Götterdämmerung: The End Of The London Wagner Society?

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 | 1:37:00 pm

 In 1873 the first Wagner Society was founded in England. By 1884 it had been "refounded. In 1893 it  was disbanded. The reasons for it ceasing to exist have never really been made clear - as far as I am aware. However, one highly plausible reason was infighting at the time over the "validity" of" Ferdinand Praeger's book "Wagner As I knew Him" - dedicated the Society's then President. This book which, among other things, portrays Wagner as an anarchist social revolutionary, was greatly at odds with William Ashton Ellis's far more "conservative" Wagner. Ellis wrote for the Society's Journal the "Meister" and had attacked the book mercilessly in that publication and elsewhere. Indeed, it maybe due to Ellis and his "comrade in arms" the English, fascist, racist, antisemitic - and true hero of both Hitler and Alfred Rosenberg - Houston Stewart Chamberlain, that Praeger's book  still is, yet with little true critique, considered "unreliable". (For anyone interested or curious, we shall be making the full text in  Kindle/Ebook  format, of Praeger's book available later today for free download).

Tomorrow, 11 July 2013 (click here for full details), a  special AGM of the Society may put the present version of the Wagner Society at its greatest risk of ceasing to exist since its predecessor in 1893.

We have already documented recent events in London in some detail so shall not do so again. However, tomorrow ordinary members of the Society, which I have no doubt are only interested in listening to Wagner's music and doing their best to promote it to a wide an audience as possible, are being pushed into making a choice that may discredit the society further than it already has been in recent weeks - or else leave it without any form of leadership.

To recap - and in the simplest of terms -  the society's committee has called for a vote that can have one of only two outcomes:

Show confidence in the Society's Committee which will automatically mean that ordinary members are voting that they "sack" their existing President, Dame Gwyneth Jones. Alternatively they can show a lack of confidence in their committee which means that committee will stand down  but the Society can keep its president.

There are of course far more sensible alternatives and the voice of reason at the Society is far more prevalent then recent reports might make it sound. One such voice can be found in the form of an open letter from the Society's webmaster Ken Sunshine, to its Chairman and Committee. This was printed in this weeks "Wagner News" - the official publication of the Society. We reprint this below:



THE SOCIETY AND ITS PRESIDENT:
AVOIDING THE "NUCLEAR OPTION"

An open letter to the Wagner Society Committee
Ken Sunshine

I was dismayed this morning to receive notice of the Special General Meeting and even more so to see that in the event of a vote of confidence in the Committee being passed there would follow automatically a call for the President to resign.

I had anticipated attending the AGM and having the opportunity to speak to a motion proposing that the "nuclear option" (as described by one Committee member) be avoided until a revised Constitution was in place.

The gist of my proposal would have been to point out to members at the AGM that the Constitution as it stands is deficient in a number of areas, which I detailed in a letter to Richard Miles, 31/05/13.

One of the bases of a good Society is a sound constitution; a constitution that clearly defines roles, responsibilities and procedures for as many foreseeable situations as possible. Decisions made without that foundation must be taken very carefully.

In the present situation I would contend that a decision to ask the President to resign is based on very shaky ground and if there were a body equivalent to an Industrial Tribunal to which the President could appeal I have no doubt they would find in her favour. I think each Committee member has seriously to decide whether taking this action without a constitutional basis is right.

A more practical consideration is that a call for the President's resignation will not lead to Dame Gwyneth stepping down but simply to a step up in the conflict which the Chair says he wishes to avoid; a conflict which could go public. Surely we must avoid this?

The President's role is not defined. Before calling on her to resign there ought to be a Constitution defining the role and responsibilities and procedures for electing and dismissing. If the President transgressed then the steps would be clear and a decision would have been made properly and constitutionally, uninfluenced by personal histories which I fear have intruded in the present argument.

An additional concern is that, although the Constitution doesn't spell out voting rules for SGM proposals, it does for AGMs viz: by members present at the meeting. Why isn't this the rule for SGMs? Allowing postal votes means that members will be voting without the full story and without input such as mine and that which other members might wish to contribute.

I would urge you to reconsider, rescind the SGM proposal and replace it with one which will lead to a new Constitution to be accepted in, say, October. Then set about moving forward on a sound basis.



Disclaimer, your humble editor is not a member of any Wagner Society - including the London Society and thus has no personal involvement. One feels, one should always heed Groucho Marx's advice about such matters - although perhaps not that found below: