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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MEMBERS OF THE KZNPO (article first published : 2003-02-7)

You will soon be reading a press release from the Durban City Orchestra/Gateway Philharmonic Orchestra about collaboration between myself and these bodies. As my association with your orchestra and in some cases individuals goes back many years I feel it fair to explain my actions.

Over the last fourteen months I have not been invited to conduct in Durban, which is fair enough, however it has been brought to my attention that a major corporate client, when requesting that I be the conductor with your orchestra was told that this was not possible and that a local conductor was to be used.

As I rely on my freelance work for survival, this interference in my livelihood represents a threat to me personally. In order to continue with my work it is now necessary for me to find an alternative to the KZNPO for work in Durban.

I have made it clear that I feel the DCO should work with the KZNPO as a "feeder" body, providing training and experience for young musicians who are not yet ready for a cadet seat in a professional orchestra. This requires good will and co-operation from both parties and it seems that the KZNPO management feels it has the sole right to everything orchestral in Durban, to the exclusion of all other interested parties.

I feel also that it is necessary to put on paper my side of the story regarding the opera Princess Magogo, especially since you as "the orchestra" have been represented in a court action that has seriously impacted on my life and career.

Your chief executive traveled to Chicago to lobby against the tour of our current production. He was successful and the tour was cancelled at the last minute causing serious financial loss to all involved, including myself as an author who lost out on royalties that would have been paid in respect of the Chicago performances. This matter will be addressed in due course in the appropriate forum. However I think you should know that the monies paid to the members of your orchestra for the right to broadcast the premiere performance came directly from the pockets of the authors, of which I am one. The fee demanded was R2,200 per member, as far as I am aware, which is greatly in excess of the amount that would normally be paid for such a right of broadcast. I have thus personally suffered a considerable loss of income from this action since I signed over my royalty payment to be paid to you, the players, for the premiere. There was never any money to be paid to Opera Africa for the broadcast - these fees were purely authors’ rights.

I think you should also know that certain people who were dropped from the cast for verifiable artistic reasons were demanding a fee of R15,000 each per performance for our State Theatre season, hence their desire to enforce an agreement that was entered into under severe duress. There is a simple word for all that has happened - self interest.

As many of you are personal friends I shall continue to supply your orchestra with music as required from my library, since I do not wish to penalise individuals who may not have any knowledge of the activities of one or two individuals claiming to represent you - but perhaps it is time that you as "the orchestra" started to demand accountability from your management. The legal costs of your court actions so far must be considerable and one must ask from whence this cost is being met, and if it continues how will it impact on the funding (and reputation) of the orchestra.

For the future of orchestral music in this country I am greatly saddened by what has happened, more especially since I devoted more than a year of my life to helping create the Magogo opera, which I gladly did for very little money thinking that it would help the future of music in this country. It seems my agenda is different from others who are supposed to be the custodians of South African culture

The facts as I have stated them above represent what I have been told are true. If there is documentary evidence that contradicts my comments I would like to hear of it.

Michael Hankinson, 6th February 2003, JOHNNESBURG




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