culture clash

Imagine you’ve shelled out $31 for a ticket to hear the RPO. The players are warming up. The lights dim. A lanky young man walks out on stage. He’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He flips back his bangs and makes a short speech about the importance of the orchestra, asking the crowd to support it as much as possible.

Ohmygosh! It's Rochester teen pop idol Teddy Geiger! Talking about the RPO!

He finishes his speech and saunters offstage. A few audience members are whistling and clapping. Others are scratching their heads.

If this seems like a weird scenario (it didn't really happen), it’s not so strange in Portland, Oregon, where Thomas Lauderdale of pop orchestra Pink Martini is serving as a cheerleader-in-residence for the Oregon Symphony.

Journalist Stephen Marc Beaudoin writes, “Thomas Lauderdale skipped onto the Schnitzer Concert Hall stage to thunderous applause. It was opening night of the Oregon Symphony's new season. Lauderdale – Portland band Pink Martini's sassy spike-haired leader – trotted out, flashed a big grin, and gushed breathlessly about the Symphony's season ahead.”

Later in his article “Can anybody fix the Oregon Symphony?” Beaudoin states,

“His newly visible participation seems shrewdly designed to reposition the Symphony as a cultural institution as hip, as necessary, and as unmistakably Portland as Lauderdale himself. There's one problem, though. The Oregon Symphony is not that institution.”

Beaudoin’s brave and funny piece has sparked public debate about the Oregon Symphony and its image. His online comments page is filling up.

“I found Stephen Marc Beaudoin’s recent article about the Oregon Symphony distressing. Snide and cynical, it certainly is effective journalism (people are actually responding!) but is filled with half baked hypotheses and untruths. And I feel for the good people at the OSO, all of them – orchestra members, staff, Kalmar, board and other volunteers – who are “fighting the good fight” to make the OSO as good and successful as it can be."

Even the president of the Oregon Symphony Association, Elaine Calder, chimed in,

”No, we aren’t as “hip” as Lauderdale, and not as “unmistakably Portland” – whatever that means. But we are Portland’s local orchestra, and “local” resonates with Portlanders.”

This kafuffle has me thinking. Who might be a hip spokesperson for our orchestra?

Stephen Marc Beaudoin’s article is here:

Elaine Calder’s response is here:



Barenaked Ladies

Just saw a preview clip of the Barenaked Ladies (who are considered hip by some) performing with the Boston Pops. The new holiday special will be on WXXI-TV in December. Maybe they included a plea for support during the performance of 'If I Had a Million Dollars'.

If I Had a Million Dollars

What do you think of the clip you saw?

Pops Rock

It was OK. They sang a song I can't think of at the moment - a familiar carol that they recorded with Sarah McLachlan several years ago. In the middle of it, one of the singers said, "Please welcome... Sarah McLachlan!!" The camera scanned the excited crowd. You could see one flabbergasted young woman saying, "No way! No way!". Then they cut back to the stage and the singer said, "Wouldn't that be great? That would be awesome if she was here!" or something to that effect. Got a big laugh.

Anyway, the crowd did look younger than your average Boston Pops crowd, even compared to other shows I've seen with guests like Alison Krauss. There was some patter between Keith Lockhart and the band members before the song so maybe he scored some points with the kids. Who knows if he lost any with the usuals.

Boston Globe reviewer Joel Brown found BNL and the Pops to be a good combination, since "both aim for crowd-pleasing fun rather than deep artistic exploration." He also mentioned a Pops show with My Morning Jacket, which is an even more intriguing match.