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Saving money by pissing off the patrons

0 Robert Levine

Concerts get cancelled all the time, but usually not high-profile concerts conducted by the music director two weeks in advance of the concert:

The Honolulu Symphony board has done something unprecedented that will shock some patrons while possibly giving encouragement to people who have written big checks for the orchestra.

It has canceled a concert on the grounds that the cost of it would return the Symphony to serious financial trouble. The concert, which had been scheduled in two weeks, was to have been a performance of Haydn’s “Creation,” a large choral work.

The Symphony board made the announcement Tuesday and said Maestro Andreas Delfs had been briefed on the decision and provided input into it. The decision may alarm some people but the current board said over the summer it was determined to get the Symphony onto more of a secure business footing.

It’s not fair to criticize a decision like this without knowing more than this report provides. But it does provide a window into the depth of problems faced by the Honolulu Symphony for them to feel forced to make decisions like this without regard to the damage that such cancellations could do to patron relations. Orchestras depend very heavily on advance ticket sales. Sending the message that buying tickets in advance is not only not necessary but actually counter-productive can hardly be a good long-term move.

But sometimes organizations don’t feel they have the luxury of worrying about the long term. This seems to be one of those occasions.


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