November 9, 2012

We at the American Symphony Orchestra are not in the business of challenging reviews and don’t plan to start now. But given the very negative reaction of The Post’s critic to our performance in Fairfax County [“ASO players needed help at the helm,” Style, Nov. 5], I feel it important that audiences know the remarkable back story to a concert that almost didn’t happen at all — and perhaps I was wrong in not explaining this before the concert itself.

In the immediate wake of Hurricane Sandy, many of the musicians had been personally affected in various ways and were stressed. Rehearsal time had to be cut short because travel was impossible, and the situation wasn’t helped by our ordeal getting to the venue by bus — which, given the havoc wreaked by the storm, was a trial of perseverance.

We barely got there in time, only to find that there was insufficient food at the venue, no doubt also because of the difficulties of obtaining supplies in the storm. But our players showed their professionalism, and I would even say heroism, by performing the concert with little to eat and while exhausted. Our conductor, Leon Botstein, had his own ordeal getting back to the United States, having been stranded in Europe (his final hurdle was to drive in from Boston only hours before the rehearsal).

Perhaps we should have canceled the event — we knew that we could not possibly give our best in these circumstances, and many arts organizations canceled performances in the wake of the storm. But for that very reason, and with the sense that people needed a little music in their lives then more than ever, we decided to perform. Were we right to? The enthusiastic response of the Fairfax audience suggests we were.

Lynne Meloccaro, New York

The writer is executive director of the American Symphony Orchestra.

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