Chicago Symphony Strike Settlement Allows Carnegie Hall Concerts

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 03:00 PM

Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ratified a three-year labor contract Tuesday morning, ending a two-day strike and clearing the way for next week’s three concerts at Carnegie Hall.

The players' vote on the agreement took place before a 10 am rehearsal Tuesday. Steven Lester, a CSO bassist and chair of the negotiating committee, said the votes in favor were "overwhelming."

The ratification will be finalized once the CSO board of trustees votes, which should take place in the next two days, said Rachelle Roe, an orchestra spokesman. Once ratified, it will take effect retroactively Sept. 17.

The season-opening dates at Carnegie Hall (Oct. 3-5), are considered among the most prestigious in classical music, and were briefly imperiled by the strike. WQXR will broadcast the opening-night gala, which features Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Details of the orchestra's accord weren’t released on Tuesday but Lester described it as a compromise. “It clearly wasn’t what we hoped for,” he said. “It was massively compromised on our part and on the association’s part. But the agreement is one we can live with for the next three years.”

Musicians went on strike Saturday over wages and health care costs, forcing the cancellation of the season’s first Saturday night show less than two hours before it started.

“The net effect is we would pay more but not anywhere near as much as they wanted us to pay,” Lester said of the contract's provisions for health care contributions.

The Chicago Symphony's strike was remarkably brief at a time when several major American orchestras are slogging through difficult and protracted contract negotiations.

The Minnesota Orchestra is in federal mediation, as orchestra negotiators want to cut the average base pay for musicians from $135,000 to under $90,000. Musicians continue to play without a contract in Cleveland, but concerts of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra have been called off while talks continue.

The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra -- which have been locked out since Aug. 25 with no paychecks or insurance -- have voted to accept $5.2 million in pay and benefit cuts if, they say, administrative staff share the sacrifice.

Lester said the Chicago musicians are pleased with the swift resolution. "We’re very happy to be back at work and getting ready for our trip to New York next week."

With the Associated Press


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Comments [1]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

The nation's orchestras are all in the same dilemma. Audience size has greatly diminished and the remaining patrons are not doling out funds as previously. Talent uncompensated financially seeks other venues and teaching. The Minnesota, Seattle, Philadelphia, Atlanta and dozens of other orchestras may soon disband and the New York City Opera because of the Koch brothers taking over the former State Theater of Lincoln Center appears to be forced to go under. Their orchestra also was one of the best. If young singers have no place to prepare for the big time except to sing in smaller European opera houses, where the interest there is to help their own citizen, then BIG TIME STUPIDITY HAS TAKEN OVER OUR "CULTURE." What is the point of reducing our so called spending budgets to the point where nothing of value exists in the USA? My cousin MICHAEL BLANKFORT wrote both the books and screenplays for the 1953 film THE JUGGLER Hollywood film made in Israel starring KIRK DOUGLAS and the 1950 Hollywood film BROKEN ARROW starring JAMES STEWART and JEFF CHANDLER [Cochise]. The music for THE JUGGLER was composed by opera composer GEORGE ANTHEIL, in whose opera VOLPONE I sang the tenor leading role [Mosca] in its professional world premiere in NEW YORK in 1953. ANTHEIL, famous for his opera TRANSATLANTIC and BALLET MECHANIQUE looked exactly like Peter Lorre. I am a romantischer heldentenor. I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I opened my three hour concert with the Invocazione di Orfeo from Jacopo Peri's opera EURIDICE composed in 1600, the first opera, composed in the same year as Shakespeare wrote HAMLET. It, and from the same concert, can be heard my singing Florestan's "Gott, welch Dunkel hier ! from Beethoven's FIDELIO and "Sound an Alarm" from Handel's JUDAS MACXCABAEUS in the live performance on my three websites,, ,, and It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. My voice teachers were the legendary MET OPERA singers Alexander Kipnis, Friedrich Schorr, Frieda Hempel, Martial Singher, John Brownlee, Karin Branzell and Margarete Matzenauer. As an opera composer myself ["Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare"] I fully comprehend the assumed urgency of recognition of the still living. I am the director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute in Boonton, NJ where I train actors in all the Shakespeare roles and big-voiced singers in all the Wagner opera roles. My singing of TRISTAN, GOTTERDAMMERUNG SIEGFRIED, SIEGFRIED, SIEGMUND, RIENZI, LOHENGRIN, WALTHER VON STOLZING PARSIFAL, ELEAZAR, FEDERICO, ORFEO and OTELLO can also be heard at RECORDED SELECTIONS on the three websites.

Dec. 25 2012 07:26 PM

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