Protesters disrupt Jerusalem Quartet Wigmore Hall broadcast

BBC Radio 3 pulled the plug on the broadcast of this recital, announcing a “disruption” at the Wigmore Hall. Listeners were startled to hear singing interrupt Mozart’s String Quartet in D major K. 575. I think the broadcast should have continued, but of course it is typical of the craven cowardice of the BBC that it did not.

Within an hour, the incident was reported in the Jewish Chronicle (and nowhere else):

A lunchtime performance by the Jerusalem Quartet at London’s Wigmore Hall, being broadcast live on BBC Radio Three, was taken off air partway through the concert on Monday afternoon after protesters disrupted the event. But the musicians played on and completed the Mozart and Ravel concert programme.

The clash came after four or five pro-Palestinian protesters bought tickets for the concert, and, about five to ten minutes into the music, began shouting and heckling the Israeli musicians. They shouted: “The Quartet, who are cultural ambassadors for the state of Israel, are promoting the interests of Israel and all its policies against the Palestinians, to the British public.”

The demonstrators were taken away by Wigmore Hall security officers and a decision was taken by the concert hall management to take the broadcast off-air “in order to deny these people publicity.”

A clearly shaken John Gilhooly, director of the Wigmore Hall, told the JC: “It is such a pity that music has become politicised.”

John Gilhooly should sit down and have a chat with the members of the Jerusalem Quartet about politicising music.

No doubt the protestors are feeling very pleased with themselves (they organised the demonstration through Twitter), but beyond making John Gilhooly sweat and irritating a couple of hundred people who couldn’t care less about the plight of Palestinians, what did they achieve?

Absolutely … nothing.


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7 Responses to “Protesters disrupt Jerusalem Quartet Wigmore Hall broadcast”

  1. amadeus575 Says:

    Knowing a bit about how these broadcasts are done, I was struck by the unusually swift speed with which the broadcast was taken off air: it suggested to me that Radio 3 must have had advance warning of the disruption.
    Also, the equally rapid decision to play the rest of the Mozart Quartet from a CD made any return to the concert virtually impossible. Live relays have absolute priority on Radio 3 as on any other network. It would have been normal practice for the Continuity announcer in Broadcasting House to wait a few minutes while filling with a short piece from CD, check with the producer in the hall to see if the disruption was only temporary, and then once the demonstrators had left, return to the hall for the rest of the broadcast, cutting one of the pre-recorded pieces in the later afternoon to make up the time lost. Radio 3 deliberately makes ample scheduling flexibility to make such adjustments. Why did they choose to turn their back on the concert? OK, refusing demonstrators the oxygen of publicity, one is all in favour of that. But also refusing an international string quartet the right to broadcast? That went too far. It depends of course on how long the disruption lasted. (How many minutes did it last, actually?)
    Unless struck by insanity, the producer and engineers in the hall will have continued to record the subsequent course of the concert. I’m guessing that the Jerusalem String Quartet will have re-started the slow movement of the Mozart from the beginning, so it should be possible to edit and broadcast their entire concert (with the demo singing and shouting cut out), next Sunday lunchtime when the repeat of the Monday 1pm concert is normally scheduled. It’ll be interesting to see if they do that. If they do not, we should be asking Radio 3’s Controller why he has given way to the demonstrators.
    The UK licence fee payer has in any case paid for the Jerusalem Quartet’s professional Radio 3 fee, even though Radio 3 did not broadcast the recital. So they should broadcast it next Sunday, on financial accountability grounds alone.

  2. Filippo Secondo Says:

    According to the Jewish Chronicle, a disruption-free version of the concert will be broadcast next Saturday:

  3. amadeus575 Says:

    Yes, that’ll be 2pm this coming Saturday on Radio 3. I’m glad they’re doing that.
    It still seems a bit spooky that the disruption wasn’t reported except in the JC. While I can understand the BBC not wanting to publicize it and possibly feed further demos, you’d think the public interest argument would be on the side of reporting such things, however briefly, rather than just keeping quiet about them.

    • Indeed.

      The only mention of this on BBC Radio 3 that I heard was a comment from Sean Rafferty who said that the concert had been “somewhat interrupted”.

      The Jerusalem Quartet aren’t that good anyway. I shouldn’t say that should I?

    • On a day when suicide bombers murder dozens of people on Moscow’s underground railway system, I guess “String quartet recital interrupted: audience annoyed” isn’t exactly going to make the headlines.

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