Louisiana Philharmonic Scattered by Katrina

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Louisiana Philharmonic Scattered by Katrina

Post by Lance » Mon Sep 19, 2005 1:22 pm

Louisiana Philharmonic Scattered
to the Four Winds by Hurricane Katrina

By Deborah Hastings
Associated Press - 10 September 2005

The bassoon player is holed up in Texas. The violins are scattered across Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Illinois and Tennessee. The French hornist, who also plays the garden hose, is stuck in Nashville.

Katrina has blown the 68-member Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra — the only full-time symphony in America owned and operated by its musicians — into exile. And no one knows if their beloved ensemble will survive.

The orchestra's audience, the city of New Orleans, is gone. Its venue, the ornate Orpheum Theater in the business district, has taken on water. And many of its musicians have lost their homes.

"There's no reason to have an orchestra if there's no one to play for," said Howard Pink, who escaped with his instruments, all 30 or 40 of them, including his French horns, his ram's horns and a 15-foot alphorn, all of which he uses on his second job as the star of a traveling road show called "Howard Pink and Musical Garden Hoses."

Pink's house in Gretna is ruined. "The water damage is insane," he said. He is staying with friends, 450 miles from home and he can no longer bear to look at the images of his destroyed city. "It's too horrific," he says.

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is the proud of offspring of the New Orleans Symphony, which went bankrupt in 1991, leaving its musicians unemployed and stunned. "They didn't tell us," said bassoonist John Fairlie, who's staying in Temple, Texas. "We found out because we got letters from our health insurance company saying our policies had been canceled."

So the members got together and decided to rebuild the orchestra themselves. They sold their own tickets. They enlisted friends to conduct. "For the first few years," said Pink, "we paid all the bills first and divided what was left as salary. Sometimes that was $50 a week."

Professional French horn players, like every other orchestra member, aren't in it for the money. The pay is lousy — about $18,000 a year in the Louisiana Philharmonic. You have to love the music, and you have to have at least one other job. Pink has his garden hoses. Cellist Kent Jensen conducts a youth symphony and gives private lessons, and sometimes paints houses.

And in New Orleans, an orchestra struggles. Music in the Big Easy means jazz and blues and zydeco — not necessarily Mozart.

"We're not what people think of when they think of music in New Orleans," said Jensen, who has taken refuge at a friend's house in Baton Rouge. "We're not the sexiest thing out there. We're not the biggest thing on the block."

He fled the day before Katrina hit, with his wife, who teaches Japanese at Tulane University, his kids, and the family guinea pig. And, of course, his cello.

Less easy to tote while hightailing out of a flood are the kettle drums. The timpanist, who owns his own turn-of-the-century instruments, stored his in the basement of the Orpheum, which most likely is submerged. No one has been able to reach the theater, but photographs show it engulfed by water.

"Most of us are attached at the hip to what we play," explained Fairlie. "We would never leave without it."

On a Web site and a Google chat group, the orchestra members post messages to each other, giving out phone numbers and e-mails, passing along gig possibilities — the Kalamazoo, Michigan, orchestra has openings — and wondering aloud what is left of their scrappy group, and whether they will collect enough funds and public aid to continue.

"We are dependent on the good will of donors," said Fairlie. "And considering the terrible state of our city, I'm just really worried that the arts will suffer. And without the arts, what makes us human?"


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Post by MahlerSnob » Mon Sep 19, 2005 10:33 pm

Oddly enough, a friend of mine just won fourth horn in the LPO and was supposed to start playing with them this season. He moved down to New Orleans a week before the storm hit and spent 6 days there before having to turn around and head back. Now he's playing around San Francisco again (where he was before winning the job) and is there at least until the orchestra's first gig of the season which is, I think, in Nashville in another month or so.
-Nathan Lofton
Boston, MA

WWBD - What Would Bach Do?

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Post by Harvested Sorrow » Mon Sep 19, 2005 10:35 pm

I'll put in my two cents:

I know that some of the members are in San Antonio and have decided to stay there, so they're going to be playing in the San Antonio symphony as fill-ins for members that won't be able to make it for rehearsals or concerts, so they'll have jobs.

That's all I can say on the situation.


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