With the departure from their leadership roles of an indefatigable, passionate concertmaster and a dedicated, community-oriented executive director, the musical landscape on both sides of the Niagara River is about to change considerably. Simultaneously, both the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Niagara Symphony Association are losing key personnel. Will audiences notice any difference?
Coming at the invitation of Lukas Foss to Buffalo in 1966 and assuming the post of concertmaster three years later, Charles Haupt has been the direct line of communication between BPO music directors (after Foss, Michael Tilson Thomas, Julius Rudel, Semyon Bychkov, Maximiano Valdés and JoAnn Falletta) and magnificent band of players. Reached just before heading off to Spain, Valdés put Haupt’s contribution in perspective: “He belongs to the great generation of American concertmasters and the orchestra would not have accomplished its level of excellence without his outstanding work.”
Haupt is always led by the music and has spent countless hours in rehearsal and performances plying his often underestimated craft. Reached at home, he described his task. “In essence, the concertmaster is supposed to interpret what the conductor wants and communicate that through body language, bowing changes and the occasional solo demonstration. Sometimes I’m faced with the worse possible intention or no intentions! I have to be aware that the musicians around me can be innately hostile beings as we try to create motion than only exists in time.” This writer has seen and heard Haupt’s ability to draw incredibly homogeneous and rich tone from his talented colleagues and, on more than one occasion, take charge as an “assistant” conductor when the podium leadership loses his or her way.
Haupt hasn’t stepped down to take a rest. It’s no secret there’s no love lost between the seasoned violinist and Falletta. But worry not: he will continue to be a regular fixture on the concert scene. Indeed, his new series, “A Musical Feast,” will provide many opportunities to savour his considerable skills, now put to the service of chamber music—leading trios, duos and quartets instead of nearly 100 musicians. “In the chamber repertoire, I’ll have more authority but will entertain suggestions, just so long as there is one prevailing idea in each work. Many of my collaborators have similar background and experience; even though it’s the New York ‘thing’ to offend with every comment, I’ll be careful what I say,” explained the humour-loving artist.
Longtime BPO cellist and now conductor (Ashland Symphony, Ohio), Arie Lipsky, met Haupt for the first time in his NYC apartment where he was to go through the rigours of an audition. Between rehearsals in Chautauqua Lipsky recalled, “I arrived three hours early, was a bit nervous, hungry and exhausted. Charlie cut me some watermelon, revealing a very human side that permeates his music-making to this day.”
Trombonist Dave Taylor also has a fond early memory. “I joined the Mostly Mozart Festival more than twenty years ago, the first person to make me feel this warmth, freedom, and totally at home (especially since I came from outside the normal orchestral path), was Charles. He approaches music on a natural level, and brings everyone along with him. I can’t wait to be part of his chamber music group.”
After six years as the top administrator, Erika Beatty is relocating to Manitoba where she will become general manager of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. It’s a double loss as her husband, Wesley Krantz, is stepping down as BPO operations manager to take on the role of manager of artistic operations for the WSO.
But do the administrators have any effect on the artistic product?
You bet your treble clefs they do! Without a strong administration—especially fund development aspects—artistic ambitions are doomed to remain locked within the imagination of the creative leaders.
Chatting outside the orchestra’s office above the Centre for the Arts (the planned move from Brock to 31 James Street awaits building permits and related renovations), Beatty happily reflected on her tenure. “I’m proud of the education and outreach Daniel [Swift, music director] and I have established. Those programs helped establish the orchestra as a regional company and are an active demonstration of how we serve the community. That’s always difficult when there is no centre for the performing arts for the community to focus their attention. My successor will face the ever-present challenge of raising corporate funds and participating in the ongoing discussions about arts facilities for Niagara.”
Beatty has had a number of offers from a variety of orchestras—seems experienced arts administrators are in demand. Will Niagara be able to find a competent replacement to take the orchestra to a higher degree of excellence? “Erika brought the symphony to the next level of professionalism. Because of that, we’ll have many more executive director applicants to choose from,” said Dave Randall, president of the symphony board. “She certainly didn’t leave us high and dry.”
When the fall season arrives, the music in our halls will undergo change. Even as two arts institutions adapt to new personnel and a third, Haupt’s A Musical Feast establishes itself, we’ll be all ears. How totally appropriate that Bartók’s Contrasts will be on the first menu. JWR