Brexit: the ruin of British music

IIn Munich you are in luck. Simon Rattle signed his much anticipated contract with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO) on January 3rd. After WELT had already announced its arrival on Saturday, the outgoing director Ulrich Wilhelm has now officially confirmed the pleasant fact one day earlier than planned.

And Simon Rattle acted as clever as he was wise. In order not to dupe the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), of which he has only been chief since 2017, his contract, which runs until 2022, will be extended by one season; Rattle will not start on the Isar until summer 2023.

In addition, the LSO may then call him Honorary Conductor for life, which includes a four to six week presence on the Thames. In this way, the 66-year-old will be able to divide the time between Munich, London and his other obligations in Berlin (where he will also be living) in the best possible way.

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While the Munich press release explicitly mentioned the boss’s commitment to the hall to be built in the Werksviertel behind the Ostbahnhof there, the LSO did not even mention a new hall in London. If Sir Simon was there expressly to promote a new hall as the most famous English classical artist, this topic has been buried as a cultural thing of impossibility in the current social and economic climate, although there have long been plans.

The failed concert hall plan is not the worst that British musicians are currently confronted with. Brexit is already showing its cold shoulder. As the “Independent” reported, the UK is rejecting an offer of visa-free travel for musicians to EU countries.

“In our agreements with third countries, it is usually not necessary to issue (work) visas for musicians. We tried to include this in the new post-Brexit rules, but the UK said ‘no’, ”the newspaper quoted an EU source as saying.

Sir Simon Rattle was not chief of the London Symphony Orchestra building in St. Luke's for a long time

Sir Simon Rattle was not chief of the London Symphony Orchestra building in St. Luke’s for a long time

Quelle: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

The standard rule offered by the EU would have stipulated that British musicians who come to work for up to 90 days can do so without a visa, since a short-term exchange in this group is essential for survival.

Thus, free musicians would not have to go to the respective embassies for a visa that costs up to 80 euros for each engagement, which is time-consuming and costly (which states like Spain, for example, only issue after weeks of examination). And that would have to be granted individually for three to four countries on orchestral tours.

So far the actual employment conditions have been taken into account. Because in Britain very few musicians can make a living from a job. Even the members of the great London orchestras all play in other ensembles on the side.

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For many, this has also been a welcome opportunity in the past few decades – with a not inconsiderable financial risk – to escape the boring collective routine with decisions made by management. This is one of the reasons why the free chamber orchestras were not only booming in England; there is no other form of existence in baroque music.

And of course, many players from this well-networked pool of musicians have made regular guest appearances in other ensembles in Europe. Whether at the Paris-based Les Arts Florissants or the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, which is based in Berlin, the British also sit at the desks regularly or for specific projects.

And if there were failures, then you could jump in from London spontaneously and quickly as a well-known and proven temporary help. Only for a few days of concerts, for a long-term opera project or an international tour.

BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 20: Singer Tim Burgess of The Charlatans perform live on stage during a concert at the Columbia Theater on February 20, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Jana Legler/Redferns)

Will not happen again so easily: Tim Burgess and The Charlatans in Berlin

Quelle: Redferns

If the “Independent” story proves to be true, the musicians would once again have drawn the loser card. In any case, they are tamed by the absurd, constantly changing rules of the airlines with regard to taking their instruments with you in the cabin and, especially with valuable, old cellos or violins, are kept in check by customs officers and nature conservationists (ivory! Ebony!).

And that, where most of the past ten months have made next to nothing anyway. Allegedly, that’s why more than half of British musicians are seriously considering giving up their profession.

Many lobby organizations have already reacted. The head of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said she was “appalled.” English pop stars like the folk singer Laura Marling and Tim Burgess, the front man of the Charlatans, who are also affected, have already signed a parliamentary petition calling for visa-free tours, which is supported by almost 230,000 people.


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