Vancouver Recital Society posts series of provocative conversations

Group also joined distinguished company in sponsoring a series of new concerts streamed from Berlin’s renowned Pierre Boulez Saal.

Provocative thoughts from Bill Palant of New York's Etude Arts. Etude Arts / jpg

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In a time without public concerts, the Vancouver Recital Society (VRS) is doing its utmost to keep its sense of community and involvement going. Part of this has been a series of provocative conversations posted online between VRS founder Leila Getz and a number of classical artists.

The group also joined very distinguished company in sponsoring a series of new music concerts streamed from Berlin’s renowned Pierre Boulez Saal. Getz also wrote a short piece, How are the Managers Managing?, in the society’s regular online newsletter last month.

The response was unexpected and intense. VRS stakeholders were eager to hear how insiders were coping, and managers worldwide were surprised and delighted by Getz’s salute.

“Over the years we’ve built remarkable and lasting relationships with many artists’ managers in various countries,” she noted. “They too take risks, especially when they sign new artists and invest time and money to help build their careers. They believe in them, nurture them, and plan their courses of career-building very carefully.”

Management is always a complicated task, but in recent months it has proved nearly impossible.

“My heart goes out to my dear colleagues and friends who are managers, who had put in hours of work to get us to where we are now, only to find all those plans cancelled,” Getz says.

Bill Palant, managing director of Etude Arts in New York and the former senior vice-president of IMG Artists, knows the struggle well. His roster includes artists heard locally, like singers Julia Bullock and John Tessier, and conductor Cristian Măcelaru. When discussing the current classical music world, Palant was frank with his assessment of what needs to be done to meet the challenges in the months and years ahead.

Beginning the electronic conversation with the notion that the best managers are the least visible ones, Palant didn’t disagree: “The public benefits from the contributions of the artist manager, but there is no place for the public to see or hear us.”

But what, really, does a manager do? Financial and logistic matters, naturally, but what about artistic vision?

“Artists are the ones, more often, who dream up programs/projects that live outside the box, and part of my job, as manager, is to help the artists shape and implement their visions,” says Palant. “Working with artists who challenge themselves and their audiences to ask what exactly is classical music and what makes it ‘classic’ is deeply exciting.”

Palant is adamant this is no time for nostalgia.

“The normal that lived before is gone: that time, space and purpose no longer exist. There is no return to the ‘good old days’,” Palant says. “This has little to do with the current global health pandemic; rather, it stems from the devolution of robust cultural funding, the erosion of arts education in primary schools, the saturation of our lives by media distraction, and millions of people treading blissfully and ignorantly through life by way of a computer screen rather than by actually living it.”

The “good old days,” Palant insists, are an “obsolete construct.”

“What we have today is a calling and a singular opportunity for artists to hit the reset button. In fact, it is that time for each and every one of us,” Palant says. “I would posit that artists are miles ahead of the rest of us in the evolution to think, to challenge and to reach out to whatever is to be our new and more lasting normal. Far too many culture centres and great swaths of the public are torchbearers of staid tastes and decayed traditions that drag down the impulses of today’s creative performers.”

Palant concluded with a call-to-arms, one all arts supporters can likely get behind.

“It is incumbent upon those of us who are bold, creative, energized, gutsy and unafraid to raise the curtain on the next act,” Palant says. “The arts are not for yesterday but, rather, for today and tomorrow.”

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