#812 – Dick Bernard: The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra "Christmas Party"

The Musicians Website: here
The “filing cabinet” for all previous posts about the Orchestra Lock-Out here.
Sunday, we attended “A Tschaikovsky Spectacular, Eiji Oue Returns with Jon Kimura Parker, piano and the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra” at the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium. Here is the entire program for this marvelous event: Mn Orch Dec 15 13001
At the conclusion of the afternoon, I tried to “catch” Maestro Oue at 1/30 of a second with my camera.
Such a feat was impossible. This was the best I could do:
(click to enlarge all photos)

Maestro Oue recognizes the musicians at the conclusion of the program Dec. 15, 2013

Maestro Oue recognizes the musicians at the conclusion of the program Dec. 15, 2013


Reflecting on that poor photograph, it probably catches the exuberance of the moment and, indeed, of the concert itself.
Maestro Oue was glad to be back in Minneapolis and Minnesota, visiting from the Orchestra he currently leads, the Barcelona Symphony in Spain, and the Orchestra was in great form.
Words tend to get in the way of the feelings of yesterday afternoon.
At one point, I was remembering the first “Locked Out” concert, in the exact same auditorium of the Minneapolis Civic Center, October 18, 2012.
That date seemed so long ago and far away. Then, near 14 months ago, I think all of us thought this absurd Lock Out would quickly be resolved and the season would resume soon, but it continues, with no end in sight.
For a moment, yesterday, I thought of titling this post, “A Concert by an Orchestra in Exile”, but that isn’t accurate: the Prisoner, now, is the entire Board of the Minnesota Orchestral Association, bunkered down in their fancy, newly renovated Orchestra Hall three blocks from where we were sitting, watching their beloved Pot of Money supposedly to guarantee the unknown future.
Perhaps, I thought, the Board had, rather than locking their orchestra out, locked themselves out, the end game as yet unknown. The band plays on….
At the end of intermission, Principal Cellist and Negotiator Tony Ross, rose to give what has become a customary report on where things stand at the moment, including the schedule of programs for the winter and spring, 2014: Mn Orch Wr-Spr 2013001
He noted that attempts to reach a path of resolution are ongoing, and every day something happens, much (as he said, “thank god”,) not appearing in the media.
Towards the end of his talk Tony said that Maestro Oue had asked him to stop by his dressing room before the previous evenings concert, and, he noted, that such appointments are seldom relished by musicians, who steel themselves to be reminded of some sour note or other…like being called into the Principals office!
This time, though, the meeting was different. Maestro Oue had a gold bracelet, given to and worn by Barcelona’s own Pablo Casals over 50 years ago at a White House concert. Casals daughter had (I seem to recall) given Oue the bracelet as a gift. The Maestro, in turn, loaned the bracelet to Tony Ross for the concert: a charm for the performances. Tony brought the bracelet out of his pocket for all of us to see. It was a magic, totally unexpected, moment, in a magic afternoon.
I wondered, as I have wondered before, where the exalted Orchestra Board would be now if they had decided, some years ago, to have intermission visits with we in the audience about their supposed financial plight, rather than doing their best to keep their real plans a secret from us in those crucial recent years.
But this would presume that they had an interest in saving their world-class orchestra, rather than replacing it with unknown fancies of their privileged imaginations.
The last chapter of this conflict is not yet written, and I am hoping that Tony’s suggestion that there are back-channel and serious talks going on between Orchestra negotiators and the Board is not a fantasy of mine. As witnessed by upcoming programs, the titans of the music world are wanting to come here, and perform with the Locked Out Musicians.
We have a treasure worth keeping; and these Orchestra members who are now doing double and triple duty, only one part of which is making beautiful music, are to be commended.
Play on!
And, audience members, contribute and support in all the many ways that you can, the restoration of this beloved Orchestra as an icon of this community.
Maestro Oue caught at a reasonably quiet instant at the conclusion of the concert Dec 15

Maestro Oue caught at a reasonably quiet instant at the conclusion of the concert Dec 15


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Comment from Jim F. Dec 16:
Sorry, Dick, but I think the musicians themselves have condemned themselves to failure. their last missive, at that meeting, said they are committed to working it out with the present board and getting back to work under that same leadership.
It will not happen. Will not. Will not.
The orchestra itself could be saved, but only if they recognize that fact — that there is no possibility of continuing a first-rate orchestra under that board and that leadership. That board and those leaders will accept nothing other than unconditional surrender, and failure to recognize that and to turn away from that leadership means the orchestra as we know it will die. Or has died.
It’s part of a syndrome that has overtaken the people of this country and is taking the entire country down. It is the belief that nothing can be done without the leadership and approval of the very rich rich. The whole damned population has become dependent on them, is paralyzed without their approval. “Oh, no. We can’t do anything without them.”
from Charles A, Dec 16:
Good morning Dick,
The view here is the the MOA [Minnesota Orchestral Association] and Mr. Henson have encountered a resistance stronger then they anticipated. This resistance might be an immovable force in the form of a musicians union. I have only encountered one published piece that addressed the broad union influence, but I think that it certainly deserves more attention.
I do not think that the MOA truly understood the collective and broad reaching influence of this form of labor organization. In this case, the union is not just a local seeking a contract, but a national and international organization representing artists world-wide.
Because of this lock-out, and until an agreement is reached …
… There will never be a union musician on the Orchestra Hall stage. This “never” includes jazz, Broadway, classical, international soloists and free lance musicians.
… Starting another MOA sponsored orchestra would not be possible should the current ensemble be disbanded. Any young and promising classical musician that would play for such an ensemble would be forever black-listed in a traditional hiring process elsewhere.
As the struggle has continued, this unexpected union presence has brought, and will continue to bring pressure on the MOA, and their ability to meaningfully sustain the newly renovated Orchestra Hall.
It is in this way as audience members that our support of the musicians is a major influence. Selling out their “indie series” concerts is a must!
Thank you for your continued comments and support.
a satirical piece from someone who wishes to go by “a Friend”, Dec 16:
A Satire (probably) (we hope)
BREAKING NEWS:
SOLVING THE ORCHESTRA STAND-OFF!
Today, the Orchestral Association Management and Board responded to concerns of City Hall that they are not fulfilling their obligations to provide cultural programming per promises made when they successfully petitioned for a multi-million dollar bonding bill to renovate the Hall.
After months of locking out the professional Orchestra musicians because unionized labor would not agree to proposed radical artistic changes plus 30% salary cuts, Management announced a contract with a new orchestra. The Alt Kuhschwanz High School Band is eager to begin what will be a short season on January 10th and 11th. This breakthrough will allow music fans to hear the music they love once again! For their inaugural concert, the musicians are preparing a program made up entirely of the works of John Phillip Sousa, the respected American composer.
The Mayor and the City Council of Alt Kuhschwantz, a farming community in the Red River Valley, enthusiastically joined their School Board in supporting the offer to the High School Music Department. In a show of civic pride, the Council committed pay the Band’s school bus expenses for transportation to the Metro area for the entire concert season.
Rumors continue to swirl around the selection of the Alt Kuhschwanz musicians. Some critics wonder why a contract was not offered to one of the larger high schools or community colleges in the Greater Metropolitan Area–perhaps one with a music department large enough to support an orchestra, or perhaps one which had actually won some awards in the recent past.
In response, online social media sites indicate that directors of several orchestras from metropolitan high schools were, in fact, approached about possible contracts. However, deals fell through when directors insisted that they retain artistic control of the programs, rather than leave selection of music to the current Orchestral Association Management. In a Q & A on its website, Management stated, “We’ve already made that mistake with the previous Orchestra. We will design our own concerts to maintain our current audience, and to reach out to younger groups as well. Of course, maintaining artistic integrity is absolutely paramount. It’s the core of our commitment to our community, our patrons, and especially our donors. Our upcoming schedule and reset business model will also assure our return to a positive revenue stream.”
The January concerts will be followed by 4 more performances: February (Music of Rent), March (Miley Cyrus and Friends), April (Prince: A Retrospective), and April (Rap and Hip-Hop: Their Roots in the Baroque Tradition). Concert dates will be announced on New Year’s Day. Barring complications, a full 2014-2015 season is also foreseen.
The Orchestral Association Board has strongly endorsed Management’s solution to the ongoing, sometimes acrimonious impasse. “The money we save on travel, instrument maintenance, full-page newspaper ads of justifications, and soloists will easily allow us to schedule another season, beginning in September,” stated their spokesperson. Management and the Alt Kuhschwantz Band are already soliciting ideas for concert themes.
The Orchestra’s website has information regarding tickets, donating, or suggesting a theme for a 2014-15 concert. Photos & bios of the Alt Kuhschwanz young musicians will be posted soon.
from Maryann G of Save Our Symphony MN, Dec 16:
Thanks Dick. A wonderful, beautiful blog post. We will be posting your blog about the concert on our SOSMN FB page today. Thanks again.
from Andrena G, Dec 16: Wasn’t certain if you knew about this gig tonight.
from David T, Dec 16, re Andrena’s comment, etc: We were at the Dakota last night and the guy who introduced last night’s group was really talking up Peter Kogan. I’ve heard that one of the things that makes the Twin Cities a desirable place for classical musicians in the SPCO, the Minnesota Orchestra as well as other smaller classical ensembles is the opportunities to play other styles of music. Also, there are a lot of commercial opportunities due to the area’s advertising firms.
You just wonder how the whole Minnesota Orchestra thing is going to shake out. Clearly, a big step forward would be for the head of the association to step aside. He’s become the symbol of intransigence. You’d think he’d want to avoid becoming known as the guy who helped kill the orchestra.

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