“Love in all eight tones and all five semitones of the word’s full octave.” Stephen Fry
Happy anniversary to US! It’s hard to believe it has been eight years since Scott Dorsey asked me to become a regular ChoralNet Blogger. At first, I worried about having enough material to write a regular blog on something I termed “Choral Ethics.” In fact, I decided to call my Blog Choral Potpourri/Choral Ethics so I could write about other things as well. I needn’t have worried because the choral profession and indeed, the classical music world has provided more than enough material for me to write about. Beginning today and moving forward, this Blog will just be called “Choral Ethics.”
Most summers, I take a break from writing and run the “Best of……” blogs from years past. This year was no exception but that doesn’t mean I stop thinking or doing research on Choral Ethics. I HAD planned to write a review of a very good new book today, “Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma” (by Claire Dederer, Alfred A. Kropf, New York, 2023), but in recent weeks the Classical Music World had other ideas. My review will be the subject of next week’s Blog.
Recently, a Very Famous Conductor had a meltdown backstage and slapped, as well as punched, a singer for going around his podium the wrong way. Very Famous Conductor is in therapy and treatment for–something—and is not going to conduct his scheduled concerts (his replacement hasn’t been announced yet) for the rest of the year. His management released a statement of regret and acknowledgement of his error in behavior and judgement.
A Very Famous Opera Singer pleaded guilty to sexual assault and is serving probation but is bragging (or seems gleeful?) about getting singing gigs in Europe. He doesn’t appear remorseful at all for his behavior but is happy to report his career is moving on despite this “bump” in the road.
With the #MeToo movement and a change in what will NO LONGER BE TOLERATED, things have certainly changed since I began writing about all things Choral Ethics related back in 2015. We would have noted these two Famous Musicians and their behavior of course, but we would have thrown up our hands and said, “what can we do?” Social media and the rapidity of news of abhorrent behaviors being acknowledged by witnesses and their followers have changed our feelings of helplessness. We are all in “Cancel Culture” mode, and it makes us feel powerful to Cancel these folks, but is this right way to handle this? Because who are we to judge?
Very Famous Conductor has a history of being a Jerk to those he works with but, to my knowledge, this is the first time he has gotten physical. He often gets a “pass” because he programs unique things and is known as a historically informed brilliant conductor/director. Hot weather, changes in medication, exhaustion all seem like likely excuses for his behavior in this incident. And anger management therapy also seems like a good idea. Though saying the right things, through his management, it seems tone-deaf but perhaps he IS sincere. We can’t get inside his head to know if he’s sincere or not, but we CAN observe and note his behavior from this day forward.
Very Famous Opera Singer is happy he has scheduled singing gigs in Europe and has let everyone know, via social media. He never mentions regret or remorse for what he did, though he did plead guilty. He mentions he is practicing to get his voice back into shape. Folks are outraged by this behavior. It would have been better for his reputation if he had kept his mouth shut, head down, and not said anything ANYWHERE and just let things play out. He can be happy all he wants privately and not make things worse for himself by calling attention to his situation.
Do we cancel these folks? Do we continue to put up with horrid behavior from the Ultra-Talented? Where do we draw the line? Please comment below and let us know how you feel!
My readers, my ChoralNetter correspondents, provide many interesting subjects we ponder here in this space. And later this month, expect a few interesting Choral Ethics dilemmas from my loyal ChoralNetter readers. In fact, if YOU have a Choral Ethics dilemma, please contact me: and we can figure it out together!