Live, Music, News & Commentary Leo Schofield blasts Sydney Symphony over same-sex marriage stance By Ben Neutze | September 28, 2017 | Tony Abbott yesterday called for politics to be left out of sport, in response to news that popular American rapper Macklemore will be performing his pro-marriage equality hit Same Love at this weekend’s NRL Grand Final. Now it seems Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Board is calling for politics to be left out of music. According to a Facebook post published by arts leader Leo Schofield, SSO staff were yesterday informed that the Board has decided not to publicly support the ‘yes’ campaign in the postal survey on same-sex marriage. Schofield, who served as the inaugural Chair of the SSO Board from 1996 to 2000, says staff were told that the Board did not want to politicise music. He criticised Board members, led by Chair Terrey Arcus, for “defying the palpable solidarity of the arts community and its manifold supporters.” The vast majority of major performing arts companies in Australia have spoken publicly in support of same-sex marriage, including the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Australian Ballet, Opera Australia, Sydney Dance Company, Bell Shakespeare and every state theatre company in the country, including Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company. Every major capital city festival has also thrown its support behind the cause, including Sydney Festival, Melbourne Festival, Brisbane Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, Darwin Festival and Adelaide Festival. Arts companies have largely supported marriage equality in recognition of the huge numbers of people from the LGBTQI community who work in and support the arts. SSO seems to be standing largely on its own in that regard, but some comments on Schofield’s post suggest the orchestra’s actions in recent years haven’t reflected the board’s apparent desire to de-politicise music. As Schofield points out in a subsequent comment, the SSO recently completed a tour of China. He writes: “If that’s not politcial what is?” In addition, the orchestra last year performed a sold-out concert for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, playing for Austrian drag queen and Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst alongside a host of local gay stars, including Paul Capsis, Courtney Act and Trevor Ashley. This year it performed a series of concerts in tribute to late gay pop music icon George Michael. SSO has been contacted for comment.* See the full text of Schofield’s post below: *** On Wednesday, members of the staff of the Sydney Symphony were called together to learn that the board had decided not to publicly support the YES campaign in the forthcoming national market research project masquerading as some kind of serious referendum. This is a disgrace. Every significant arts organisation in the country has nailed its colours to the mast, every arts practitioner worth his or her salt, every thinking patron, sponsor, audience member supports change. The reason the board, supposedly unanimously, has opted for this course is that they don’t want to politicise music. Utter drivel. Music, even in the pursuit of change, has always been political. Great composers, whose music forms the core of the symphonic repertoire, active revolutionaries such as Verdi and Wagner, nationalist like Sibelius, Shostakovich and Britten, recognised that artists need to speak out against injustice. Disgusted at Napoleon’s bellicosity and European power grab, Beethoven struck the name of the Emperor from the dedication page of his Eroica Symphony. In defying the palpable solidarity of the arts community and its manifold supporters, the craven directors of the SSO have, by this decision, aligned themselves with the antediluvian Catholic Archbishops of Sydney and Brisbane, the ginned-up contributors to the skewed letter pages of the Australia, the smoke-screening nonentities of the Christian right and those parliamentarians too cowardly to put the issue to a vote on the floor of the House. Imagine how much glorious music might be commissioned with the one hundred and twenty million dollars that this divisive charade is costing. But despite the current frenzy of piety, mendacity, hypocrisy, prejudice and hatred, whether by a victory in this farcical process or by the sheer force of history, Australia will, and sooner rather than later, bow to the irresistible force of time and join the twenty-two other enlightened countries that have legislated for same sex marriage. As with a thousand such once tumultuous changes, the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, conscription, the 40-hour week, indigenous rights and even 10 o’clock closing, commonsense will prevail and the bigots will be crushed under the wheels of the juggernaught of history. *UPDATE: Sydney Symphony Orchestra has provided the following statement: “The SSO is a highly-respected organisation spanning more than 85 years with members, concert- goers, very generous sponsors and donors, not to mention loyal and committed staff and musicians, all of whom come from wide and diverse backgrounds and opinions. “It has always been the case that the SSO has engendered organisational initiatives and performances that reflect an abiding commitment to inclusiveness, fairness and acceptance and that the company has at its core a commitment to everyone in our community – regardless of gender, orientation, cultural background or religious beliefs – of performing music to the highest calibre for which the orchestra is celebrated around the world. “There is no question that the SSO strongly supports the rights of all citizens to place on the record their views, by way of the private and confidential postal plebiscite and as such, the company does not feel it has the right to take a position and commit our stakeholders to one side or the other and has decided it should remain neutral. We urge all Australians to respect the democratic process of the majority decision, one way or the other, in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation towards each other in a peaceful resolution.” [box]Featured image: Megan Washington and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Photo by Christie Brewster.[/box] Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn Email About the Author: Ben Neutze Ben Neutze is Deputy Editor of Daily Review. He has previously written for Time Out Sydney, The Guardian Australia and Limelight Magazine.