Public and musicians fight for radio orchestras & choir

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Messages of support from the Netherlands and abroad still arrive every day at the Netherlands Broadcasting Music Center (MCO), the umbrella organisation for the radio orchestras which are under threat of major cutbacks.

Eight months after the new cabinet decided to disband all the Dutch radio orchestras and the radio choir, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in protest. The cabinet withdrew its plan and decided to make cutbacks of just 55 percent. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition supporting the MCO.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet has decided to make sweeping cuts in public spending to tackle the credit crisis. The cuts will badly affect Dutch cultural institutions and the public broadcasting system. The consequences for the MCO are quite clear: two of the four radio ensembles will disappear along with the unique collection of sheet music and the centre’s educational service.

Why are so many people protesting against the cuts? The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, the Netherlands Radio Choir and the Metropole Orchestra are virtually household names in the Netherlands.

They are familiar not just for their radio and television work, but also their performances in concert halls and at a variety of festivals. Radio orchestra concerts form a large part of the programming for Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and other major concert halls. The projected cutbacks at the MCO will have a knock-on effect for them.

Grammy Award winners
The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra is regarded as one of the top Dutch orchestras, alongside the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. The Netherlands Radio Choir is a fulltime choir, flexible in its availability for all genres of classical music and unique in Europe. The world’s leading conductors are always pleased to work with the choir.

The Metropole Orchestra is another fulltime ensemble, specialising in light music. Pop and rock, jazz, easy listening, chansons and more. Artists have come from all around the world to perform with this orchestra and are regularly surprised by the extra dimension brought to their music by brass and strings. The number of Grammy Awards increases almost every year.

What's next?
The Dutch public has been extremely vocal in pointing out that music is even more essential in times of crisis. The musicians in the radio ensembles have staged regular protest actions. Famous musicians, amongst whom maestros Bernard Haitink and Claudio Abbado, have made it clear that the cutbacks will cause terrible damage to the musical life of the Netherlands. Now we await a vote in parliament.

Listen to for a 1 hour MCO special , today at 16.00h, next Saturday at 22.00h and Sunday at 10.00h CET. Your host: Hans Haffmans