Monday, July 12, 2010

Fading to black

Musicians of the bankrupt, in-limbo Honolulu Symphony have rejected a "best and final contract offer" that would effectively reduce their incomes by 92 percent, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports:

The Richardson (TX) Symphony, a part-time orchestra currently running a $100,000 deficit on a $700,000 operating budget, is "pushing players to sign a new non-union contract by Thursday [July 15]," Scott Cantrell reports in The Dallas Morning News:

And then there’s the Charleston (SC) Symphony, another in-limbo operation, which tried and failed to persuade its musicians to accept pay cuts of more than 80 percent.

Do three episodes make a trend? If so, the trend here seems to be conversion of extant orchestras into pickup bands – with freelancers hired as needed, concert-by-concert – and/or conversion of professional orchestras into semi-pro (soon to be amateur?) orchestras.

Merchants and manufacturers may shrink their ways through hard times successfully. Not so symphony orchestras and other labor-intensive performing-arts groups. Fading to black, as opposed to just shutting down, wastes resources and discourages audiences and patrons, making some future revival or the formation of successor groups that much harder.