English Touring Opera has written today to a number of audience members and musicians who have questions about a report in the Sunday Times related to the recruitment of musicians. The text of our letter is below.
"English Touring Opera engages freelance orchestral musicians for seasonal work, on the basis of excellence, in the same ways as singers and technical staff are engaged for seasonal work. For decades, English Touring Opera has worked with different players for different repertoire and with specialist period, contemporary and chamber groups. When players are engaged for a season, they are advised that a seasonal booking bears no obligation for player or company for future seasons.
This summer English Touring Opera held open auditions for orchestral musicians in order to continue to hear the very best artists in this country, and strengthen the broad pool of players on whom the company calls. Panellists for those auditions were Gerry Cornelius (Music Director), Holly Mathieson (Associate Artist), Philip Turbett (Orchestral Manager) and guest Chi-Chi Nwanoku (distinguished orchestral musician, and founder of the Chineke! Orchestra). The auditions were immensely rewarding and exciting; several musicians were offered opportunities to work with English Touring Opera for the first time, based on their ability.
English Touring Opera Director James Conway wrote to a number of players who had performed on tour with the company in seasons 2018 and 2019, but who were not going to be asked for Spring 2022, to advise them of this, to thank them for their work in other seasons, and to indicate that English Touring Opera could ask them to perform in future seasons.
The company recognises that many of these freelance musicians will have been disappointed, but will always treat people fairly and based on their performance over 50 highly talented musicians will be offered contracts for the forthcoming ETO productions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, recognising the pressures faced by freelance musicians and the need to support a vital part of the music industry, English Touring Opera paid full performance fees to all 67 freelancers engaged on our cancelled spring 2020 tour and created a substantial online programme to serve our regular and new audiences and give freelance artists paid opportunities during an extremely challenging time.
English Touring Opera is proud of its commitment to the community of high-quality freelance musicians on which the company depends and welcomes talent from the wide range of backgrounds represented amongst them. We will continue to consider every opportunity to work with staff and artists from increasingly diverse backgrounds, wherever we find professional excellence and know that this ambition will only improve the quality of our performances.
We recognise the Musicians’ Union mission to champion all their members and are confident that the Union will continue to find English Touring Opera a supportive and fair producer."