Vancouver Symphony Calls Off Concerts Due to Municipal Strike

Classic Arts News   Vancouver Symphony Calls Off Concerts Due to Municipal Strike
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, faced with picket lines of angry municipal workers at the city-owned venue where it performs, has postponed all of its scheduled concerts this week.

The city's local of the Canadian Union of Public Employees has been on strike since July 20, paralyzing most municipal services. The Orpheum Theatre, where the VSO gives the bulk of its concerts, is owned by the city of Vancouver and the front-of-the-house staff are now-striking city workers; union members have been picketing all performances at the Orpheum.

The VSO was able to give its season-opening concerts last Saturday and Monday (Sept. 29 and Oct. 1), after the British Columbia Labour Relations Board issued an interim ruling prohibiting picket lines at the Orpheum's stage door. (There were worries that the orchestra players, members of the American Federation of Musicians, would be unwilling to cross a picket line.) However, there have reportedly been several confrontations between strikers and musicians; one picketer has been arrested for assault after he allegedly struck one VSO musician in the groin following a heated altercation, according to CBC News.

That incident and other "violent and destructive behaviour," according to a statement released by the orchestra's administration, "has led to the VSO being strongly concerned for the safety and welfare of our customers, musicians, administrative staff, and volunteers."

Consequently, the orchestra has postponed all three of its performances this week. This afternoon's "Tea & Trumpets" has been rescheduled to April 10th; the VSO Pops concerts featuring jazz star Byron Stripling, planned for tomorrow and Saturday (Oct. 5-6), have been moved to Dec. 28-29.

The same statement reminds customers that all Vancouver Symphony concerts not held at the Orpheum, such as the Oct. 12 and 13 concerts at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts and an Oct. 15 program in North Vancouver, are going ahead as planned.

With the CUPE strike now finishing its tenth week — and with non-municipal venues in Vancouver already hard put to accommodate displaced arts groups — concern is rising over the viability of the orchestra's season. "This could actually ruin the VSO if it went on for any period of time," Vancouver Symphony music director Bramwell Tovey told CBC News. "It would be a very short journey from the great success the orchestra is enjoying at the moment with a burgeoning, blossoming endowment, with tremendous public support at the box office and from all levels of government. The orchestra's really thriving — doing very well indeed — but this strike could ruin the VSO within a matter of months."

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