October 1, 2016

Philadelphia Orchestra strikes

Philly - Friday night, a crowd of about 1,000 sat in Verizon Hall waiting for the orchestra to appear for the scheduled start of the Opening Night Gala.

But no Philadelphia Orchestra appeared on stage. Unbeknownst to most in the audience, the 96 musicians and two librarians belonging to American Federation of Musicians Local 77 had decided to go out on strike about an hour before curtain time.

Finally, about 20 minutes after the scheduled start, orchestra president Allison B. Vulgamore came out on stage to say that no labor agreement was in place for "one of the world's greatest orchestras, if not the greatest," and the performance would not happen.

Last-minute efforts to save the concert were launched backstage. Both sides tried to hammer out an agreement even well after the 7 p.m. curtain time, but those talks failed.

When the entire audience had filed out, musicians came out from backstage into the lobby of the Kimmel Center carrying picket signs. Audience members applauded and cheered them, while several philanthropists and members of local arts boards booed.

"Shame on you," shouted a couple of elderly donors at musicians, who walked past them stony-faced.

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