Friday, December 16, 2011

Symphony orchestra's king size connections


Continuing my tobacco sponsorship thread James Curran points out in a message via Facebook that in the past Naxos recordings of the Ulster Orchestra have been cigarette sponsored. This indeed was the case and my 1997 Naxos CD of James MacMillan's Veni Veni Emmanuel has a sizeable text block explaining that it is part of the Gallaher Group PLC twentieth century music series. As James also points out Gallaher, who are now part of Japan Tobacco International, are a major employer in Northern Ireland. The header image is a scan of the back of the sleeve of my 1982 Chandos recording of Bax Tone Poems which was one of many LPs carrying the legend "Produced by Chandos Records in association with Gallaher Ltd".

James Curran explains he complained to Klaus Heymann about the tobacco sponsorship and was assured this would not be continued. There is no evidence that Naxos or Chandos now receive any cigarette money although the MacMillan sleeve artwork still carries the Gallaher logo. It is not my intention to demonise the Ulster Orchestra, an ensemble that I admire considerably, and, as pointed out in earlier posts, the much higher profile London Philharmonic Orchestra also continues to receive tobacco money. There has been a long history of cigarette sponsorship in classical music with Imperial Tobacco (now British American Tobacco) in particular playing an active role in the 1960 and 70s via their W.D. & H.O. Wills, John Player and du Maurier brands. But medical research has changed all that, or perhaps I should say has changed most of that.

In January 2011 the Ulster Orchestra and Japan Tobacco International won the Allianz Arts and Business award for their "creative partnership and commitment to bringing classical music to communities across Northern Ireland". Allianz is the world's 12th-largest financial services group and 23rd-largest company and as part of the prizewinning partnership the Ulster Orchestra travelled to Ballymena, where Japan Tobacco International has a major factory supplying the UK cigarette market, to give a Christmas concert. So we have a leading health and life insurance company awarding a prize to an orchestra for promoting cigarettes in the community; as my American friends say, go figure. A more positive perspective on the Ulster Orchestra here and listen to me talking to James MacMillan about his new oboe concerto here.

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