We have been hearing from a number of musicians in the Malaysian Philharmonic about the effects of the recent mass sackings in the orchestra.
The worst of it, says one musician, is that no reason has been given and the actual dismissals are still being denied. ‘No reason leaves us zero chance to argue, clarify or negotiate,’ this player writes.
‘They have consistently refused to provide any reason for the firings,’ confirms another, who enumerates some of the victims:
- Our principal timpani player is a founding member of the MPO, and is one of the strongest and most dynamic musicians in the orchestra. Since 1998 he has been a major personality in Malaysian musical life and has trained several top Malaysian timpanists and percussionists (including at least one who is studying in the USA). I don’t think we can overestimate the cultural loss that will result if he is forced to leave Malaysia. Over the years, he has been invited to play trials with several of the best UK orchestras, and has always chosen to return to Malaysia. He was on his honeymoon when he found out that he was fired. He was vocally opposed to Maestro Flor’s contract renewal.
- The principal trombone has also been with the MPO since 1998. In addition to his duties with the MPO, he has always been an active part of the musical community with teaching, workshops, working and soloing with community and school bands, performing outreach concerts at hospitals and childrens’ homes, and countless other community activities. He also works regularly as a freelance player with other orchestras around the world, when his schedule allows. The low brass section of the MPO is consistently singled out by visiting conductors as one of the orchestra’s outstanding sections. He is married to a Malaysian and has two young children, both born in Malaysia.
- The concertmaster, another founding member of the MPO, can be heard on the many BIS recordings we made. He has two young children. He stood up against Maestro Flor when he attempted to make decisions in the string section that would obviously compromise the quality of their sound and playing.
- We have no idea why the co-concertmaster was fired. She has two children.
- The fired percussionist was hugely involved in community and education activities. She was a big part of GEMA, an ambitious education project initiated by the MPO, and administered jointly by the MPO and the Malaysian Ministry of Education. It involved coordinated long term plans to bring modern and fun music education programs to many primary school Malaysians over a period of 7 years. The whole program was cancelled with no explanation shortly after Puan Raina took over as CEO. As far as I can tell, her only crime was to stand and read a letter (written by others) in a Musicians’ Council meeting, shortly before the infamous “town hall” meeting referenced in your blog comments.
- The tutti violinist who was fired had been the chairperson of the Musicians’ Council for a number of years. He was perhaps the single most identifiable spokesman for the musicians. His wife, a tutti violist is a quiet and gentle person. She was also fired. I suspect that she was fired just to get the management’s point across that absolutely no questioning or dissent will be tolerated. They have a young child, born in Malaysia.
There are plans to audition new musicians in Munich, this May. Unless the Malaysian Philharmonic explains these sackings, they may risk a boycott.