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Image for Sydney Symphony Orchestra Criticised For Deciding To “Remain Neutral” In Same-Sex Marriage DebateSydney Symphony Orchestra Perform With Flight Facilities @ The Domain, Sydney 2016 / Photo: Maria Boyadgis

Sydney Symphony Orchestra Criticised For Deciding To “Remain Neutral” In Same-Sex Marriage Debate

Written by Tom Williams on September 28, 2017

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra has said it will “remain neutral” in Australia’s same-sex marriage debate, despite being criticised by a former chairman for not publicly supporting marriage equality.

Leo Schofield, who served on the SSO board in the late ’90s, took to Facebook overnight to slam the organisation for deciding not to publicly support the ‘Yes’ campaign.

“This is a disgrace,” he wrote.

“Every significant arts organisation in the country has nailed its colours to the mast, every arts practitioner worth his or her salt, every thinking patron, sponsor, audience member supports change.

“The reason the board, supposedly unanimously, has opted for this course is that they don’t want to politicise music. Utter drivel. Music, even in the pursuit of change, has always been political.”

Responding to Schofield’s statement with its own statement, the SSO says it will “remain neutral” in the same-sex marriage debate, and is urging the public to “respect the democratic process of the majority decision, one way or the other, in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation towards each other in a peaceful resolution”.

“There is no question that the SSO strongly supports the rights of all citizens to place on the record their views, by way of the private and confidential postal plebiscite and as such, the company does not feel it has the right to take a position and commit our stakeholders to one side or the other and has decided it should remain neutral,” it says.

“The SSO is a highly-respected organisation spanning more than 85 years with members, concert-goers, very generous sponsors and donors, not to mention loyal and committed staff and musicians, all of whom come from wide and diverse backgrounds and opinions.”

Read the SSO and Leo Schofield’s full statements, below.

The SSO’s statement comes after American musician Macklemore responded to the controversy surrounding his upcoming performance of marriage equality anthem ‘Same Love’ at the NRL Grand Final this weekend.

Gallery: Flight Facilities + Sydney Symphony Orchestra – The Domain 2016 / Photos: Maria Boyadgis

SYDNEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA STATEMENT ON THE AUSTRALIAN MARRIAGE LAW POSTAL SURVEY

The SSO is a highly-respected organisation spanning more than 85 years with members, concert-goers, very generous sponsors and donors, not to mention loyal and committed staff and musicians, all of whom come from wide and diverse backgrounds and opinions.

It has always been the case that the SSO has engendered organisational initiatives and performances that reflect an abiding commitment to inclusiveness, fairness and acceptance and that the company has at its core a commitment to everyone in our community – regardless of gender, orientation, cultural background or religious beliefs – of performing music to the highest calibre for which the orchestra is celebrated around the world.

There is no question that the SSO strongly supports the rights of all citizens to place on the record their views, by way of the private and confidential postal plebiscite and as such, the company does not feel it has the right to take a position and commit our stakeholders to one side or the other and has decided it should remain neutral. We urge all Australians to respect the democratic process of the majority decision, one way or the other, in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation towards each other in a peaceful resolution.

Leo Schofield Statement (Via Facebook)

On Wednesday, members of the staff of the Sydney Symphony were called together to learn that the board had decided not to publicly support the YES campaign in the forthcoming national market research project masquerading as some kind of serious referendum. This is a disgrace. Every significant arts organisation in the country has nailed its colours to the mast, every arts practitioner worth his or her salt, every thinking patron, sponsor, audience member supports change. The reason the board, supposedly unanimously, has opted for this course is that they don’t want to politicise music. Utter drivel. Music, even in the pursuit of change, has always been political. Great composers, whose music forms the core of the symphonic repertoire, active revolutionaries such as Verdi and Wagner, nationalist like Sibelius, Shostakovich and Britten, recognised that artists need to speak out against injustice. Disgusted at Napoleon’s bellicosity and European power grab, Beethoven struck the name of the Emperor from the dedication page of his Eroica Symphony.

In defying the palpable solidarity of the arts community and its manifold supporters, the craven directors of the SSO have, by this decision, aligned themselves with the antediluvian Catholic Archbishops of Sydney and Brisbane, the ginned-up contributors to the skewed letter pages of the Australia, the smoke-screening nonentities of the Christian right and those parliamentarians too cowardly to put the issue to a vote on the floor of the House. Imagine how much glorious music might be commissioned with the one hundred and twenty million dollars that this divisive charade is costing.

But despite the current frenzy of piety, mendacity, hypocrisy, prejudice and hatred, whether by a victory in this farcical process or by the sheer force of history, Australia will, and sooner rather than later, bow to the irresistible force of time and join the twenty-two other enlightened countries that have legislated for same sex marriage. As with a thousand such once tumultuous changes, the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, conscription, the 40-hour week, indigenous rights and even 10 o’clock closing, commonsense will prevail and the bigots will be crushed under the wheels of the juggernaught of history.

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