Capturing the scene at Orchestra Hall: rain, ralliers and Symphony Ball arrivals

It was a beautiful night for a high society ball at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis Friday night – unless you’re the sort of attendee who’s easily vexed by patches of rain, pesky protesters, and locked-out musicians.

Long a highlight of the Twin Cities social calendar, the Symphony Ball drew a few hundred Minnesota Orchestra patrons to the newly redone building inside, while outside on 11th Street, the Nicollet Mall, and Peavey Plaza, members of the orchestra and their supporters played music, sang songs, and Minnesota-nicely heckled attendees who scooted from their cars and into Orchestra Hall.

The rally was organized by SOSMN, which said in a press release beforehand, “It is not SOSMN’s intention to vilify the donors who are attending the two ball events, but rather to celebrate music and musicians while asking ball attendees to use their influence to bring back the orchestra.”

Some snapshots of people outside the hall:

Evy Olson
MinnPost photo by Jim WalshEvy Olson, Minneapolis.

“I just moved here two and a half years ago, and I loved the Minnesota Orchestra. The first year I moved here I would join the coffee groups that would meet Thursday mornings here. The bus would pick me up at Southdale, and I would come here and listen to the wonderful music and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Then it stopped.”

Wendy Williams
MinnPost photo by Jim WalshWendy Williams, Minneapolis.

 “I’m a musician. I’ve been locked out for 11 and-a-half months. I miss the magic chemistry I have with my colleagues and friends on stage; it’s a really intimate work we do together. I miss that camaraderie and sharing that with audiences. I love it when amazing musical moments happen that you don’t expect and you feel like you’re part of something much bigger than yourself.”

Emily Hogstad
MinnPost photo by Jim WalshEmily Hogstad, Eau Claire.

“I’m a writer and freelance violinist and violist, and I write the Song of the Lark blog, which has been covering the lockout for the last year. I miss the emotional and spiritual fulfillment that I get from a live performance that I can’t get from a recording – especially with an orchestra the caliber of the Minnesota Orchestra, and especially when you get to know all the people who are on stage. You see their faces in program books, and you memorize their biographies, especially being a young musician growing up in this area, that was [impactful]. I still have my program from the first time I came here 10 years ago … .”

Larry GibsonMinnPost photo by Jim WalshLarry Gibson, Minneapolis.

“They told me I couldn’t stand under that awning to get out of the rain. I’ve got $10,000 in my will for the orchestra, and they won’t let me stand under there to keep dry. I’m 86 years old, I shouldn’t be standing out here in the rain, but I feel so angry about this situation. I care about music, I was the founding president of The Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, I’ve got a son who has written a college textbook on conducting. I care about serious symphonic music, and I miss it, but it’s never going to be as good in my lifetime as it was.” 

Attendees arrivingMinnPost photo by Jim WalshBall attendees begin arriving, escorted by umbrella-carrying valets and Minneapolis’ finest.

Attendees checking in
MinnPost photo by Jim WalshNo press was allowed inside the Symphony Ball. Here’s a picture of some attendees checking in for the silent auction, taken from outside the window.

Attendees arrivingMinnPost photo by Jim WalshTuxedos and gowns were in order for most gala attendees.

Attendees arrivingMinnPost photo by Jim WalshMusician Wendy Williams shares a special moment with a hurried arts patron.

Attendees arrivingMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh“Thank you for supporting the music! Thank you! Thanks for coming!,” shouted musicians and their supporters, as cars cruising past honked horns in support.

Attendees arrivingMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh“Have a good evening. Thanks for bringing the music back! Help bring our music back.”

Singing union songsMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

For four hours, this group sang union songs on Peavey Plaza: “We shall not be moved/Fighting for the music/We shall not be moved/Just like a tree that’s standing by the water/We shall not be moved/We’re fighting for our culture/We shall not be moved/All of us together/We shall not be moved.”

Attendee arrivingMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh“I love your dress!,” yelled a non-attendee.

Attendees arrivingMinnPost photo by Jim WalshToward Champagne and the ball.

David WilliamsonMinnPost photo by Jim WalshDavid Williamson, Minneapolis.

“I play bass in the orchestra. This is my home, I’m from here, and I hate to see this happening to the orchestra I grew up with.”

Mara Anderson and Lucia AndersonMinnPost photo by Jim WalshMara Anderson and Lucia Anderson, St. Paul.

Mara: “I’m a musician’s daughter. To not have music, to not have art, to not have creativity is to live a sad and empty and meaningless life. I’m here for the musicians and to tell the people going in that I wish them all well and hope they have a great time.”

Lucia: “It’s disrespectful. This is a Minnesota institution. I volunteer on many boards, how is it legal for a board to destroy a Minnesota institution?”

Keeping people off the sidewalk
MinnPost photo by Jim WalshThis fellow’s job was to keep people off the sidewalk.

Nadine Johnson StreitMinnPost photo by Jim WalshNadine Johnson Streit, Minneapolis.

“Something drastic has to happen. There’s got to be a way to lock ‘em all in a room until they come to an agreement.”

Linda K.MinnPost photo by Jim WalshLinda K, Minneapolis.

“I hate to see us pour all kinds of money into a building, and then we can’t even do what the building is for. We have the same problem with the public library. We tore down the library, built a big new library, and then we had to cut back the hours because we couldn’t pay the librarians.”

Attendee arrivingMinnPost photo by Jim WalshMara Anderson: “I love your dress! Where did you get it? Have a great time!”

Outside Orchestra HallMinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

“What’s not in dispute is that we have a great orchestra, a great music director and great musicians,” retired Cargill executive Ben Jaffray told the Star Tribune Friday.

“But there are also the financial facts, that we had a $6 million deficit last year.”

Later in the eveningMinnPost photo by Jim WalshWinding down.

Jane Cooper
MinnPost photo by Jim WalshJane Cooper, Minneapolis.

“I had season tickets. I miss the gorgeous classics. This orchestra is one of the most exceptional orchestras in the world, and we as a community cannot give them up. If we do lose them, you will lose an elation that is unsurpassed. Also, I will never put the members of the association down. These people are successful, and have put time and effort into this orchestra. I’m not putting them down, I respect what they’ve done, but I support the musicians.”

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Amy Adams on 09/21/2013 - 01:26 pm.

    Fantastic photo essay

    It really captures the spirit of the rally. Thank you!

  2. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/21/2013 - 03:30 pm.

    The pictures…

    …say so much, but those modest captions nicely flesh out the graphics .

    My favorite: “I love your dress! Where did you get it? Have a great time!” (In my mind’s eye, I’m seeing the lady scurrying away)

  3. Submitted by Sarah Schmalenberger on 09/21/2013 - 03:54 pm.

    Well Done!

    Love the photos and the narrative, thanks for spending time with the rallyers.

  4. Submitted by Arthur Horowitz on 09/21/2013 - 04:25 pm.

    But why a deficit?

    “What’s not in dispute is that we have a great orchestra, a great music director and great musicians,” retired Cargill executive Ben Jaffray told the Star Tribune Friday.

    “But there are also the financial facts, that we had a $6 million deficit last year.”

    Hey Ben, as a sometime Symphony Ball attendee who decided to brave the rain on the outside this time with the musicians, I find your comment a bit surprising in that you haven’t thought to wonder a bit more about the deficit. We have a great music director and a great orchestra, or whats left of it, indeed, but mis management and poor planning may have quite a bit to do with the deficit, rather than the well deserved compensation paid to world class musicians who have made the orchestra what it is today.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but did we really need a 50 million dollar lobby, when new carpets, seating, improved rest room facilities and repaired coat lockers would have done well enough?

    Did the endowment have to suffer horrific losses disproportionate to losses suffered by endowments of similar arts organization, but not recover as did most other endowments? Have you checked the Dow Jones lately—record highs. And the orchestra endowment (presumably) presided over by two of the captains of the banking industry is still in the doldrums so we are led to believe.

    Touring overseas is great and my wife and I have accompanied the orchestra on several of the trips, to Europe, Japan the Proms, Edinburgh even New York. But has anyone thought of trying to recapture some of the St. Paul Audience-even at St. Catherines, or touring to Rochester, the Quad Cities, Iowa or LaCrosse. Six concerts a year in any of these venues would sell out and be money makers, unlike overseas concert tours which must be heavily subsidized.

    Deficits will continue as virtually no American Symphony Orchestras break even on ticket sales and must balance the budget otherwise. The Orchestral Association must now reach out to the community to restore the endowment, perhaps to government to buy Orchestra Hall and stop trying to make the musicians pay for its inept stewardship. The rancor must stop and the orchestra must get back to doing what it should- playing music. Its taken a long time to get the Minnesota Orchestra to its artistic pinnacle, but it may not take too long to destroy it.

  5. Submitted by jim hughes on 09/21/2013 - 05:14 pm.

    let’s just start over

    While at the rally, I told a musician I’d be happy if the remaining orchestra members could just start fresh, book a season at Northrup Auditorium – where I first heard them back in the 70s – and we could all just completely forget about the glittering new building behind us, and the people in it. I’d buy a season ticket in an instant . And put the orchestra (back) in my will.

  6. Submitted by Sarah Nagle on 09/21/2013 - 06:28 pm.

    The cost of everything and the value of nothing

    Yes, that is an overused phrase, but in this situation it is heartbreakingly true. While the supposed great business minds manipulate the “facts” to fit their financial narrative, a cultural tragedy is occurring. The above poster mentions touring in various state venues or visiting neighboring states. I believe the MN O started a weeklong residency per year in a MN community but that has been suspended, obviously. In the meantime, it’s the musicians who are playing at St. Kates, and Lake Harriet, and North Minneapolis at the local El Sistema.

    I attended the late January hearing in St. Paul regarding the economic effects of the four lockouts occurring in Minnesota – with all four managements employing the same “New York” law firm which appears to be building quite the business specialty. The testimony from people who had traveled from Moorhead was intense and disturbing. During the break, I had the chance to talk with a teacher from Moorhead who told me that he would have students who had the chance to visit Minneapolis and attend the orchestra. “WE saw the MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA!” they would tell him. They knew the value of such a world-class treasure.

    Great reporting, by the way. Since the lockout began, I have become a Minnpost sustainer. The MPR contribution is being canceled. The track record of the corporate-controlled local media is absolutely appalling.

  7. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/21/2013 - 07:44 pm.

    Thank you for this coverage

    You’re the only journalists I’ve seen so far who captured the spirit of the event, where young and old, musicians and audience members came together to have fun while making a statement.

  8. Submitted by Sarah Schmalenberger on 09/22/2013 - 12:47 am.

    Honor among bands

    Inside the hall, there was a particularly “musical” insult to the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. A local pop band named Belladiva entertained the patrons, happy to make money off of the misfortune of others. There is such a thing as honor among musicians – for example, bandleaders of Synergy and The Sevilles both turned down the offer to play at this function. Additional freelance musicians contacted about considering the gig consulted with peers arrived at the same decision. I can’t think of why the Facebook page for this glitzy covertunes ensemble would post that it was honored to play at this event, unless they are so misguided in their opinion of themselves that they believe they were hired as artists representing the calibre of music that has been presented in Orchestra Hall. From the looks of the band’s website, it doesn’t seem like thinking or actual music are part of their deal.

  9. Submitted by Richard Helle on 09/22/2013 - 10:05 am.

    It would be nice to see MinnPost give the same kind of coverage that it’s given to the musicians, to the workers at Cretex and Crystal Sugar.

  10. Submitted by Jeanne Landkamer on 09/25/2013 - 10:33 pm.

    Twin Cities Labor Chorus

    Wonderful story, MinnPost. Thanks for capturing the spirit of the event so well. And let’s give proper recognition to “this group” that “sang union songs for four hours” outside Orchestra Hall on behalf of the locked-out musicians – that would be the Twin Cities Labor Chorus, a very dedicated group of union members who sing at labor-related events whenever a critical mass can be assembled. Inspiration comes from many sources, including Ralph Vaughn Williams and Ralph Chaplin.

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