The Minnesota Orchestra canceled more concerts Friday, but also offered a glimpse of movement in its stalled labor negotiations.
In announcing that shows would be canceled through Feb. 10, the orchestra's board invited locked-out musicians to return to the bargaining table "without any preconditions," offering two dates in early January as possibilities.
Previously, the board had insisted that it would negotiate only if musicians came in with a contract proposal.
"We believed it was time to invite everyone to come back and talk," said board chairman Jon Campbell. "Someone's got to take the first step."
In a press release, musicians said they wanted clarifications before taking the offer seriously. They demanded to know whether management would end the lockout, withdraw the final offer that musicians rejected on Sept. 30 and make a new offer. The release also questioned whether the board had notified the federal mediator of the proposed dates.
"When they answer these questions, we will know more about what their intentions are as far as the nature of these meetings," said Tim Zavadil, head of the musicians' negotiating team.
There have been no negotiations since musicians were locked out on Oct. 1. The board made a contract proposal in April that would have cut the minimum scale for musicians by 32 percent. The union has never made a formal counteroffer.
Campbell said later Friday that he had seen the musicians' press release but would not comment until he heard a formal response from the union's lawyer.
Response to legislative letter
Orchestra officials also responded Friday to a letter from 14 state legislators -- most from Minneapolis -- who questioned whether the orchestra misled lawmakers about the organization's financial health during deliberations on bonding money for Orchestra Hall's current renovation. The legislators, who suggested they may call for hearings into the matter, also asked whether state grants were being used to fund the orchestra during the labor dispute.
In a written response to the Dec. 6 letter, which had been leaked to reporters Thursday, Campbell and orchestra president Michael Henson said the orchestra "did not and will not use" state grant funding for "administrative costs associated with the contract negotiation." The orchestra has received about $642,000 in the state's current fiscal year.
Further, they said, "The Orchestral Association will immediately sequester in a separate account the funds that have been received from the Minnesota State Arts Board thus far in this fiscal year and will sequester any payments that are scheduled to be made going forward, until the contract negotiation is completed."
Among the events canceled Friday, four will be rescheduled as part of the 2013-14 season. Those are "That's Amore!," "Tiempo Libre," two performances by Bill Cosby and a screening of "West Side Story" with the orchestra playing the score live.
Canceled concerts include the annual Future Classics presentation, Dvorak's Symphony No. 7 and an Inside the Classics program on Brahms' Symphony No. 1. The box office will contact ticket holders directly.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299