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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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Not sure what is meant by "freelance engagement", but it sounds as though the individuals concerned were not "sacked" as they were not employees in the conventional sense.

If the orchestra management has held auditions and determined that it wants to engage a new member whose musical skills stand scrutiny, and this means a previously engaged member is no longer engaged, that is a legitimate process.

Lebrecht's article doesn't give the reader much to go on, nor does the statement from the boss of the ETO.

Of course, if playing ability should be the only criterion, "20 years" is irrelevant.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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Perhaps we should wait and see what the impact is on the quality of performance before judging the effect of the policy.

The process for determining who should be engaged has been only sketchily described and possibly premature conclusions drawn by those writing about the matter.

If it turns out that the ETO has breached employment law, then I hope that those "employees" who have suffered get due recompense.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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An attempt at greater diversity will have a detrimental effect? That doesn't seem quite so obvious to me.
Nor me

That's not my assumption. I do believe in the idea of the most qualified person getting the job but that doesn't mean that I disagree with the concept of diversity. I'm all for diversity but not at the expense of ability.
I'm also not clear that it is their policy to go for diversity at the expense of quality. What do we know about the characteristics of those who have not been reengaged?
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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Following a recent round of auditions, we are looking forward to welcoming 12 new artists to our freelance orchestra for our spring 2022 tour. This summer we held auditions led by our new Music Director Gerry Cornelius, Artistic Associate Holly Mathieson, and other panellists and were deeply impressed with the quality of musicianship on display.
https://englishtouringopera.org.uk/news/new-orchestral-artists
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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Were these new musicians demonstrably better than the musicians they replaced? That's a question to which I would be interested in hearing the answer.
I'd like to know too. If the ETO runs a reputable orchestra, it would seem unlikely that they would throw that reputation away by recruiting poor quality musicians, no matter how ill-advised their recruitment process. I guess it remains to be seen.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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The assumption is always that hiring is meritocratic. Anyone with familiar with hiring knows this is virtually never the case - personal connections, the tastes (well-intentioned or otherwise) of hiring managers, social skills, interviewing skills, and many other factors come into play. It's very rare that pure meritocracies actually exist (indeed, the lack of diversity is generally taken as evidence that hiring was not meritocratic).

Whether the attempt to "force" diversity into the hiring process is well-intentioned or a good idea is another matter - but one should never take it as tacit truth that things were purely meritocratic before the diversity people got their hands on it.
I've also found recruitment practices have been somewhat hit and miss in terms of a successful outcome. What is it like more generally in the orchestra business?
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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I can see that from the point of view of an individual freelance member of the orchestra, to fail to be engaged for a season when previously in more or less continuous employment with the ETO might seem grossly unfair. But it appears that the basis on which members are hired is on a seasonal basis, and that this is known to those who are engaged. Why else would they be repeatedly auditioned as ingelou described (if I understood her right)?

The two articles I've read about the matter do not seem to me to be wholly unbiased in their reporting. There is more to this than the apparent "sacking" of one set of freelance musicians in favour of another set merely on non-musical capability grounds.

It certainly sounds like a case of a "new broom sweeping clean". That always ruffles feathers.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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This is my point of view too. I am shocked by ETO's new policy - we have a friend who plays with them and, yes, he's white, but so what? ETO could reasonably make people re-audition and then, other things being equal, accept people who'll boost their diversity quotient, but musical ability should remain the prime consideration, in my opinion.

How can we have trust in any organisation, musical or not, if they don't prioritise skill and ability in the chosen field?
The letter from the CEO is not brilliantly worded, IMO, and I wonder if it has been "overinterpreted"

there have been recent auditions to inform that work. English Touring Opera is committed to increasing all kinds of diversity in its team, and while there have been appreciable, steady advances on stage in this area, we have prioritised increased diversity in the orchestra
I do not interpret "prioritised" here as meaning that musical skill has been dropped as a priority, especially given the fact that there were auditions.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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The Mail reports that the Arts Council, "didn't tell the ETO to send the letter," but the ETO letter doesn't claim that it did, only that it was acting "in line with firm guidance" from the Council.

If those who were not reengaged can establish that in law, they were unfairly dismissed, then they may get some satisfaction.

However, the letter is rather woolly with regard to the "sackings", saying, "It does seem likely that ETO will not be in a position to offer you a freelance engagement."

There's a way out through compromise here.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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I think, from what we've been able to glean, that the musicians concerned have been treated unfairly, but they would have difficulty in proving that their treatment was unlawful.

The ETO is a business registered as a charity, not a government organisation. But it is part funded by the Arts Council which acts to invest government (taxpayers') money in the Arts. That means the ETO would be expected to operate with policies consistent with other public bodies' (though of course it would still have to write its own).
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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ETO statement on their own website.

English Touring Opera has written today to a number of audience members and musicians who have questions about a report in the Sunday Times related to the recruitment of musicians. The text of our letter is below. [continues]
https://englishtouringopera.org.uk/...a-arrangements-for-engaging-freelance-players

I'd like to have seen The Times original article, but as it's behind a paywall, I only saw others' take on the story. I wonder if this addresses in any way, the concerns raised by The Times, or, more importantly, by the freelancers themselves.

It was published 3 days ago. I note that Slipped Disc has not yet caught up.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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Now go away before I get angry with you.
Too late already, I think. Why would you get angry? And why should anyone have to leave, just because you might? You have your view on what has happened, others here have a different view, though they don't post angry if challenged.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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On the other hand, in the UK at least, successive governments have tinkered both positively and negatively with employment rights. It's by no means the case that rights have merely been eroded. For example:

https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/emp-law/about/legislation-updates#gref

Whilst I get the 'irony' bit, it seems to me that the ETO is simply doing this year what it has done in previous years, and which no-one paid any attention to: freelancers were already being "sacked" from year to year, because that's the nature of its employment practice.
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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Should one of the aggrieved freelancers take the ETO to court, then a determination can be made on the case. Until then, we can all rest easy in our armchair speculation about what the points are on which the matter might be decided. I doubt it will hinge on what the CEO wrote in his letter, but on what actions were actually taken and what parts of employment law a judge decides applies in this case. One take on the Uber case says this:

The Supreme Court explained that the true picture of a working relationship may not be fully represented by a written agreement, even where it has been read, understood and signed by both parties. Therefore, the real situation and conduct of the parties must also be considered.
https://www.shoosmiths.co.uk/insigh...-decision-in-the-uber-case-mean-for-employers

If the written contract is less important than the reality of the arrangement, how much less so is the CEO's letter?

Have any of the musicians themselves actually spoken out? Is a court case likely?
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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My own feeling this is a retrograde step as a musician should merely be hired on the basis of their ability not on some diversity whim by an arts council freak who probably doesn't know Bach from the Beatles.
So the idea of diversity, never mind the clumsy letter, should have no part to play in recruitment at all? Or is music some special field and diversity is okay in others?
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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Recruitment should be on the basis of ability. Anything wrong with that?
So, taking the most obvious example of "recrutiment by ability alone", the VPO was totally justified in not having any women in its ranks until the recent past (1997)?
 

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Sibelius, Beethoven, Satie, Debussy
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Yes, diversity should play no part at all in hiring, except "negatively", i.e. nobody should be in principle excluded because of race, gender etc.*
Only if they're no good enough women players in Vienna at the time. Otherwise it was discriminatory.
Which is of course a very good thing because sport should be racially inclusive
So, all in all, "diversity" should play some part.

This is obviously the point with all this diversity dogma.
Well, I'm sure you can find examples of "diversity dogma". But you can also find examples of intolerance of genuine notions of diversity. Who's to say which?

I'm quite sure no-one here would actually want women, or ethnic minorities barred from orchestras, but some seem willing to jump on an "anti-woke" band wagon without really giving any thought to the complexities.

Music seems to me a particularly good example of the difficulty of deciding who should be recruited to an orchestra, because of the challenge of determining who is, actually, a better player. Take, for example, these vacancies:

https://www.berliner-philharmoniker.de/en/vacant-positions/

It's reasonable to assume that the BPO will get more applicants than there are places available, and that several will be suitably qualified - ie, they are excellent players. Now, I don't know what policy is in Germany regarding equal opportunities, or what recruitment policy is at the BPO, but I don't doubt that those responsible for making the selections will be well aware that they need to have taken diversity issues into account at some point in the process in order to ensure that not only have they appointed the best musician, but that their processes and decisions have not inadvertently or deliberately discriminated against applicants who meet one of the relevant characteristics. The LSO isn't recruiting at the mo, but they do have this statement on their website:

As an equal opportunities employer, the LSO is committed to the equal treatment of all current and prospective employees and does not condone discrimination on the basis of age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, race or ethnicity, religion or belief, gender identity, or marriage and civil partnership.

We aspire to have a diverse and inclusive workplace and strongly encourage suitably qualified applicants from a wide range of backgrounds to apply and join the LSO.
I'm sure the BPO will operate in a similar way. So, is this "diversity dogma"? Or appropriate recruitment policy?
 
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