music to unite, not divide

I’ve been away from work for the past week due to a death in the family, but I’d heard through the grapevine that OSO music director Carlos Kalmar had made some powerful and well-received remarks on immigration and the power of music before each of this past weekend’s subscription concerts. The Oregonian just published the transcribed remarks, and I thought I’d share them with you here.

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening,

I have been thinking a lot about this interesting profession that I am in. I’m not referring to my profession as a conductor, but the profession that we all here on stage share – that of musicians. Musicians express themselves through an art form that does not need any words. What we do is understood by literally everybody on this planet.

I have thought lately that that is actually something wonderful, because we all come here and we play for you. There are these fantastic moments during which we all share the same sentiment, the same emotion.  We can be happy together. We can cry together. Whatever it is, we all agree.

And I have been thinking about this unifying power that music has. Where words fail to bring people together, music can.

You know, this is a very personal concert for me. Aspects of the life of two of tonight’s composers-Tchaikovsky, whose homosexuality made him an outcast, and Prokofiev, who suffered political oppression-are a reflection of the things that I have seen in my own life. The Jewish heritage of my parents made them flee their central European home for South America where my brother and I were born. Many years later I immigrated to the United States of America.

It is my hope that tonight you will all join me in reflecting on the beauty that musicians around the world bring to all our lives regardless of their background.


7 Replies to “music to unite, not divide”

  1. It was very moving to hear Carlos’s thoughts Monday night. I’m so grateful that he shared them with us. He got a standing ovation and I wasn’t sure when he would be able to start the first piece. Kudos to Carlos and thanks for posting. So sorry that you lost another parent! Pretty tough and we missed you on stage.

  2. So glad you referenced this — it was powerful and the applause was lengthy. Since I don’t get the Oregonian on Tuesdays I would have missed the opportunity to send it on to friends.

  3. Two reported quips I heard once come to mind: “If I want to send a message, I”ll call Western Union” and “Mister Klemperer(or in this case Kalmar), you talk too much!” Call me also unimpressed and not amused by the Oregon Symphony PC new season …. they”ve likely lost a patron of some 35 years… so long.

    1. I just want to see if I’m understanding you. You’re bagging an entire season because, what, George Takei is narrating Lincoln Portrait? Seems a bit extreme. I would also hesitate to call freedom of expression being ‘PC’. But that’s your prerogative…

      1. As offended as I am that the OSO isn’t including any music by PDX native Lou Harrison during his 100th birth year (2017), that won’t stop me from coming on out for the few programs that honestly interest me
        So, my advice to Ken is drop back aboard when a particular show tickles your fancy & skip the rest. Why not?

  4. THESE are the remarks that have upset (apparently relatively few) people?? Some parts of the elephant’s hide have grown very thin indeed. I leave to others speculation about which…

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