Leading arts figure Leo Schofield has lashed out at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s board for failing to support marriage equality publicly.
In a lengthy post published on Facebook, Schofield described the board’s actions as a disgrace.
“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,” Schofield wrote.
“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.”
The inaugural chairman of the SSO board who served from 1996-2000, Schofield accused the current board of cowardice.
“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 Australian, the smoke-screening non-entities of the Christian right and those parliamentarians too cowardly to put the issue to a vote on the floor of the house.”
He described the $122 million of public money being spent on the non-binding postal survey as misdirected.
“Imagine how much glorious music might be commissioned with the one hundred and twenty million dollars that this divisive charade is costing,” he wrote.
“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.”
The post has attracted numerous responses, with most appalled by the SSO board’s position.
A number of leading arts organisations including the Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company, the National Gallery of Australia and Musica Viva have publicly signalled their support for same-sex marriage.
SSO artist in residence Brett Dean is among the individuals who have signed an open letter in support of marriage equality, published in the Australian Book Review.
Dean signed the letter along with prominent writers, artists and directors including Robyn Archer, Neil Armfield, Magda Szubanski and Jacki Weaver.
In a statement, an SSO spokeswoman said the organisation was committed to ” inclusiveness, fairness and acceptance.”
The full statement read:
“The SSO is a highly-respected organisation spanning more than 85 years with members, concertgoers, 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.”