Brooklyn Philharmonic Cancels Large Chunk of its Season

02/01/2013 11:00 AM |

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When the Brooklyn Philharmonic announced its 2012-2013 season in the fall, it included three ambitious orchestral concerts, like a program called “A Brooklyn Legacy of Music and Film.” But our hometown Phil has canceled two of those concerts and moved the final one to a larger venue—BAM. “It’s a few things,” board member Tim Gilles told me. The most basic: “we’ve made good progress to fiscal sustainability, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.” But smaller, more specific problems upended the season as well.

The film program, scheduled for March at Roulette in Downtown Brooklyn, was to feature excerpts from scores by Brooklyn composers accompanied by movie clips: Gershwin and Shall We Dance, John Corigliano and Altered States, and Angelo Badalamenti and Blue Velvet, among others. But the concert depended upon getting permission to use clips from those films, and while the Philharmonic thought it was close to getting that approval, the movie studio with which it had been dealing turned the deal over to its legal department, which suddenly turned it down. The orchestra hopes to appeal and make the concert happen next season, but at this point it was too late to save the program—and too late to change it.

With that concert down, the board looked at its Brighton Beach concert—”All Music is Folk Music,” scheduled for February—and, because the Millennium Theater is a relatively small space, they “looked at the budget, and it didn’t make financial sense,” Gilles said.

Its third concert, scheduled for the Boys & Girls High School in Bed-Stuy, will now be at BAM; it’ll feature Erykah Badu, the orchestra’s artist-in-residence, as well as Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), last year’s artist-in-residence. Because of the involvement of such highly visible performers, the orchestra thought it should put on the show in a larger space. “And when you’re talking about signature venues in Brooklyn, one immediately comes to mind,” Gilles said.

The orchestra sees it as a nice homecoming: BAM was its home for, like, 50 years, but it hasn’t performed there since 2009. At the time, the Phil wasn’t strong enough financially: BAM is a big house, which means significant costs and expenses. But the orchestra always hoped to return to BAM, Gilles said. “We wanted to be much more connected to Brooklyn… and return to BAM when that makes sense.” Now, with a show like this, it makes sense.

After 2009, the orchestra set out to rebuild itself at the community level, debuting last season its neighborhood-specific series, which are more than just the orchestral concerts—they include chamber concerts, workshops, and educational programs. “That will continue,” Gilles told me. “That will always” be a part of what the orchestra does.

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