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When acclaimed British conductor Matthew Halls joked with his black friend at a social event, neither of them dreamed the exchange would result in the conductor’s sacking.
Halls - Orchestras - Opera - Houses - Europe
Halls, who has worked with orchestras and opera houses in Europe and the U.S., was removed by the University of Oregon as artistic director of the Oregon Bach Festival after he imitated a Southern American accent while talking to African-American classical singer Reginald Mobley, the Telegraph newspaper of London reported.
Someone heard his joke and reported it to university officials, claiming it was a racial slur, prompting the termination of Halls’ four-year contract.
Mobley - Joke - Paper
But Mobley himself insisted the joke was completely innocent, the paper said.
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Halls - Joke - Context
“He has been victimized and I’m very upset about it,” he said of Halls. “It was an innocent joke that has been entirely taken out of context.”
Halls and Mobley were chatting at a reception for this year’s Oregon Bach Festival when Mobley recalled a concert in London he described as having an “antebellum,” or pre-Civil War South, feel to it.
Halls - Mobley - Behalf - England - Accent
Halls responded, according to Mobley, by saying he “apologized on behalf of England.” Then he put on an exaggerated Southern accent and joked: “Do you want some grits?”
“I’m from the deep south and Matthew often makes fun of the Southern accent just as I often make fun of his British accent,” explained Mobley. “Race was not an issue. He was imitating a Southern accent, not putting on a black accent, and there was nothing racist or malicious about it.”
Spokesman - Oregon - Bach - Festival - Telegraph
A spokesman for the Oregon Bach Festival told the Telegraph the university “considers many factors when deciding whether to continue a contract.”
“Regarding Reggie Mobley, it doesn’t appear he was involved in the university’s decision. Having said that,...
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