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Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's (kinda) Sunny in Philadelphia

Musicians sign contract, but Kimmel Center is shut down.
Deborah Voigt sings tonight's season-opening gala, which has been moved across the Schuylkill River.
Clouds are lifting over the Philadelphia Orchestra, which has spent the summer mired in bankruptcy proceedings and labor struggles. Their season opens tonight away, but not in their usual home of Verizon Hall.
Due to a Sept. 30 strike by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (which governs ushers, stagehands, box office and wardrobe workers at the Kimmel Center and the nearby Academy of Music) tonight's gala opening concert will be played at Irvine Auditorium, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. 

The concert will feature soprano Deborah Voigt, performing selections from the Great American Songbook. Ms. Voigt is a late replacement for Dawn Upshaw, who withdrew from the concert following a death in the family.

In a prepared statement, the musicians of the orchestra announced that they voted to ratify a new four-year agreement with management. "Although we accept this contract reluctantly," the statement read, "the alternative could cause additional uncertainty and harm to members of this great orchestra."

Recent articles by Peter Dobrin of the Philadelphia Inquirer indicate that the musicians will take a $35 million hit, squarely in the pension fund. The Philadelphia Orchestra Association intends to withdraw from that fund, and may face opposition from the American Federation of Musicians and Employees' Pension Fund.

The labor deal, which offers severe salary cuts and reduces the orchestra's roster by ten players, is subject to approval by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The statement continues: "It is the self-admitted failures of management and the Board that have led us to this point, and we challenge them to make the changes needed to raise the funds necessary to operate and promote the Orchestra with the same passion with which we create music." The statement calls on the Board of Directors to equal the musicians' commitment to stablize the orchestra's finances.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats