I play with Brent Symphony Orchestra (http://www.brentso.org.uk) and we are playing a Christmas concert tomorrow. Last evening our tuba player, Robert Augustsson, resigned by email, which I suppose explains why for the second consecutive week he hadn’t come to a rehearsal. He said he wanted to play more brass band music. I’ve been pretty livid about this all day, so I thought about writing an email to him, if only to vent my frustration without resorting to kicking office furniture.. Tell me what you think. This hasn’t been sent to the guilty party.
I have this morning been informed by Heather of your decision to leave Brent Symphony Orchestra, and wished to express my utter contempt at the lack of respect you have shown to your section and the orchestra as a whole by taking such a decision.
I forget when you joined us. It was nice to have a tuba player at rehearsal – something I hadn’t actually experienced since I joined Brent in January 2007. To be honest, you were ropey, but not beyond hope in my opinion, so when Heather asked my opinion I said that you should be asked to stick around. I’d like to say that that was a good decision, because after a few rehearsals for whatever was your first concert I thought you were playing quite well with the rest of us.
It was noted that you’d occasionally not come to a rehearsal without having given us prior notice. We (certainly I) didn’t worry too much about that. Not many amateur orchestras have a regular tuba player at all, so you were given the benefit of the doubt.
The seeds of doubt were sown in my own mind in the summer. You may recall that our summer concert featured a varied but light-hearted programme, including Tam O’Shanter by Malcolm Arnold and Little Red Riding Hood by Paul Anderson. You may not recall how many rehearsals you attended in advance of the concert day. I wouldn’t blame you for forgetting, Robert, because you didn’t attend one at all. Not a single rehearsal. I was angry with you. I didn’t tell you this at the time; I had quite a lot of things to worry about in that concert, not least my numerous solos in Tam O’Shanter itself, none of which I was really confident about playing well. I expressed my concerns to Heather and Lev, and hoped that they’d be addressed.
The concert went well, but you were terrible. Again, I wasn’t surprised – you’re not a great player and you hadn’t been to any rehearsals. If I hadn’t been informed already that you’d be there, I’d have booked somebody else to come in. Despite being a professional player, that person was willing to give up a Wednesday evening to rehearse with us. Which is more than could have been said for you.
Then we had the Tchaikathon. I think you attended some rehearsals for this, and one in the weeks immediately before the event. You pulled out with illness, a few days before the event. At least I think it was illness. Your email said “the family have caught the swine flu which is a pain”. Far be it from me to directly suggest that this was a convenient get-out clause so that you didn’t have to sit with us for an entire day, but in light of your prior behaviour I can’t help but be suspicious.
Your sole involvement in the November concert was in the Stravinsky. You attended a maximum of two rehearsals. Stravinsky is not easy to put together, particularly when Lev pretty much leaves the brass to their own devices while he works on the strings, in particular. Because you didn’t attend enough rehearsals, you had your head stuck in your music during the concert and the whole section very nearly came apart, because you had no idea what was going on and frankly, playing in time was not something you were inclined to do off such little rehearsal.
I discussed things with Heather afterwards. I’ll be honest. I wanted to get rid of you. You added nothing by your presence because you refused to come to rehearsals. Your performance and shameless disrespect in the summer still rankled. But, as I’m sure you know, amateur tuba players are a rare breed, and Heather and I agreed that we would give you a stay of execution, on the condition that you attended every rehearsal for the Shostakovich concert and fixed a dep if you were not available.
You attended one rehearsal for tomorrow’s concert. It was a shame I wasn’t there as I was going to have a word with you. The worst thing about missing the other three is that you only told us on one occasion that you wouldn’t be attending, and left us to fix the dep. My resolve by now had stiffened and I was going to ask Heather to tell you that you were no longer required. It would, of course, have been her decision but I feel that she would have trusted me to be making the right call.
You didn’t even give me a chance to do that. To resign from the orchestra by email, about an hour before the final rehearsal, which itself was a mere 48 hours before the concert, defies explanation. Heather told me that you wanted to play more brass band music. How much brass band music did you intend to fit in between yesterday and tomorrow? Not much, I’d wager. Your actions seem cowardly, yet I cannot think of a single mitigation for cowardice on your part. No-one had expressed to you any dissatisfaction – indeed, I think we’ve been most benevolent.
If you’d said, after the concert in November: “I don’t think I can do the Christmas concert, and I don’t think I want to commit to the orchestra anymore, because I want to play more brass band music”, we’d have wished you well and thanked you for your contribution. I’d have been sad to see you go, because I’d have believed you could have still formed part of a really good section. Now, my only regret is that you have denied me the opportunity to sack you.
I hope you show your brass band more respect and loyalty than you have shown us. If you don’t, they will be far less forgiving, and far less polite when the game’s up.
Regards (low ones)