Personal message from Edward Gardner

Personal message from Edward Gardner

Edward Gardner, chief conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, has asked if he can share this personal message:

I feel compelled to write about the current strike action having received a letter from Creo. I’m an invited guest to Norway, so I tread carefully and humbly in this incredibly difficult time of strike action for the Musicians’ Union.

I trust my wonderful musicians that there is an issue to be resolved regarding pensions. I also trust the CEO of Bergen, Bernt Bauge that he also has the best interests for the industry and orchestra as a whole. Talking individually to musicians and management alike, the issues involved seem to be impenetrably complex for most. I’ve no doubt both viewpoints have validity and I hope it can be resolved as soon as possible.

Last Thursday I received a letter from Creo effectively threatening the strength of my relationship with my orchestra if I performed with the choirs in Bergen in this time. The choirs had already taken the decision to avoid the same repertoire we would have performed with the orchestra, to show support for the difficulties.

It’s not up to me to give an opinion on the complex dispute. But I can’t get my head round strike action in the cultural sector, and the timing and length of it, especially after the wonderful support Norway has given musicians for the last 18 months.

Music is an incredibly delicate ecosystem. It involves orchestras centrally, but also choirs, many of them amateur but performing at a professional level, a pool of freelance players, composers, visiting artists, education, and our audiences. We were carefully starting to rebuild all our links over the Autumn and everything has been broken again, and on a level deeper than the pandemic itself. A Union is by its nature myopic, and needs to be to look after its members, but no care is given to all these other elements that are ESSENTIAL for our world to exist and flourish. My solidarity is with musicians and the art form as a whole, and our audiences. I will do everything I can for all the elements in our fragile world.

It’s clear to me that the cultural sector is being used as a pawn in a much bigger political discussion, but we all need to realise the damage that is being done.

I’m proud to spend so much time in Norway- it’s given me a wonderful orchestra, friends, a wife: the brilliance of social care in this country was brought home to me during the pandemic.

I implore all sides to find a resolution immediately. I’m completely disbelieving there was a whole month between meetings for resolution and that the latest meeting was disbanded so quickly. Can we really be happy that some artistic institutions continue to perform, outside Creo’s power, while others are stagnant? Freelancers with no work, composers not having pieces performed? In a dispute about equality, where’s the equality in that?

Music is about community, healing and sharing. We all need to remember this and find a solution to get back into our halls and opera houses, now.

Edward Gardner
3 October 2021