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Conductor Gerd Albrecht Forced to Apologize for Anti-War Statement

Protest Against Danish Government's Support for the Iraq War

Monday, March 31, 2003

Gerd Albrecht, the German-born director of Copenhagen's Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, was forced to apologize for making an impromptu anti-war protest before a packed concert audience last week.

Albrecht stopped the orchestra in front of a full house in Copenhagen's main concert hall, and turned to a microphone to speak about the U.S.-led war in Iraq. "Shall musicians always be silent?" he asked. "The answer is no. I would like to protest against the Danish government, which supports the U.S.'s bombing attacks against Iraq," he said.

Some of the orchestra musicians and audience members walked out in disgust at the protest, and those that stayed to the end of the concert did not applaud.

The Danish parliament on Friday was in the throes of an unusually bitter debate on the government's decision to dispatch two war ships to the Persian Gulf to join Washington's "coalition of the willing" fighting in Iraq. Anti-war protesters filled the streets of Copenhagen all week.

Lars Vesterloekke, the orchestra's director, said he regretted the incident, but had no plans to sack Albrecht.

"I regret my lack of understanding of the rules and regulations applying to DR's employees, when it comes to giving expression to private views," said Albrecht in a press release. "Obviously, had I been aware of it, I would never have made the statement during the Thursday concert."

It was not the first time Albrecht has been in trouble for his political opinions.

In 1996 he was forced to leave the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra after a public argument with then President Vaclav Havel over democratic principles in a post-communist society.

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Music Industry Reacts to Iraq War

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