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Minnesota Orchestra Lockout Concert Announcement

The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra are now selling tickets for their lockout concert at the Minneapolis Convention Center on October 18 at 7:30pm. The program will consist of the Dvorak cello concerto with Tony Ross soloing (……his last time doing so with the orchestra? wouldn’t surprise me) and Shostakovich’s fifth symphony.

You can buy tickets here. They range in price from $15 to $40.

This promises to be one of the most unique shows in the orchestra’s 110-year history. So you should really come. Because we don’t know when we’ll hear the Minnesota Orchestra again. Or how much of the Minnesota Orchestra will still be the Minnesota Orchestra by the time this is all over.

A visual representation of how I’m feeling right now

Anyway. Yesterday I made reservations at a hotel near the convention center. Would any SOTL readers want to think about getting together briefly before the show? I don’t know where yet, or even if it would be feasible, but it would be interesting to get a head count of who would be interested in such a thing. If you want, I can email you at the address you use to comment here and we can try to arrange something. Otherwise we’ll try to say hi at intermission.

Love to my readers.

xx

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Just a quick fyi

Hello dear friends,

First off I want to thank y’all for following this blog. I’ve been blown away by the reception these entries have gotten and I feel so very, very lucky to know I’m a part of a world where people love orchestral music so very, very much.

Second, I wanted to let you know that I got an email this morning from Facebook, extending their condolences that I was having trouble logging into my account. Only thing is, I hadn’t been trying to log into my account… :/ It may have been a total coincidence – or a technical snafu – I’m not accusing anyone of anything – I just wanted you all to be aware that if things would fall silent here without explanation, or if I start sounding not like myself, or saying things wildly opposite of what I have been saying…or if this post disappears…keep in mind I may well have been hacked. I’m taking all the precautions I can, but I want to put this post out there on the .001% chance something unfortunate does happen. Once again, not accusing anyone of anything…I just thought better safe than sorry.

Take care, all.

With gratitude, Emily

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Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO Negotiations: Summary of Week -4

The Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s musicians’ contracts both expire at the end of September, and a lot of things have been happening lately in the discussions. My blog entry chronicling the goings-on this past week is 7000+ words, so if you haven’t been keeping up, here’s a Reader’s Digest version. If you want more perspectives, more links, more questions, and more subtlety, I invite you to visit my orchestra negotiation Tumblr, which I’ve been updating at least once a day this last week. (Keep in mind the Tumblr features some adult language and unhealthy levels of sarcasm. So if that’s not your thing, stay away.)

Here’s a brief overview of where we’re at as of this weekend, at least from my perspective as a patron…

SPCO

The opening shot was fired on 25 August when assistant principal violist Evelina Chao wrote an editorial in the St. Paul Pioneer Press titled “Fearing for ‘our orchestra as we know it.'” That editorial claimed that management’s proposals would reduce musicians’ wages by 57% and 67%. On 28 August, the musicians of the SPCO released a PDF summary of the negotiations so far, and on 1 September they released a collection of charts discussing numbers. On 31 August, SPCO Interim CEO Dobson West spoke to MinnPost, saying, “We have never proposed and wouldn’t propose salary cuts in the 57 to 67 percent range. That magnitude is way beyond anything we have proposed”…therefore making it clear that at least one side is lying, or at best, being disingenuous. West did not release any numbers to MinnPost. In retrospect, it seems likely that that he was waiting for The Day of the Dump, when managements at both the Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO released dozens and dozens of pages of documents, leading me to muse aloud if managements are coordinating in some capacity. The SPCO management made the information public in a link in an email to patrons: http://updates.thespco.org/. The papers released there are very dense and haven’t been fully analyzed yet, but you’re welcome to take a stab at them yourself. After widespread protest from the musicians and the public, SPCO management offered a new contract that they say includes a 15% cut and a reduction in the size of the ensemble, among other things. Musicians are still reviewing the document, but judging by their response on Facebook, they’re not terribly impressed. Yesterday we also had the terribly sad news that principal clarinetist Timothy Paradise, who has been with the orchestra since 1977, is resigning…presumably because of the turmoil. Unfortunately, I’d steel yourself for many more resignations in the weeks to come.

Minnesota Orchestra

In late August the orchestra’s blog Inside the Classics was “temporarily” shut down; its authors were not given much, if any, warning. On 30 and 31 August the Minnesota Orchestra musicians continued their meetings with management. But we heard nothing out of Minneapolis until 5 September, when a big shiny pro-management website was launched on the Minnesota Orchestra’s website. That pro-management website included the contract currently under negotiation, much to the musicians’ annoyance. Things took a turn for the Twilight Zone the next day when musicians dropped the bombshell that they hadn’t been told that management was going public with the contract, and that the terms management had released weren’t necessarily what they were talking about in private. Journalists’ heads then exploded. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that management’s proposals included dropping the musicians’ average base salary from $109,000 to $78,000. I pointed out that despite the headlines, the big story here is not necessarily the salary, but rather the proposed changes in working conditions, which, among many many many other things, include a reduction in paid medical leave from 26 weeks a year to 13; after that, musicians’ pay would be halved. The musicians fired back yesterday with a request for an independent audit of the orchestra’s endowment, saying they’re hearing different numbers from different people. Management claims they’ve done this already, implying the musicians’ request is a PR/stalling tactic.

In short, it’s been a week full of ugly, ugly acrimony: a tennis match of spin and sadness. And it will probably only get worse from here. I’m guessing that come October, neither the SPCO nor Minnesota Orchestra are going to be playing. Are we looking at two Detroit-style meltdowns in the same metro area at the same time? I don’t really want to think about that question, much less answer it.

In any case, as I said on my blog, “I don’t even drink and I want to get drunk. Badly.”

If you’re a praying person, some prayers wouldn’t go amiss here. Otherwise, send us all your positive thoughts. We need them.

More updates next weekend. If you want more in the interim, like I said, follow my Tumblr.

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Twitter Account

And one more thing…

I got a Twitter account. Which is something I’ve been meaning to do but hadn’t gotten around to yet. Here ’tis…

https://twitter.com/#!/song_of_lark

I’m not quite sure what I’ll use it for. Short concert reviews? (1stmov=gr8) 140-character Bruckner tirades? (BRUCKNER 2 LOUD!1!1!!111!) Favorite quotes from musician friends? (“It’s okay to sound sh*tty as long as you’re trying not to sound sh*tty.”) So many possibilities. I guess we’ll wait and see.

Well, even if I don’t use it much, I knew I should get one before someone took all of the Twitter handles remotely related to my blog name. (SongoftheLark, SongofLark, and others were already taken, and I had to settle for song_of_lark.)

So anyway, if you’re into that kind of thing, friend me. Or follow me. Or whatever stalker-like-verb the kids are doing online nowadays.

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Two Announcements: Summer Break and the Chartres Kickoff

One year ago today I published the very first entry on the blog – a little essay called Indulgent Claptrap. And so Song of the Lark began!

This may be incongruous, but on the one-year anniversary of beginning the blog, I’m announcing a hiatus. Don’t worry, it’s just for a few months, and I won’t be leaving entirely; I’m sure I’ll toss off some entries in my spare time. However, I am hoping for the lion’s share of my attention and energy this summer to be directed toward fiction writing. I haven’t told enough artful lies lately. That being said, I’ll still be online and all – I just won’t be posting as regularly. As always, I’d be happy to answer any questions or comments you may have about anything on the blog.

The bigger (and more exciting!) announcement is that I finally have an essay to post on violin prodigy Vivien Chartres. I’m embarrassed to admit I started advertising it last year; unfortunately, life got in the way and its publication was delayed. But I’ve finally got my act together and am ready to share. It’s a bit on the lengthy side and consequently will be in four parts. I had a fantastic time writing it and am very proud of how it all turned out. But more of that next entry.

To close…

I’m a writer, and writers write whether or not they have readers. Even if none of you were here, I’d probably still be shouting concert reviews and biographical essays into the void. But I can’t tell you how happy it makes me feel to know that you are here, and reading, and responding. That just brings a big old smile to my face. Thank you all so very, very much.

If there’s anything you want me to cover when I come back from break, let me know. I want each and every one of you to have a gorgeous summer full of friendship, late nights, and great music. Okay? Take care.

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Jumping Off A Cliff

A couple weeks ago I got an email from a string-playing friend. There was a second violin emergency in her orchestra. Violinist needed. Stat. Please. Help. Beethoven 7 – third piano concerto – here are the rehearsal times – here’s what you’ll be paid – will you do it? Can you do it?

Please?

My first instinct was no. No, I can’t do it. When I agree to play a concert, I like to be prepared to the max, to have my parts half-memorized, to know who I need to listen to when…to know everything I possibly can, and then to guilt myself for not knowing more. This job, however, would consist of me getting a symphony and a concerto I’d never played into run-through shape for the first rehearsal in a few days. It would be my first chance to make a positive or negative impression on the members of a semi-professional orchestra I’ve watched since my teens, which I’ve toyed with joining for years, in some hypothetical far-flung future where I’ll be much better than I ever am. So far I’d spent the majority of 2012 alternating between lying on the couch sick with the flu and playing slow scales in alto clef. I can’t imagine a worse preparation.

Can you do it?, she asked.

Can you do it?, I asked.

***

When I was 14 and went to my first orchestra rehearsal, I had no idea what to expect, so I sought advice from an older violinist friend. She said, “When you don’t know what’s going on, fake it.” I faked it the entire rehearsal. But gradually, with work, I stopped having to fake. A few semesters later, I was in the first chair of the second violins, and the conductor shook my hand at the final performance.

When I was accepted into the summer camp I knew I wouldn’t be accepted into, I was struck with a heady mix of terror and excitement. I was the least advanced, worst-trained player there; graduate students and competition winners abounded. One of the faculty members there was a fantastic player and person who had played second violin in my favorite recording of the Bach double concerto. During one of our last concerts, she played in our chamber orchestra, and I was her stand-partner in Brandenburg 3.

When I was asked by a professional musician if I’d like to try some duets sometime, I blanched. It felt like a waste of his time, like a gesture of sympathy, but I couldn’t bear to say no. Nonetheless when we got together I stalled. And stalled some more.

“I’m scared,” I finally said. For some reason, no reason, no reason at all, I was scared.

“You don’t need to be scared,” he said. “It’s just playing.”

He was right.

***

There have been times when I fell on my face. I’ve bombed auditions. I’ve lost orchestra seats. I’ve mis-read a scale…that was one octave…in C-major…in front of an important teacher…numerous times. Once when I was recording my recital for summer camp, I wasn’t told until a few minutes before I set up the mic that the pianist was actually a trombonist and only played simple Suzuki accompaniments on the side…and I’d brought her a piano transcription of a Wieniawski concerto. So there have been disasters.

But the thing is…now that I think about it, I don’t remember the disasters nearly as clearly as I remember the exultation of the unexpected successes.

***

One semester my youth orchestra took on three movements of Beethoven 5. It was the biggest musical project I’d been a part of up until that point. At the concert, before we began, the conductor asked us, “Before this concert, how many of you had played a Beethoven symphony?”

A few kids who had been lucky (and let’s face it, wealthy) enough to go to summer camp raised their hands.

He smiled. “Now how many of you have played a Beethoven symphony?”

We all raised our hands.

Is it strange that I don’t really remember anything about how the performance went? But I do remember finishing it and being backstage, waiting for a ride home. The heavy door to outside was open. Kids were leaving and shouting. Everyone was giddy. I sat in front of a bank of lockers and tried very hard not to cry. All that work, and the moment in the hot spotlight, the exultation, all come to this…sitting backstage, the music turned in, the folder empty, everything over. Not knowing when it would happen again. If it would happen again. If it could happen again.

***

Can you do it?

***

After deliberating, I hit reply.

The cursor blinked.

“Yes,” I typed. “I’ll do it,” and I clicked send.

Sometimes I guess you just have to jump off the cliff, and have faith you’ll land on your feet, fiddle in hand.

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I’ve created a tumblr

I’ve created a tumblr; it’s at songofthelark.tumblr.com (creative address, I know). There you’ll find images of the great violinists of the past – video or audio of amazing Victorian and Edwardian musicians – video or audio of amazing contemporary musicians – various vintage-ish stuff – and probably occasionally a picture or two of Benedict Cumberbatch with a violin (I’m only human). Also, I’m looking forward to seeing if mentioning “Benedict Cumberbatch” ups this blog’s view-count.

I’m planning on adding at least one new image a day. So if you’re into that sort of thing…check it out.

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