Swedish orchestra to ban soloists and conductors from flying

The Local Sweden
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Swedish orchestra to ban soloists and conductors from flying
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra is hosting a sustainable music season in 2020-2021. Photo: Mats Bäcker

One of Sweden's leading symphony orchestras is to ban conductors and soloists who come to play with it from coming by plane, in what it is billing as "the world's first sustainable orchestral season".


Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra will at the start of next month begin to contact artists, agencies, conductors and composers interested in taking part in the season, inviting them to suggest elements or whole programmes with an environmental theme. 
"Sweden has in the last few years become quite committed to the environmental cause, but classical music industry has been exempted from the discussion, the orchestra's director Fredrik Österling told The Local, explaining his decision. 
"It's always been as if 'art is above these issues'. What might be provocative to colleagues around the world is that we are saying that we don't believe that art is above the environment. The timeline is so short now, that we all have to contribute." 
Österling said the initial idea had come when the Swedish cellist Jakob Koranyi, who had travelled down to play by night train, asked Österling what he did to compensate for the flights taken by other players. 
"Among the new generation of musicians, you often find this, that they choose to become vegans or vegetarians, and that they think about the CO2 footprint they have, they are engaged in these topics," Österling said. 
"That's why I'm convinced that we will find many others willing to support us". 
On the day he announced the idea, Österling said he was contacted by an Armenian pianist living in Vienna who offered to take the train up to Sweden to play. 
He said that his announcement of the plan a week ago had sparked a mixed reaction in Sweden's classical music world. 
"It has created quite a stir, because now all the other orchestras are being asked 'are you going to stop flights as well'," he said. "There's been a wide range of response -- from people calling us the 'environmental Taliban'. to people who applaud it." 
The sustainable season is set to start in September 2020. 


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