« Choir burgled during concert | Main | A Cappella on Conan O'Brien »

January 17, 2006

Chorus groups out of tune in names battle

Salt Lake Tribune (UT):

The Utah Chamber Artists are known for making dignified music, but these days the group is letting lawyers do the performing. The Salt Lake singing group has sued the Utah Choral Artists, accusing the group of trademark infringement. Both groups perform classical choral works, and their similar names and roles are confusing potential donors and ticket-buyers, the lawsuit says.

The Chamber group pleaded with the Choral group for more than a year to change its name, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court. But after months of requests - and no response from the other side - the group said it was forced to sue. "This is not what we want to do," said John Neilsen, a board member with the Utah Chamber Artists. "This is a product of total frustration in getting them to sit down and discuss this." Neilsen said the group "made every reasonable attempt" to discuss its concerns with Brady Allred, artistic director of Utah Choral Artists. "But those concerns were either completely ignored or not taken seriously."

Allred could not be reached for comment, but a representative from Utah Choral Artists said she is confident the dispute can be resolved without going to court. "We intend to resolve as quickly as possible any misunderstanding that has occurred," said Christine Clark, acting general manager of Utah Choral Artists. "Our intention is to cooperate fully so that this will be cleared up." However, she would not say Thursday whether the group would give up the name, and on Wednesday said they would continue with the current moniker.

Neilsen said there have been "innumerable" instances in which the groups were confused. Venues have mixed them up; a radio announcer gave away free tickets to a concert, but misidentified which group was performing; a master recording of a concert was delivered to Utah Chamber mislabeled as the work of theother group; and the confusion hampers fund raising and "creates the likelihood that a donor may mistakenly donate funds to the wrong group," according to the lawsuit. The dispute comes after nearly two decades of amiable coexistence. The Utah Chamber Artists has performed classical works around the Salt Lake Valley for more than 15 years. The Utah Choral Artists has performed for some 25 years, first as the Jay Welch Chorale, then the Legacy Chorale, and finally, in 2004, as the Utah Choral Artists.

Ardean Watts, professor emeritus of music at the University of Utah, said he wasn't confused by the names, but pointed out that he has been aligned with the Chamber Artists for years. But Grant Clayton, a Salt Lake attorney who handles trademark issues but is not affiliated with either group or the lawsuit, said he thought the case was a strong one. "I can't keep them straight," he said in referring to the court filing.

Clark is confident the case will go no further. "I think [Utah Chamber Artists] are a wonderful group," she said. "We're very committed to continuing on with our mission and supporting the other group in doing the same." However the case is resolved, Watts said he was saddened by the events. "It hurts me that such things would be settled in a suit of some kind because music doesn't need that," he said

Posted by acapnews at January 17, 2006 12:07 AM