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July, 2004 - Nr. 7


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"Hermann the German"
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Three German Sites...
Venus Draws Stargazers


by Herwig Wandschneider

Herwig Wandschneider

KWS – It is over when it’s over

It definitely is not over – and it should not be, until we all know the whole story, acted upon the facts and satisfied the K-W public. Subscribers, the taxpayers and the public at large have a right to this process and reach their own conclusions about the Board, the Orchestra, and above all about the people, who pull the strings behind the scene.

What we know appears to be this:

  • Martin Fischer-Dieskau (MF-D) was fired and Simon Streatfeild (SS) appointed and contracted.
  • A citizen Group formed and objected to the firing.
  • The Board and the General Manager resigned
  • A new Board was elected and a Manager appointed.
  • Reason for firing was investigated and concluded as unjustified
  • Stated intention was to ask MF-D back
  • Meeting was held between selected Board Members and MF-D to "negotiate" his return. Negotiation Team’s mandated position are two Motions of a recent Board Meeting: MF-D to share Principal Conductor position with Simon Streatfeild. MF-D and SS free to apply for the position again for the next season.
  • MF-D was reported to be hard and inflexible, unwilling to negotiate.
  • Musicians are disheartened. The Record reports that "Barbara Hankins, who represents players, asked directors to help troubled musicians by providing answers. Hankins said musicians are still divided on the Fischer-Dieskau issue and poor morale is not improving. "Right now, the wounds are not being healed . . . the rifts are deep and continue."
  • John Spearn, Chair of the Board, is reported to have said that, quoting The Record, "the Board now believes it’s time to move on from the conductor issue and devote its time and energy to raising funds and planning the new season".
  • KWS releases a four page document titled "Symphony Directors’ Resolution Process", signed by 11 of the 18 Board Members (61%) and published on the KWS website www.kwsymphony.on.ca/2003-04/news.htm. The document covers recent events and the reasoning behind them.
  • Subscriptions are lagging. Moreover, Heritage Canada denied the orchestra’s endowment fund it’s usual annual contribution of $50,000 because of the controversy.

Is there an effort to sweep the entire issue under the carpet as quickly as possible? (A mere 61% of the Board support the concluding report!!) Or was the negotiation committee inadequately qualified to conduct appropriate negotiations? Whichever it was, negotiation failed. Predetermined (starting = final) negotiation positions with totally inadequate negotiation mandate and poor communication cannot result in a positive conclusion. In the process, the Board failed to respond to the wishes of the community and blames it conveniently on the fired Maestro.

Says Fischer-Dieskau in a telephone interview (liberally translated by this writer) : "The results of the investigation by the committee, which was established solely for this investigation, were devastating for the Old Board and yet have inexplicably not been published by the New Board to this date." (May 23, 2004). What has been published has "important omissions", is "hostile" and is "without justice"… "...nothing of the news release on the website of the orchestra can be taken as it is written. Pure propaganda, a scandal".

On the negotiations: "With regard to the conditions for reinstatement I have been absolutely flexible from the first moment". "With just 2, 3 concerts (as Guest Conductor, not as Principal Conductor) and the 05/06 season, my friends (in K-W) and I myself would have already been satisfied and this whole nonsense would have been off the table. One would have been united again, and the orchestra would have been saved..." (from financial difficulties or even potential ruin).

On what to do now: "At this point in time, morale could return just by reinstatement for the 05/06 season. Establishing a programme for Guest-conducting for the 04/05 season is now (May 23, 2004) too late."

Considering that the Board has mandated itself to ask the Maestro to return, but has so far failed to set the stage to negotiate in good faith or even to communicate in a courteous fashion (Fischer-Dieskau states that he has to read about the conclusions of the Board in The Record), one needs to ask, if this Board is any more qualified than the previous Board to represent the KWS in situations, which require a little more than the average level of diplomacy.

It clearly is not a dead issue. It is not resolved until the public has been satisfied, or until the public is simply worn out. Which of these it is, will be reflected by the future enthusiasm of the orchestra and the level of future subscriptions and attendance.

Surely it is not acceptable to the K-W population at large to ruin the reputation, not just of Maestro Fischer-Dieskau, but also that of their own Kitchener-Waterloo community worldwide. Any Maestro worth his salt will not want to be treated in this fashion by any Symphony management.

The fact that Regional Chair Ken Seiling; and Mayors Carl Zehr and Herb Epp publicly now call on the community to focus on the future instead of the past reflects their concern, that this controversy, if it continues, could inflict substantial damage on the KW Symphony and the community as a whole. No doubt, enormous damage has already been done.

There are two cases of firings in the recent history of the KW Symphony. Even substantial financial rescue packages will not suffice to repair the cracks in the devoted classical music-lovers fabric. But an honest, open, and fair approach to communicate at all levels and a solid whole-hearted attempt to repair the damage will.

If indeed the issue should come to rest permanently, then it should be done with the decency of coming forward with the facts, if these facts justify what was done and if there is more than we now know. If, however, this is all there is, then only an invitation to Fischer-Dieskau to be the Principal Conductor for the 05/06 season will suffice. The issue cannot simply be swept under the carpet. Or can it?

Note: Opinions stated are those of the writer, and not necessarily those of Echo Germanica or the German-Canadian Business and Professional Association.

This article, though written for the June 2004 issue of Echo Germanica, got lost somehow in the email jungle or deleted with the vast amount of spam that arrives here daily.
Regardless of how the situation stands right now, the sentiments expressed in this column are valid and we support the viewpoint. - the editor


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