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Kerfuffle in Edmonton Over Booty-Shaking Conductor

By Vivien Schweitzer
30 Apr 2007

William Eddins
photo by Ellis Brothers Photography/Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

To wiggle or not to wiggle? That is the question among symphony audiences in Alberta's capital. Edmonton Symphony Orchestra music director William Eddins, who on March 23-24 conducted a program of Gershwin, Bernstein, Stravinsky, George Antheil and Howard Brubeck, attracted the ire of a patron who disliked his "bum wiggling" podium antics.

In a letter to the Edmonton Journal, anti-wiggler Jeanie Campbell wrote "But what is with Bill Eddins? He's not classy; he's rude! He shakes his body, wiggles his bum, kicks his legs out, a chain hanging off his back pocket."

But other music lovers rallied to Eddins's defense. A 14-year old clarinetist wrote in that Eddins "was great during the performance. People watched in awe as he shook his body, wiggled his bum, and kicked his legs out. It showed his deep connection to the music."

Another supporter added, "I can't say I agree with Jeanie Campbell, who seems to want Bill Eddins to act like a clergyman, and the Winspear Centre to be a solemn cathedral where suppliant parishioners worship in silent awe at the altar of dignified classical music. Give me a break, lady!"

"Drop your elitist, antiquated attitude, Campbell; Eddins is doing a fantastic job," declared another fan.

And as for the bum wiggler himself? Eddins claims that it's one of his greatest assets, writing in the Journal that his "'wiggling bum' was the first thing that my lovely wife claims she ever noticed about me, so I fear it shall remain."

That I "'shake my body and kick my legs out,' I have no defence," he added. "Music moves me, all of me, and the day when I do not have an intense physical reaction to the beautiful music I have the honour and joy of conducting will be the day you read my obituary in the newspaper."

There's no video record of the maestro and his bottom in action, alas, but the concert is available in streaming audio at this page on the CBC's website.





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