Just before the start of the Festival I resigned as music critic for The Dominion Post, with immediate effect.
The main reason for setting up Middle C was to compensate for the steady reduction by The Dominion Post in the number and classes of music reviews it would accept, and readers will be aware of that. It had made my job as a reviewer steadily more difficult and frustrating. The impact of the restrictions has fallen almost entirely on concerts and recitals in smaller venues (even St Paul’s Cathedral falls into that class!), on amateur musicians and performances and thus all student performances, the classes of music that I have mainly been covering.
I was quite prepared to accept reductions, not to be reviewing every concert by every musician or group, but to confine reviews to representative concerts from the performers and ensembles I regarded as most significant. But for a criterion like venue size to be employed in deciding whether a concert was worthy of review, I considered crass.
It has meant that no choir or chamber music group has been reviewed over the past year, apart from the odd one which has taken place in the Town Hall and in one or two cases where, through strenuous pleading, I was able to get a review published.
Furthermore, music has been treated quite differently from theatre and dance, as quite minor performances, in very small venues, by amateur and student theatre and dance groups, continue to be reviewed – look at what is being covered in the Fringe. Even regarding opera as in the same category as theatre, an important opera production like The Cunning Little Vixen was still declined.
I felt that the impact of the paper’s approach on most of Wellington’s strong musical scene with excellent performers in all spheres was very serious; regardless of how individual reviewers or individual reviews might be regarded by performers and readers, they provide the stuff of history in the future.
It is particularly ironical that the paper continues to echo the city council’s empty boast about Wellington, the cultural capital.
The last straw was the paper’s rejection of both an article about the series of concerts at St Andrew’s on The Terrace during the Festival, and my suggested coverage of those concerts. The paper offered only a wrap-up at the end.
In the light of an article by William Dart in The New Zealand Herald about the concerts, I felt the paper’s refusal to print a similar article or to review the concerts was ill-judged, and exhibiting a serious lack of balance. I decided to quit at once.
A website is not a substitute for print of course, but better than nothing perhaps.