Artists’ schedules – dealing with the unexpected

By Barry Kempton

So here we are one day before our second International Artist Series recital of the season and again it appears we are going to have a tense 12-24 hours.

Pianist Richard Goode is scheduled to fly to the Twin Cities today, and let’s hope today’s winter storm doesn’t prevent him from doing so.  Those of you who attended our October recital featuring Nathan Gunn with pianist Julie Jordan Gunn, will remember that their travel to the Twin Cities was severely hampered by the air traffic disruption in and around Chicago due to a fire in the air traffic control center.  They finally arrived in St Paul just 5 hours before curtain up.

People asked me at the time of the Gunns recital what we would have done if our performers hadn’t been able to get here.  The answer quite simply is that we would have postponed the recital and rescheduled later in the season.  The series is afterall our International Artist Series and if an artist is forced to cancel due to an eleventh hour circumstance like failing transportation, it would be impossible to identify an alternative artist who could step in and fit the bill.

Let’s hope that Mr Goode gets here today and is safe and warm in his Saint Paul hotel room this evening.

Of course there are circumstances where an artist might get injured or sick earlier than one day before a recital.  In these instances, it is possible to get on the phone with artist managers and agents to explore what artists are available, willing and prepared to give a recital at short notice.  The major household names of our classical music world are almost always busy (or taking a rare and well earned break), but there are usually multiple possibilities to choose between – performers of the kind of high level of musicianship our audience expects to hear, but likely less well known.

It doesn’t happen often, but in recent years the following recitalists have been replacement artists in the International Artist Series.  Though I wasn’t here to experience them myself, I know from colleagues, board and audience members alike that these have been memorable performances of the highest quality.

Christina & Michelle Naughton piano duo replaced Sarah Chang (2011)

Eric Owens, bass baritone replaced Ben Heppner (2009)

Measha Brueggergosman, soprano replaced Isabel Bayrakdarian (2008)

Grace Bumbry, mezzo replaced Frederica von Stade (2002)

Christopher O’Riley, piano replaced Yefim Bronfman (2001)

In fact, emerging artists often make their breakthrough to broader recognition because they have been given the opportunity to perform through cancellation.  I’d be curious to know if you have discovered a new talent because of an artist cancellation.  Please do share!