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War Prompts Further Tour Cancellations in Music Industry

Cancellations in the music industry are mounting daily in response to the war in Iraq. The Rotterdam Philharmonic has cancelled a tour of the United States scheduled for March 28-April 10 because of safety concerns. In a statement on its web site, the orchestra cites an "increasing sense of insecurity on the part of a large number of orchestra and staff members because of the war in Iraq."

The Philharmonic's tour was to have taken it to Chicago, Washington, D.C; Amherst, Massachusetts; Elmira and Purchase, New York; and Columbus, Ohio; and Carnegie Hall in New York City.

According to a statement from Carnegie Hall, chief conductor Valery Gergiev, who was to have led the Philharmonic there on April 2, will instead conduct a concert of the Kirov Orchestra, which has agreed to extend its own U.S. tour. All tickets to the April 2 concert will be honored. (The Kirov recently performed locally at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, a concert that was broadcast on WNYC.)

In other developments, Spanish conductor Jordi Savall and his Hesperion XXI ensemble have cancelled their North American tour, citing, on its Web site, "perceived terror threats traveling around the US." The ensemble has canceled dates in New York, Montreal, Boston, Berkeley, and La Jolla, although they will proceed with those in Kansas City and Mexico City before returning to Europe at the end of this month.

And reports that baritone Simon Keenlyside has cancelled his performances as Eugene Onegin at the Paris Opera, including the broadcast, which is to be made into a DVD. The move is said to be a protest against France's refusal to engage in the war. Vladimir Chernov will take his place.

British Pianist Boycotts U.S.

The UK music magazine The Wire reports that avant-garde pianist John Tilbury has refused to perform in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. The pianist explains his boycott as a statement against the country's foreign policy. "By going to the U.S. at this point in time and playing music, by contributing to cultural life, it does send out a message that--however the musician may rationalize his act and its consequences--in the US, when it comes down to it, 'everything is all right'; that culturally, pluralism and normality reign," he is quoted as saying. "More contentiously, going to the U.S. might even be construed as an act of indifference to U.S. crimes against humanity."

The article, which went to print before the war broke out, continues, "One might well ask, why perform in the UK or Spain, supporters of US policy on Iraq? While he {Tilbury} considers the leaders of those countries 'loathsome sycophants,' Tilbury differentiates between them and the 'class bully' who alone possesses the power to impose himself on others. He hopes that by publicly airing his views he might in some small way influence the actions of other artists, or at least foster a debate on the subject."

Somewhat ironically, a clip from Tilbury's recording of Howard Skempton's piece "Well, Well, Cornelius" (Sony) has been used as a music button in NPR Morning Edition's war coverage.

Lenny Kravitz, Green Day Join Anti-War Chorus

In the pop-music world, Rocker Lenny Kravitz recorded a new anti-war track called "We Want Peace" with Iraqi pop star Kadim Al Sahir last week, reports the BBC. The song was posted Tuesday for download on the Web site of Rock the Vote, a youth-oriented political web site.

Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong has recorded "Life During Wartime," available on the Band's Web site."

R.E.M., meanwhile, has has posted an all-new anti-war song on its official website--"Last Straw," which asks the question, "Who died and lifted you up to perfection?"--notes Liner notes from singer Michael Stipe read, "We are praying and hoping for the lives of all people involved, the troops, the Iraqi civilians, refugees, POWs, families of troops, the innocents -- that they are safe and OK. Safe home, all."

Kravitz and R.E.M. join a growing list of anti-war stars taking a musical stand. The Beastie Boys, Chuck D, John Mellencamp and former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha have all written and released anti-war songs on the Web recently.

Additional Resources:

  • Music Industry Reacts to Iraq War
  • Greg Kot, rock critic for the Chicago Tribune speaks with Brian Lerher on pro- and anti-war songs.