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Hillard to return as Albany Symphony conductor

Claire Fox Hillard conducts a past Peppermint Pops concert at Albany Municipal Auditorium. Hillard has been reinstated as the music director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

Claire Fox Hillard conducts a past Peppermint Pops concert at Albany Municipal Auditorium. Hillard has been reinstated as the music director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

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Claire Fox Hillard conducts a past Peppermint Pops concert at Albany Municipal Auditorium. Hillard has been reinstated as the music director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

ALBANY, Ga. — Claire Fox Hillard will return as music director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra in the 2012-13 season, symphony officials say. That has led to at least three symphony board members and two orchestra staffers’ resignations.

Jim Bullion, president of the symphony association, said Friday that the board on Tuesday reversed its earlier decision from last December and decided that Hillard will return to lead the orchestra.

“It was not an easy year for the board,” he said. “We look forward to working with Dr. Hillard over the summer and getting the next season off to a good start.”

A message left Friday with Hillard seeking comment was not returned.

Bullion said the board also is close to naming a new executive director. Karen Allen is stepping down at the end of the current season. Her husband, Ray Allen, resigned as director of the Chehaw Council Boy Scouts and the couple plan to move to Florida.

The board decided, Bullion said, that Hillard’s ability, his 24 years with the symphony and his record of service before the Camilla incident outweighed the incident. “If we searched the whole country, we couldn’t find a more competent music director,” he said.

Hillard was suspended last year and then not reintstated following an Aug. 10, 2011 incident in Camilla in which he was charged with prowling/loitering and paid a fine. The conductor called police to a Camilla business around 11:50 p.m. that night, where he was found clad in a towel with his clothes shredded.

He at first claimed that two African-American men had assaulted him and cut his clothes before his story broke down and he admitted to police he had been engaged in a sexual encounter behind a nearby business. He said a woman ran when they saw police responding to a prowler call at that first location.

Symphony officials had planned to reinstate Hillard in January, but in December the board voted to not bring him back. The remainder of the season has been directed by guest conductors.

The reinstatement of Hillard Tuesday revealed a deep division among symphony board members and orchestra staff. Three of the 21 board members — Barbara Rivera Holmes, Rachelle Bitterman and Joe Bishop — resigned this week, as did two symphony staff members — Edward J. Trammell, the orchestra operations and public relations manager, and Lynne Sawyer, artistic administrator.

Those resignations follow one earlier this month by David L. Davies, who said Friday his decision was not connected with the conductor issue.

It was unclear Friday whether any of the other board members intended to resign, but there were indications that some others are considering it.

“I resigned about a week and a half ago,” said Davies, who is headmaster at Deerfield-Windsor School. He said he agreed to serve on the committee Bishop chaired searching for a new executive director and resigned after the committee completed its work for recommendations to the board.

“I was probably going to resign a month before that,” he said. “Joe (Bishop) and I are good friends. I wanted to see that (search) process through.”

Contacted Friday by The Herald, two of the three board members who resigned this week said that Hillard’s reintstatement figured into their decisions. Bitterman said she already had been looking to get off some boards on which she serves, but the reinstatement influenced her timing on leaving the symphony board. “I didn’t agree,” she said. “It was a good decision for me.

“I wish the symphony the very best and I hope they have a good season next year and the seasons to come. I’ll always support them. They’ve been a part of Albany for about 50 years.”

Holmes had no comment on the reason for her resignation, but said, “I do wish the symphony the best. I believe in the symphony. It’s critical to the community and it’s important to our youth. I think the symphony can do some great things.”

Bishop, the chief Superior Court judge of the Pataula Judicial Circuit, said he “just didn’t feel like it was a decision that I could live with. It seemed like the problem would never go away. I just thought it would be the best for me and for the symphony if I didn’t serve and chose to resign.”

Bishop said he wasn’t friends with Hillard, but it “appeared that those on the board who had a personal relationship with him felt strongly” about returning him as music director. “I defer to them as a member of the community,” he said, “but not as a member of the board.”

“I was never contacted once by Dr. Hillard with respect to his status or anything he was doing during the time period (of Hillard’s initial suspension) when he was to be brought back in January,” Bishop said, adding that he felt that was “an indication of my usefulness to the board.”

Allen said the board members’ resignations were effective immediately, but Trammel and Sawyer have committed to completing the current season, which has one performance remaining.

“The symphony could not move forward with the board divided,” Allen said. “It seems negative on the surface (for the resignations to occur), but for the symphony to continue moving forward it’s a positive to have a united board.”

Bullion said the symphony has interviewed several good candidates for its executive directorship that is coming open and that a replacement for Allen, who will stay on at least through May, is expected to be taken up at the board’s next meeting in two weeks.

Noting that it has been a trying season for the symphony, Bullion said that Allen “has done a marvelous job this year.”

The symphony’s May 12 season finale performance, “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” focuses on Theatre Albany and is a stage play by Tom Stoppard with music by André Previn. The orchestra both provides music throughout the play and forms an essential part of the action, becoming an actor in the production. Steven Byess, music director of the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra, the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra and the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestras, will be guest conductor.

Comments

LuLu 2 years, 4 months ago

Bad move, ASO. The public will never forget about his wild adventure, nor will the symphony supporters. Some relationships just aren't worth salvaging. Unless, of course, he has something on somebody.

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Butterfly 2 years, 4 months ago

My thoughts exactly---with a 24 year history I'm sure Hillard knows where all the bones are buried. He just got caught--this time.

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dingleberry 2 years, 4 months ago

I can't begin to imagine what the Board was thinking on this one. Looks like evidence of weakness in the head.

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Cartman 2 years, 4 months ago

So this classless clown gets arrested for indecency; he is booted out in disgrace; the Symphony Board takes him back; the good members of the Board are leaving - and they have the nerve to try and spin it into "...it's a positive..." I don't know who is the bigger clown - Hilliard or the Board.

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CJ_Fan 2 years, 4 months ago

Well the DCSS Board has Velvet Riggins why shouldn't ASO have Hilliard. Lack of Integrity seems to be a reoccurring theme in Albany.

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Butterfly 2 years, 4 months ago

That's why I was so shocked when I heard of ASO's decision. If no one else, can we at least expect our symphony to uphold integrity?

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VSU 2 years, 4 months ago

Soon there will be side notes on job applications..."People with integrity need not apply".

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DoctorDorite 2 years, 4 months ago

Albany with its dealings with wrong do'ers continues to amaze me, its okay to lie, steal, cheat in Albany, heck, you'll even walk free with a pat on the back, even Judge Joe Bishop resigned in protest of the firing of this scumbag ?? Then again be know what they say about birds of a feather flocking together !

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LuLu 2 years, 4 months ago

I thought he resigned in protest of his rehiring.

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DoctorDorite 2 years, 4 months ago

You are correct, I misread the article and now I can't figure out how to edit or delete a post here. ???

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LuLu 2 years, 4 months ago

You are given only 15 minutes to edit a post, then it becomes permanent, so you have to make your changes quickly. Right after you make your next post, notice that it will say "edit" in blue underneath it. If it's been, say, 14 minutes and then you want to edit, you have to do it quickly, because the 15 minutes includes actual typing time. At that point you can click on "edit" but if you take too long, your changes won't stay. Also you can delete your words when you click on "edit", but your name won't go away.

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agirl_25 2 years, 4 months ago

What happens, LuLu, if one clicks on "suggest removal"? Can it be deleted then?

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LuLu 2 years, 4 months ago

I don't know. When I learned about the 15-minute rule (I tried to delete a post once but it had been more than 15 minutes, so I had to repost with my changes), I clicked "suggest removal" on the original post, but it never got removed. I guess it has to be done by the moderator.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 4 months ago

It's a good thing that we're all "forgive and forget Christians" around here......

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CJ_Fan 2 years, 4 months ago

Sorry I can Forgive..... but if you have ever watched Hillard conduct.... Well I am sorry I just can't forget ..."That’s the naked man from Camilla"..... Sorry maybe it's just me ……but as everyone here knows I am no Saint either.

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HighlyAmusedandCurious 2 years, 4 months ago

Was this man acting like a Christian when he was caught in a sex act with a person whom was not his wife? Or was it when he accused black men of assaulting him?

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 4 months ago

A great point Mr/Ms HAaC: but you know Jesus did not qualify what He said about Who, What, and When when He said: "If you do not forgive your brother's sins, then your Heavenly Father will not forgive your sins". It seems pretty clear to me but what do I know?

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Jacob 2 years, 4 months ago

LOL. I agree Sister. Too bad everyone isn't perfect like these posters, the resigning board members and Jesus. Maybe if they ever see one of us drowning somewhere they can walk out onto the water and save us....

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erudite 2 years, 4 months ago

Um, according to the story many believe, Jesus hung around with a prostitute too.

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Cartman 2 years, 4 months ago

If his conduct was acceptable - why doesn't he conduct the symphony orchestra in the nude? Why not be transparent and consistent?

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CJ_Fan 2 years, 4 months ago

O Great thanks for that picture.... Now I can't go back to the Symphony for sure.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 4 months ago

Errrbodddyy...don't forget that God, in His Infinite Wisdom........created us all naked and unashamed. Y'all don't know y'alls Bibles!!!!! Go read it sometime! The original Plan from the Most High was No Clothes! It was SIN (disobedience) that effed it all up for errrrbodddy!

On our way to HELL why not just HATE everybody and be completely UNCOMPASSIONATE and CONDEMN anybody that makes a mistake (even if we don't know the details about what REALLY happened......................................) It's a Question!

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Bubbavet_rureel 2 years, 4 months ago

See this worked out for him, now let's wait for the others.

We forgive and move forward, trust me, he is only human.

Bubbavet_rureel

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 4 months ago

Wow, this caught me by surprise. I really thought that Hilliard would've been too embarrassed to come back.

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Amazed2 2 years, 4 months ago

I was told from a reliable source that a least one wealthy lady wanted her $10,000 dollar donation to the Symphony back. She gave it when he was on suspension and it was expected at the time he would not be fired just suspended. The lady had made the donation that Fox be retained and when they changed course and Fired his she protested and wanted her $10,000 dollars back it Fox was out. Most likely she and others like her that support the symphony with CASH and liked Claire Fox used the old Money thing as clout to get him his job back. I guess she should give him a $100 bill to keep as his emergency fund so next time he gets the urge for something strange that he can afford a hotel and not leave credit card records.

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chinaberry25 2 years, 4 months ago

Kind of like the woman on the WALB morning show who got caught having an affair and she is still around and never fired. She's still here and most forgave her. No different than him. Of course, she did not get arrested.

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bubbavet 2 years, 4 months ago

When you spread a rumor like yours, you better know where it came from. Your computer can be traced

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LuLu 2 years, 4 months ago

It's not rumor. It was a well-publicized fact back when it happened. Chinaberry remembers it, and I do, too. Just as 20 years from now, people will still remember Dr. Hillard's escapade.

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agirl_25 2 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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agirl_25 2 years, 4 months ago

Oh oh, the brass thing, huh? Sorry.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 4 months ago

Too bad, agirl_25. I wish I knew what you had written here. I hate censorship in any form.

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erudite 2 years, 4 months ago

I can take the kinky sex; he was stimulating the economy, as it were. However, his initial accusation of being attacked by black men speaks to what he really is: a complete bigot. Not one post addressed this or the fact that he remains employed at Darton.

None of this speaks well for the area.

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LuLu 2 years, 4 months ago

No, if he had paid for a hotel room, then that would have been stimulating the economy. He was just stimulating something else. And sorry, but the fact is that blaming two black men was, for the time being, a believable story. If he has said two Tibetian men, or two Samoan men, or two Norwegian men or something unusual like that, then they would have been suspicious before his towel dropped. I wonder if the woman from Thomasville has ever been publically revealed.

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erudite 2 years, 4 months ago

He lied, LuLu. He knew it was not two black men; he could have lied and said two men.

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LuLu 2 years, 4 months ago

Maybe he did just say it was two men. And then maybe they asked for a description. We won't ever know, though. "Two men" is just as much a lie as "two black men".

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 4 months ago

Can you trust those cops down in Baker County? I would not, for sure.

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agirl_25 2 years, 4 months ago

I honestly had no idea he was employed at Darton as erudite stated. I imagine that he must be the brunt of many snickers and jokes there. Also, on another note, did you notice in the article the last performance of the ASO? Allow me.....via copy and paste.......

"The symphony’s May 12 season finale performance, “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,".........................

............doncha love it?

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southwestga 2 years, 4 months ago

Think it's maybe $100,000, Jane Willson (Carlton Fletcher 12/06/2011).

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HighlyAmusedandCurious 2 years, 4 months ago

This man is in the public eye. He is the center of attention, if you will, of the orchestra. Most conductors are required to uphold a certain image to draw supporters to the art. You start to tarnish the reputation of the symphony and how many supporters will you be left with?
But to falsely accuse and alienate the African American Community?

Dr Hillard issued a statement to the board, not to the public... in his statement said " "I acknowledge that my actions have damaged my reputation in the Albany Community, hurt people and an institution that I love and respect. For this I sincerely apologize. I seek forgiveness and the opportunity to work to rebuild the trust and respect placed in me over the past 24 years.".
He has worked to rebuild? Shouldn't a public apology have been the first thing he did for the good of public relations of the symphony and it's reputation?

This is not good business. Not for a CEO, a conductor, a Pastor, a teacher, judge, politician or an entertainer in the public eye. This is business, it has to be for the good of the whole and not one part. This has nothing to do with religion and being a forgiving Christian. If men in the public eye make false claims to an arresting officer and blame men of race that is not his own, how likely are we to hold trust and faith in them?

What concerns me now is we have board members willing to leave the job that they support and love to NOT serve under Dr. Hillard. Integrity and ethics above all else.

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agirl_25 2 years, 4 months ago

You put that very well.....if I may say so. Thank you.

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tocar 2 years, 4 months ago

The symphony conductor was thought to be morally good in character, trustworthy and of integrity. He fooled the community didn't he? This is not good business for him to be welcomed back. I don't blame those for leaving / resigning. He needs to be in a nudist colony some place in Siberia. He should not even want to show his face in the community. It would be better if he would just go away.

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Mr_Heatmiser 2 years, 4 months ago

I have zero respect for a man who cheats on his wife, but I must have missed class the day they told us that musicians were expected to be moral role models & some sorts of pillars of the community. You guys would have run Mozart out of town with pitchforks & torches.

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agirl_25 2 years, 4 months ago

Oh my god yes.......in 1790's Vienna the thought of him cavorting with another woman would have been unthinkable. Now someone like Lord Byron.....well him...I would gladly hold the pitchfork...

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whattheheck 2 years, 4 months ago

I respect those who resigned from both the board and their positions over this incident. All should have refused to cave in to the financial supporters, if that was what led to the reinstatement. Somewhere, we have to draw the line for how we expect people to act and on this one he was way over the line--and should have paid the price. Perhaps the ASO can put a condition on his employment that he can't travel more than 10 miles from home--moral turpitude is already out of the barn on this one.
In some respects, it reminds me of what goes on in professional sports--too much is overlooked when a "good player" goes bad and there is money at stake.

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bubbavet 2 years, 4 months ago

If we all didn't cave in to financial support there would be no USA

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alleebrin 2 years, 4 months ago

I will not be coming back. Everytime I looked at this unscrupulous man I'd have to throw up!! And how can he stand on stage in such a position and not know what I'm thinking?!! It's the caught and uncaught, and he was CAUGHT! Such an embarassment to the community. But then who else would want him? But I'm only sorrowful for his wife and kids - nobody deserves such humiliation!

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Savvy 2 years, 4 months ago

Are any of you really surprised?? I live in Boston, Massachusetts, but was born and raised in Southwest Georgia. Lately I've had to make about 6-9 visits to Albany in the past two years. The City of Albany and the culture of the area doesn't make alot of progress on the world's stage because of the mindset of the leaders. I wonder how one can rationialize that it would be more fruitful to reappoint someone like Claire Fox Hilliard than to find someone else? Every person who purchases a ticket to hear the ASO will have this negative image of him because of his famous ''incident'' in Camilla, Georgia (of all places).

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Amazed2 2 years, 4 months ago

I think the board should require him to direct the symphony in only a white linen towel as punishment. A large size towel of course. I am still wondering where did the women that he said existed go to when he ran. Did she vaporize or something or was she interviewed??? Never heard any names??

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 4 months ago

Well Joe Bishop will not be eligible for a cameo role in Sherwood's next Feature Film (which will, no doubt, bring in several more million dollars to God's Kingdom and Michael Catt's Legacy) if he doesn't "recuse himself" from this Board. So yes, you heard it here first from me.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 4 months ago

Y'all need to SETTLE DOWN and don't make me come into THE MATRIX and kick all y'alls ASSES from here to APRIL!!!!!!

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Moe 2 years, 4 months ago

I suggest he get a job as a code enforcement slob. Does anyone want to second the nomination?

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Bubbavet_rureel 2 years, 4 months ago

Please dont throw this guy away, he made a mistake, hopefully he will learn from this and become a better man and citizen. His talents are needed for the upcoming generations. I would like to see him do the following:

  1. Issue a formal apology to the public and to the black community for his initial blame
  2. Host a benifit concert for diversity awareness
  3. Volunteer 40 hours of community service, including speaking to young men about controlling their behaviors?
  4. Contact the PCCI for moral support
  5. Pray that you guys will give him a break
  6. Be Bubbavet_rureel friend

Bubbavet_rureel

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Butterfly 2 years, 4 months ago

Now I really like ideas 1-3..

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 4 months ago

This is precisely why I do my crazy stuff out of town. There's too many snoops around here! ;)

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Amazed2 2 years, 4 months ago

I lthink we should all buy a ticket to his first performance and everyone wear white towel wrap and of course nothing else. (OK you can wear your whites under)

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LoneCycler 2 years, 4 months ago

If Mr. Hillard comes back as the ASO conductor he will show more personal strength and moral fortitude than all of these commenters combined. Put yourself in that man’s shoes and imagine having the details of such a . . . tawdry encounter . . . published in the newspaper. Most men have made complete fools of themselves in the pursuit of sex, I know I have, but few have had to suffer such public scrutiny. Mr. Hillard has feet of clay, but he also has a talented mind. He should not be punished for the rest of his life for a simple mistake. I don’t put too much weight behind these ASO board members leaving. If they were members of the Florence judiciary in 1476 they’d have convicted Leonardo of sodomy, destroying his future career as an artist. If they were board members of the Florence wool market in 1500, they’d have fired Michaelangelo for carving the statue of David because it’s an anatomically correct nude male. Jack Nicholson as the gangster Frank Costello in the movie The Departed said he liked John Lennon because he once said: "I'm an artist. You give me a *&^@#$ tuba, I'll get you something out of it." Mr. Hillard will get you something out of a tuba, and a lot of other musical instruments. He's an asset our community should not throw away.

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Amazed2 2 years, 4 months ago

Heck I did not know Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Jack Nickolson and John Lennon were hanging out naked in Camilla with a mysterious ghost women. Guess she was so nude that she could not be seen???????????????????

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Martian 2 years, 4 months ago

Many of us have sat or dozed through lots of sermons. In my case, it was mostly dozing, but through it all a couple of concepts stuck: love and forgiveness. The maestro's peccadillo has caused him months of shame, embarrassment and professional uncertainty. Isn't that enough punishment to satisfy even the most vengeful in our community?

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Jacob 2 years, 4 months ago

I agree Martian. When will they be satisified with the pound of flesh he has given? It seems that some have an overblown sense of self importance regarding themselves and a smalltown symphony. I hope they recall that you reap what you sew. They or theirs will make an error sooner or later. It is my hope that they recall their own self righteousness when they face the same rigid scrutiny- and it WILL happen...

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agirl_25 2 years, 4 months ago

To falsely accuse the two black men.........now that was wrong, and a lie.

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Jacob 2 years, 4 months ago

That's kind of a given, wouldn't you say? What is your point?

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