Musicians greeted each other Thursday night at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Below, volunteers collected donations and petition signatures. Photos by Renee Schneider Jones.
There was evidence of a labor rally, and evidence of serious classical music Thursday at the concert by musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. Violist Sam Bergman spoke passionately about the musicians’ cause when the players came back to the stage after intermission for the Shostakovich No. 5. Bergman called the orchestra a musical institution that “stands in nobody’s shadow.” He also critiqued the Orchestra Hall lobby renovation – which has become a rallying point for critics of management – and noted that the institution has the sixth largest endowment of any U.S. orchestra.
Otherwise, within the acoustically challenged confines of the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium, this was a concert that did not seem to have been put together in a hurry – even though it was. It demonstrated the world-class virtuosity of these players, even though they were missing a few of their mates. Violist Ken Freed, for example, couldn’t be there because he was doing a temporary gig with the New York Philharmonic. Clarinetist Tim Zavadil was sitting in with the Cleveland Orchestra.
Those absences, and others, contributed to a little sadness because these are familiar faces and one wondered if there is a time when other faces will no longer be on the stage.
Outside the auditorium, the partisan crowd showed its colors in long queues to buy t-shirts, lawn signs and buttons – or to simply pitch a few bucks into an open violin case. Elizabeth Barnes of Richfield didn’t need any prompting to share her views on the labor dispute between the players and management.
“Everyone knows the economic model is problematic,” Barnes said. “The right thing would be to work with the musicians and problem solve. Instead, they [management] have given them an impossible take-it-or-leave-it proposal.”
When asked whether she was here as a union activist or classical music enthusiast, Barbara Hanson of Minneapolis declared herself a “union-supporting music lover.”
Amid the celebration, though, was an unspoken grim determination. This was an historic event, yet the ugly breakdown that led to it could not be denied. The musicians will decide whether they can pull off the logistics to do this again. They have to be encouraged by the turnout, but it's not easy and as a couple of people said at intermission, this might be the only time this group plays together this season. Whether that is true, the atmosphere Thursday night reflected a clear-eyed acknowledgement of the tense reality.
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