Tuesday, September 06, 2016

San Francisco Opera Personnel Changes for 2016-17

Well, there's the biggie, Matthew Shilvock's move into the General Director's office, but that's not really what this is about. I do plan to write an assessment of David Gockley's tenure, where there's a great deal to admire and be grateful for despite some disappointments.

It seems the only new orchestra member is co-principal horn Mark Almond. Instead of a press release, I heard about this in my capacity as an audience member, in a new newsletter called Backstage with Matthew. I have now heard Mr. Shilvock speak enough times to say that if he's not writing or dictating them himself, he has the world's best speechwriter. He is quite droll and engaging, and here's what he has to say about Mr. Almond:
First, meet our new co-principal French horn, Mark Almond. Mark hails from the north of England and has played with almost all of the major UK orchestras. He is a spectacular musician but, if you can believe this, he is also a fully qualified physician specializing in respiratory and general internal medicine. While in the UK he would squeeze in hours between hospital shifts to take on jobs with groups like the London Symphony Orchestra, one of the most demanding orchestras in the world. And he has a young family as well! Mark isn’t planning on taking the medical boards here in California but, if we ever have to ask for a doctor in the house, we now need look no further than the pit!  
Mark is co-principal horn alongside our other incredible co-principal, Kevin Rivard. Why, you may ask, do we have two principal horns? The horn is one of the most demanding instruments there is to play, putting huge strain on the lips. Professional orchestras routinely have two principal horns, allowing the players to spread the workload and remain in peak form. I can empathize with that lip strain: I played French horn myself for a while before braces at 16 put a stop to that…

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