Strike forces Detroit Symphony to cancel concerts

Facebook posts persuade ‘replacement’ violinist to withdraw

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Due to the ongoing strike by the players of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), the management has announced that all orchestral concerts through to 7 November have been cancelled.

The musicians have been on strike since 4 October over proposed cuts by the DSO’s management: these include reducing the base pay for veterans of the orchestra by 33 per cent, and a 42 per cent reduction for newly hired musicians. The current basic salary is over £62,500 ($100,000), according to The Detroit News.

Although the musicians had offered to accept smaller cuts, including a cut of 22 per cent in their salary in the first year, the DSO management, according to the musicians’ spokesman, cellist Haden McKay, ‘flatly rejected our proposal’.

The atmosphere between management and striking musicians took an ugly turn last week when the DSO management attempted to stage a concert with 29-year-old violinist Sarah Chang. Widely seen as a ‘replacement concert’ by the orchestral musicians, the result was well over 150 posts on Chang’s fan page on Facebook urging her not to perform at the concert. 

Although these were overwhelmingly respectful or at least neutral in language, about half-a-dozen messages took an aggressive stance towards her proposed recital and breaking of the picket line.

Sarah Chang withdrew from the proposed concert last weekend. ‘My original intention to bring music to the community has been derailed, and I have been unwillingly drawn into an inner dispute that does not appropriately involve me,' she said in a statement. 'I wish my friends and colleagues in the DSO and its management a speedy resolution.’

Cancelled orchestral concerts include a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony conducted by the young Portuguese conductor Joana Carneiro, and Leonard Slatkin conducting a programme of Rachmaninov and Bernstein. 

Daniel Jaffé