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Carnegie Hall stagehand strike thwarts opening night

Carnegie Hall cancels opening-night gala due to striking stagehands who make upwards of $400,000 per year.
Posted By KRISTEN BUTLER, UPI.com   |   Oct. 2, 2013 at 2:30 PM   |   Comments

Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Carnegie Hall canceled Wednesday's opening-night concert as stagehands staged a strike and picketed outside the hall just hours before the performance.

The stagehands' union is picketing not for higher pay -- they already have some of the highest salaries in the industry -- but for control over Carnegie's new education wing.

“We are disappointed that, despite the fact that the stagehands have one of the most lucrative contracts in the industry, they are now seeking to expand their jurisdiction beyond the concert hall and into the new education wing in ways that would compromise Carnegie Hall’s education mission,’’ executive and artistic director Clive Gillinson said in a statement. “There is no precedent for this anywhere in New York City.”

Several of Carnegie Hall's highest-paid employees are stagehands who make more than $400,000 per year.

The opening-night gala is one of Carnegie Hall’s biggest events all year. Last year, Carnegie Hall raised close to $2.7 million, officials said. This year’s gala had been set to begin with a cocktail reception at 5 p.m. followed by a Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, featuring the violinist Joshua Bell.

The shining moment for the Philadelphia Orchestra, which came out of bankruptcy last year, may have been thwarted, but they made the best of it by offering a free concert at their home city.

The strike is the first in Carnegie Hall's history, and punctuates a week filled with failing classical music companies. The New York City Opera this week announced plans to dissolve and file for bankruptcy after 70 years. Meanwhile, Minnesota Orchestra music director Osmo Vanska resigned as a musician lockout continues into its second year amid labor strife.

The Philadelphia Orchestra has traded its black-tie event for an evening "pop-up" performance at 6:30.

Before the concert audience members will have chance to conduct a small groups of musicians in Commonwealth Plaza, and one will be chosen to conduct the orchestra in Verizon Hall. The informal 75-minute concert will include works by Mozart and Tchaikovsky with no intermission.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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