Secrecy Around Conductor Firing Could Hurt Bach Festival

Sep 14, 2017

Ever since the Oregon Bach Festival last month announced the surprise termination of Artistic Director Matthew Halls, there’s been international reaction and speculation. The secrecy surrounding Hall’s departure has done damage to the reputation of the world-class festival.

Credit Oregon Bach Festival

The University of Oregon, which runs the nearly 50-year-old Bach Festival has been tight-lipped about why Halls' contract was terminated. It’s been reported that the parties this week signed a confidentiality agreement and the U of O paid Halls $ 90-thousand in exchange for his silence. Bob Keefer is Arts Editor with Eugene Weekly.
Keefer: “The 2 most reasonable conclusions that the public can draw are that Matthew Halls did something terrible and he should have been fired or that the University fired him in some terrible way for no good reason. Either way the festival is hurt pretty badly.”
Keefer says Oregon Bach Festival patrons may feel less willing to support it in the future.  The festival was started by Helmuth Rilling and Royce Saltzman in 1970. It’s been known as one of premiere classical music events in the nation.

Statement from the University of Oregon:

The University is disappointed and saddened that Matthew Halls' relationship with the Oregon Bach Festival (OBF) has drawn to a close. We are thrilled with the successful series of performances orchestrated by Mr. Halls and by his creative conducting. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for there to be differences among the parties involved in such festivals. We appreciate Mr. Hall’s many positive contributions to the Festival, which include creating the Organ Institute and Vocal Fellows Program, facilitating the participation of the University of Oregon Chamber Choir in the Festival, annual residency at the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance each Fall, and developing the Berwick Academy–an elite orchestral academy that has drawn students from around the world. Everyone at the University and OBF sincerely wish nothing but continued success for Mr. Halls. The University looks forward to working collaboratively and in consultation with the Bach Festival Board to refine the framework through which OBF blends excellence in musical performance with innovative educational opportunities to create an inspired community of musicians and music lovers. As the Festival approaches its 50th year in 2020, everyone involved in the Festival is eager to move forward with programing and activities that are consistent with the legacy established by Helmuth Rilling and Royce Saltzman. The OBF will continue to bring music and education to the local and worldwide community that is built around the monumental contributions to music of J.S. Bach. Jayanth BanavarProvost and Senior Vice PresidentThe University of Oregon