow player that he/she connected with, the very same would happen. I certainly am not qualified to comment or even discuss the gay community or their habits so that's where I'll end discussion of gays.

I am simply saying that music brings about feelings, that often aren't ever touched in any other way. We all know, as players, that music reaches parts of the soul that no words can ever reach. If you are touched by music and that certain special person is available, things can and DO happen.

I'm not saying this is right or trying to justify it. Again, this is just fact.

Am I saying that men and women should not be allowed to play together? Obviously not. Men and women have to co-exist together in the workplace, hospital, factory, orchestra, wherever. I do not wish to go back to prehistoric days where women aren't allowed to do anything. But because of this freedom, both sexes are called to take much more responsibility.

Freedoms do not come without costs.

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Lymond, I think the Berlin Phil used to be all men and I'm not sure of its current standing. Many years ago I was told (with no actual validation) that major European orchestras preferred to give the full time playing positions to men because it was thought women would not want to make a permanent career commitment. Women were expected to marry and raise children. The old orchestra ideal is to have, as permanent as possible, career-term members. This also applied to the conductor as well. Bernard Haitink (sp?) conducted the Concetgebouw over 50 years. This longevity helped make the Concertgebouw one of the truly great orchestras. I attibute this to the life-long permanent careers of its members.

The argument that this thread took regarding the personal involvment of any musical groups players is an interesting one. I agree with Crystal. I have seen, all too often, romances causing trouble with groups, whether gay or non-gay. The ensemble becomes the child in the break up. Who gets to remain with the group and who leaves. The ensemble members feel sides must be taken and eventually both members end up leaving the group.

It's not the romance side that caused few women to breach the ranks of those European orchestras. It's more the mind-set of the European musician in offering the career to a woman. This is slowly changing as the old era conductors retire and are replaced by younger blood.

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quote:

Originally posted by Tenor1:

This also applied to the conductor as well. Bernard Haitink (sp?) conducted the Concetgebouw over 50 years. This longevity helped make the Concertgebouw one of the truly great orchestras.

Actually, I can supply the spelling of "Bernard Haitink." His name is spelled as follows: W-i-l-l-e-m M-e-n-g-e-l-b-e-r-g.

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Actually, I wasn't trying to be hostile. Maybe my Scrooge tendencies are coming out from hearing all the stylized Christmas music loops in the local supermarket.

The conductor who spent 50 years or so at the helm of the Concertgebouw was the redoubtable Willem Mengelberg. I think he conducted that orchestra until the late 40's.

Haitink came much later, and had a much shorter tenure. Haitink succeeded Eduard van Beinum, who in turn, I believe, succeeded Mengelberg.

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quote:

Originally posted by crystal:

I don't know if you are male or female, but yes, my angle is very water tight. I am glad that for you, you have been around more together people who haven't gotten music and love confused.


Crystal, I apologize for not being clear about what I meant. Basically, in the last part of my message I was trying to say that the smaller the group, the more intense the feelings can be as people work more closely with fewer others present. My "doesn't hold water" comment was meant to be about orchestras, not smaller groups. True, I have seen plenty of romances spring up in orchestras, but no more than in other large organizations (offices, schools, etc.) in which I have worked. A chamber group or small band, however, can really bring strong feelings out of people that can collide with, appear to be, or turn into, feelings of love.

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quote:

Originally posted by K545:

The conductor who spent 50 years or so at the helm of the Concertgebouw was the redoubtable Willem Mengelberg. I think he conducted that orchestra until the late 40's.

Mid-40s, actually. He was tossed out after the War for allegedly having been too friendly with the occupying authorities. As per usual, there is a bit of controversy surrounding this issue, and I think he might have been on the verge of rehabilitation at the time of his death in 1949.

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quote:

Originally posted by Stephen:

Mid-40s, actually. He was tossed out after the War for allegedly having been too friendly with the occupying authorities. As per usual, there is a bit of controversy surrounding this issue, and I think he might have been on the verge of rehabilitation at the time of his death in 1949.

He died in 1951, actually.

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An orchestra has dozens upon dozens of players -- 75+ players for a smaller regional symphony, and if you're doing a Mahler symphony, you could easily have 100+ players around. It's not exactly a tiny and intimate community, though of course it's the size of a small company and presumably everyone eventually gets to sorta know everyone else.

None of crystal's arguments hold water to me, either, and I'm trying hard not to find them offensive.

In a long-term, close-knit group -- consider that members of major symphonies often spend a lifetime in a group -- there's already plenty of friction. Members do have long-running feuds. There are past teacher-pupil associations. People have lived together, argued, made up, whatever. Players become friends or enemies. But they still gather together to make music and seem to manage just fine.

I have not seen one scrap of evidence that says, for instance, that the Vienna Philharmonic concentrates any better, performs better, makes more efficient use of rehearsal time, or has a more frictionless existence than, say, the New York Philharmonic does.

Vienna is an all-boys club because it has chosen to stay that way for reasons of tradition that have nothing whatsoever to do with logic. If they were basing things purely on merit and wanted to go single-sex, perhaps they should become an all-female orchestra. crazy.gif Seems like most of the folks winning major orchestral posts these days are women, at least in the USA.

Frankly, I don't think women should be barred from any workplace just because here and there, there are some men who can't keep it in their pants, or at least keep it out of the professional environment.

[This message has been edited by lwl (edited 11-28-2001).]

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quote:

Originally posted by lwl:

None of crystal's arguments hold water to me, either, and I'm trying hard not to find them offensive.

[This message has been edited by lwl (edited 11-28-2001).]

Lydia:

Offensive? Please get a grip. If this doesn't pertain to you, that's a good thing. It doesn't pertain to alot of people, and that's also good. You are a very intelligent person, who always sounds very much like you have it all together and are very level headed. I'm sure you are not among the people that I'm talking about.

How can you possibly be offended at what I've said? I haven't said that this is always the case, or it evens happens to half of the players in any situation. Whether you like it or agree with it or not, it IS the truth that SOME people have trouble in this area.

[This message has been edited by crystal (edited 11-28-2001).]

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