Welsh National Opera oboist unfairly dismissed

Oboe player Murray "Sandy" Johnston was fired because he could not blend with the rest of the players, which might damage the orchestra's reputation.

Murray Johnston Welsh National Opera

The Welsh National Opera unfairly dismissed its former principal oboe player, according to a ruling by the Court of Appeal. Former conductor Carlo Rizzi dismissed the player because his playing might damage the international reputation of the orchestra.

Murray “Sandy” Johnston, who played in the orchestra for 34 years, was fired in 2008 because his playing did not ‘blend’ with the rest of the players. He lost an employment tribunal after the court heard five days of evidence from both sides in 2010, but this previous ruling has now been overturned after an appeal on a legal technicality.

Lord Justice Kay said it was unfair to dismiss Johnston according to such a subjective assessment. He said: "It was not a reasonable response to the problem that had arisen... I consider that a finding of procedural unfairness is inevitable".

Professional orchestral musicians are assessed through rigorous audition process before they are hired. The Welsh National Opera said they could not test how well he blended with the orchestra in an audition scenario, but only in full ensemble conditions.

The Welsh National Opera consider the Court of Appeal ruling to be unjust, and will be considering their position over the coming days before they decide how to respond.

A spokesperson said: "It would appear that the Court of Appeal has gone beyond a ruling on the legal technicality and decided an overall outcome despite having not heard evidence from those involved. We feel that to overturn the original decision without the benefit of hearing the depth of evidence and the opportunity for cross examination and exploration of the facts is unfair and unjust."

WNO