Forty years later, that historic decision threatens to ruin the abuses, neglects and arbitrariness allowed by the current island presidency to a mediocre musician, Karel Mark Chichon, who has been invading with strange impunity areas and functions not included in his contract. A leonine contract because it is for “provision of services”, not labor or administrative authority, nor does it include the many personal and family benefits that it self-awards, from the luxurious office of the headquarters of the Fundación Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria (in which his wife just had a press conference) to the car with a driver and the luxury hotels paid for by the Cabildo every time he comes to work. These benefits are not perceived by many leading figures, even international stars on the podium, hired by the Canary Islands Music Festival.
Talking about costs
The generous annual budget of the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra in the Cabildo’s accounts is eight million euros, destined to the regulated and specific activity of the Foundation, not to extra-contractual luxuries. The director charges 30,000 euros a year to design the Orchestra and its guests’ seasonal programming, to which is added 13,000 euros for each concert he conducts (a fee that has been increasing since the 11,000 with which it began). It is a standard that many prestigious European directors across Europe would like for themselves. As, in addition, they have allowed him to assume the management of the company since he managed to dismiss the manager Mr. Bernárdez, perhaps he will receive managerial sinecures. Although this is not the case, the power to command exchanges with other podiums is implicit in the director-administrator double, unique among all Europeans. Are they the yokels, or are we canaries?
The pressures are now directed against the newly hired manager, Mr. Roig, winner of the position through competition and faithful to contractual obligations in good harmony with the Foundation. There is already a kind of manifesto addressed to the Cabildo (very badly written, by the way) signed by 33 members of the Orchestra (less than half of the staff and many less than the Foundation staff) in which the campaign is seen against the current Manager. Ultimately, the teacher wants to be a handyman for a public institution that we all pay for and has hired him for a specific service. All the disorder stems from the contract signed by the former Councilor for Culture of the Cabildo, whose naivety and ignorance at all levels has left many wounds in the important network of Cabildo entities. Who and why distributes corporate responsibilities like this, foolishly and madly?
It seems that when negative rumors reached him, Chichonn boasted of having an armored contract. It is so armored that the jurists have discovered – belatedly – that it can be null due to its irregularities. The president of the Cabildo tries to legalize it on the fast track. Because it is Antonio Morales, head of the island corporation, the only one who defends the teacher, who, apparently, boasts that what they deny him on the fifth floor (Ministry of Culture and head of the Foundation) he gets immediately by going down to the first (Presidency).
Low quality and harassment
The worst thing of all is not that this person reigns in the Orchestra without any limitation, but artistically it is sad. Boring, myometic, without ideas, it is the worst that our Philharmonic has had in its four decades. Their versions rest in intensities and speeds out of place. In most cases, the scores sound like just solfed in rehearsals and put together in pure practical effect. And it is not necessary to compare it with distant figures. The main guest conductor of our Philharmonic, Günther Herbig, now in his early thirties and hired long before the appearance of Chichon, marks stark distances in his versions, almost always applauded by the Orchestra itself, in unison with the audience. The owner’s malice is that of populism, convinced that liking music is not knowing about music. A part of the public enthusiastically receives the gimmicky exaggerations and the teacher takes advantage of this… The listener is not to blame for this cultural and aesthetic distortion.
The Orchestra is, as it has never been, divided into two or more sides. The teacher relies on the hardest, not the best, and the schism produces casualties and persecutions that in some cases could be the object of a report for a hate crime. In any event, labor lawsuits for dismissal have been won by plaintiffs at all judicial levels. Still in judicial process there are two others that we know of, and coincidentally one of the plaintiffs is the Manager Mr. Roig, who alleges that since his inauguration he has been harassing, intimidating, crushing, whipping, frightening, intimidating, frightening, vexing , humiliating, neglecting, persecuting and cornering in the performance of their work: collection of gerunds that at worst has something to do with hatred (it should be studied by a criminal court, not only labor), but nothing, absolutely nothing, with the character and idiosyncrasy of the canaries.
It is ridiculous that the signatories of the aforementioned letter boast that they are living the best moment of the Orchestra, when the extras (substitutes) paid to fill the vacant places in concert are sometimes as many as the holders as recorded in the hand programs. And many of those extras are not even Canaries, despite the islands having two superior conservatories and an abundance of island instrumentalists who perfect their technique and style in the best Central European conservatories. An expensive sport, this one of the extras that come from abroad and cost cache, travel and accommodation. And let’s not say anything about the cost of the invited concertmaster, constant in the programming to avoid the concertmaster on the staff. The Cabildo will have to raise the budget to cover so many anomalies.
The Orchestra is good because that is how its best members and previous conductors have made it: some, architects of tuning and cohesion, others of artistic expression.
“If they don’t pay me, I won’t sing”
A few days ago Chichon and his wife, the admirable Lithuanian mezzo Elina Garança, currently the most admired in the world in her string, came to Las Palmas to give a concert of fragments, all from the Spanish repertoire, which shows the little respect we deserve to This man. Not even in Spain the public or private symphony orchestras that respect their image present chunk programs without a single basic work. Mrs. Garança sang five pieces from an easy repertoire that is not hers and, in part, she had already sung in her previous appearance at the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium, less than two years ago. In short, this last visit was a gig with paid trips and hotels (for her and the couple’s two daughters), in addition to the 20,000 euro cache of the mezzo for singing in the pilgrim Spanish concert. He was on the verge of suspension because the Orchestra Foundation had not entered the aforementioned cache in his account two days before the announced date. They put this rudeness in the diva’s mouth: “If they don’t pay me, I won’t sing.” The problem was not in the Foundation but in the Latvian bank accounts that the couple uses to avoid Spanish taxation. Papers or signatures were missing that would redeem the contracting Foundation from a serious fiscal slip. Everyone moved swiftly and the next day the paperwork was resolved. But those vulgar words of Mrs. Garança that went around the country with not always pleasant comments were not forgotten. It is one thing to demand the agreed rewards in private, if they are delayed, and quite another to demand it from the rooftops, with a harshness that can damage the reliability of the contracting entity (the hand that feeds). But this stark mercantile image some attribute to Chichon (whoever witnessed the press conference will know.)
This soap opera gives much more, but here we stop for now, without ceasing to praise the independence with which the councilor of the Cabildo, Ruymán Santana, has spoken. Maybe he also knows why the president of the Cabildo insists on defending the teacher through thick and thin, without attending just one of his concerts. And if so, I hope you tell.
As well as Morales’s protection of Rafael Sánchez Araña, the son of a lifelong friend in the municipality of which he has been mayor for 24 years (six legislatures). Sánchez Araña is young, a good musician and a hard worker, but his contract –which we have in view– as assistant to the major drummer seems very exotic. None of the previous holders enjoyed such a contract, nor do the vast majority of Spanish directors. Perhaps it has something to do with Morales’ defense of Chichon, but it will be known: they say that this contract will also go through the courts.
(To be continued…).