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Harmony restored at NH Music Festival

SOON disbands and looks forward to summer season

April 29, 2010
REGIONAL — According to orchestra members and many loyal fans, the beloved New Hampshire Music Festival is "back on track" after abandoning efforts, by the Directors and Management, to change the musical direction and professional composition of the orchestra. These plans ran aground this past winter in a sea of patron discontent.

The trouble started during the last summer season, when a rising tide of "purple ribbons" appeared at concerts, donned by audience members in solidarity with orchestra musicians concerned about proposed personnel changes. It ended just recently in a decision to return to the original composition and artistic vision of the Music Festival.

The Board of Directors in January announced their decision to "invigorate its artistic mission in a more tradition way", with a search for a new Musical Director planned for the 2011 season. In light of the decision to reverse course, Festival Director Henry Fogel and Artistic Director Jonathan Gandelsman agreed to step down from their positions. Plans to develop the Red Hill Property in Center Harbor as a new concert venue have been shelved, the property will be sold and, concerts will continue to be held at the Silver Center for the Arts at Plymouth State University.

In view of these developments, the Executive Committee of the patrons advocacy organization Save Our Orchestra Now (SOON) this week declared "mission accomplished" and announced that the membership agreed to disband the organization at a meeting held on Saturday, April 24 in Plymouth. The SOON Executive Committee recommended the measure in light of the Board of Directors agreement to restore a more traditional model to the Festival and to work inclusively and cooperatively with patrons and donors as they face the challenges of the future.

"It has been exactly nine months now since we started this organization," said SOON President Gene Sharp. "I hope we have given birth to a new chapter in the N.H. Music Festival history. As a result of an amazing ad hoc group of people coming together in a citizen's upheaval, we will all enjoy the same orchestra in the 2010 summer season as we had for the 2009 season. Miracles do happen. Our work is done."

Orchestra members were on hand Saturday afternoon to express their gratitude for the support of SOON members and others throughout the difficult period of time. Each musician chose to perform music that seemed to echo the theme of a dramatic change in mood, of conflict and tumult being ultimately resolved, with diverse "voices" coming together despite differences, because of an underlying unity of purpose.

The afternoon concert and meeting was a celebration of months of effort on the part of orchestra committee members and SOON members to restore the traditional artistic vision of the Festival. But few members were looking backward at the past few months of disagreement. Everyone seemed to be eagerly looking forward to a wonderful summer season ahead.

Sounding a tone of reconciliation, Sharp said that it will take time to heal all the wounds of the last year, but he told SOON members in attendance that he personally felt that everyone on the Board of Directors had been motivated sincerely with a genuine concern for the financial future of the Music Festival and each person had done what they truly thought was in the best interests of the orchestra.

Se veral Board members have resigned in the wake of recent decisions and several major donors have withdrawn their contributions as well, leaving the Festival in a still more precarious financial situation. However, three new Directors have been appointed to the Board including Sid Lovett, Steve Tessler and former Laconia Citizen Editor and Manager John Howe. Ron Sibley has been made Chairman of the Board. Rusty McLear is Vice-President.

Tessler Saturday urged former SOON members and others who love the orchestra to work diligently to rally support for the upcoming season and to help solve the financial challenges facing the Festival in the year ahead.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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