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Minnesota Orchestra musicians sign two-year contract extension; the Weisman to reopen

ALSO: Guthrie to present virtual ‘Christmas Carol’; Illusion Theater presents Carlyle Brown’s ‘Down in Mississippi’; and more.

Minnesota Orchestra
The orchestra announced that the Minnesota Orchestral Association and its musicians had approved a two-year extension of the musicians’ collective bargaining agreement, which will now run through Aug. 31, 2022.
Minnesota Orchestra

For many music lovers, the bitter 15-month lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra that ended in January 2014 is forever burned into our collective memory. Six years later, during a global pandemic when entire orchestras have been laid off, things are much more copacetic at 1111 Nicollet Mall.

On Monday, the orchestra announced that the Minnesota Orchestral Association and its musicians had approved a two-year extension of the musicians’ collective bargaining agreement, which will now run through Aug. 31, 2022. Music Director Osmo Vänskä’s current contract also ends in August  2022, and he has said that he will step down at that time.

The musicians’ two-year extension includes a COVID-19 “side letter” (amendment) that outlines work rules and compensation reductions that apply during the pandemic. The terms include a 25% reduction in musician compensation, in response to the loss of earned revenue; medical and dental benefits to remain unchanged from the current contract; expanded sick leave; and modified duties for musicians who choose not to perform onstage at Orchestra Hall during the pandemic.

Vänskä will take a 35% salary reduction. For the orchestra’s fall season, a smaller complement of musicians will perform six concerts starting this Friday (Oct. 2) to be livestreamed from Orchestra Hall and broadcast over TPT and MPR. They will play to an empty house, as they did on March 13 and again on Sept. 12 for a pilot livestream.

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The side letter takes effect Oct. 1 and runs through Aug. 31, 2021. It expires then if the orchestra is able to resume performing concerts with a full complement of musicians and without audience capacity limits. It extends through Aug. 31, 2022, if those conditions are not met. Contract adjustments can be made at any point if things change.

President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns said in a statement, “This negotiated agreement gives us both stability and flexibility over the next two years, which is critical to sustaining the organization in an unpredictable environment.” Musicians’ Negotiating Committee Chair Tim Zavadil said, “This two-year agreement will provide the flexibility we need to keep the organization healthy for the long term.”

Said Brad Eggen, president of the Twin Cities Musicians Union, “In this time of extreme challenges, this group crafted a solution that preserves inspiring performance in a creative agreement respectful of the musicians’ careers and the well-being of all involved.” And board chair Margaret Bracken, “The COVID-19 agreement reflects both the challenges of the pandemic and the collaborative spirit and goodwill that exists within the organization.”

Guthrie to present virtual ‘Christmas Carol’

It won’t be the same as the extravagant, eye-popping stage show we’ve come to expect each Christmas. But it will be Dickens, it will be a Guthrie production, and everyone in the cast will have acted in previous “Christmas Carols.”

From Dec. 19-31, the Guthrie will present “Dickens’ Holiday Classic,” a virtual telling of “A Christmas Carol” inspired by the author’s own public readings of his novella. Dickens was not a stay-at-home author. He took his shows on the road. At the time – the mid-1800s – it was common for authors to travel and lecture, but not to read from their own work. Charles Dickens was a celebrity, and his readings drew big crowds in England and America.

The 2019 cast of "A Christmas Carol" featuring Nathaniel Fuller as Scrooge.
Photo by Dan Norman
The 2019 cast of "A Christmas Carol" featuring Nathaniel Fuller as Scrooge.
The cast will include Ryan Colbert, Nathaniel Fuller, Charity Jones and Meghan Kreidler. Both Fuller and Jones have played Scrooge in past productions. Colbert has played Young Scrooge and Kreidler has been Mrs. Cratchit. Adapted and directed by the Guthrie’s Artistic Director Joseph Haj, with film direction by E.G. Bailey, the show will be available to stream on demand for $10 per household and free to all K-12 schools starting Dec. 15. FMI.

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The picks

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

Helen MacDonald
Courtesy of Grove Atlantic
Helen Macdonald
V Tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 30) on Zoom: Talking Volumes with Helen Macdonald. The eloquent nature writer and author of the bestselling “Hawk” will talk with MPR’s Kerry Miller about her new collection of essays, “Vesper Flights.” This is writing that opens your eyes and heart. 7 p.m. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, from free to $20.

L Tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 1): The Weisman Art Museum reopens. At last we can go back inside that gorgeous Frank Gehry building on the U of M campus. WAM is following U of M COVID protocols: limited capacity, social distancing, masks. If you missed the exquisite and intense Harriet Bart exhibition, “Abracadabra and Other Forms of Protection,” originally scheduled to close May 24, the good news is it’s been extended through Nov. 29. Also on display: “More Is More: The Lyndel and Blaine King Collection,” with items from the eclectic personal collection of former Weisman director Lyndel King and her husband, and “The Persistence of Mingei: Influence Through Four Generations of Ceramic Artists,” which pays particular homage to Warren Mackenzie. The new hours are Thursdays-Sundays, 12 noon-5 p.m. Admission is free and no reservation is required, so you might have a short wait if you come during a busy time.

V Tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 1) on Facebook and YouTube: Magers & Quinn presents John Rosengren and Paul John Scott, “A Clean Heart” and “Malcharist.” Two Minnesota writers have new novels out for our fall and winter reading. Rosengren’s follows a counselor at an adolescent drug treatment center who must help a young addict and rescue himself from his family’s past. Scott’s is a globe-traveling literary thriller about science, belief and mass media. 7 p.m.

African-American playwright Carlyle Brown will be in residence at the Illusion Theater.
Courtesy of the artist
Carlyle Brown was recently named the Mellon Playwright in Residence at the Illusion; this is the first project under his residency.
V Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 3 and 4) on Zoom: Illusion Theater presents Carlyle Brown’s “Down in Mississippi.” Brown’s new play asks, “How do we achieve the improbable, almost impossible task of bringing justice to the world? What does it mean to be an activist? What does it mean to resist?” It takes us to the Freedom Summer of 1964 as a Black man, a white woman and a white man travel to Mississippi to register Black voters. Brown describes his play as “a moment of the past that reflects upon this moment in our present time where the right to vote is the only way to preserve our futures.” Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. Free. Registration is required. Brown was recently named the Mellon Playwright in Residence at the Illusion; this is the first project under his residency.

Stewart Goodyear
Photo by Andrew Garn
Stewart Goodyear
V Saturday (Oct. 3) at the SPCO’s online concert library: Opening Night: Piano Quartets with Stewart Goodyear. The opening night of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s most unusual season ever will feature a limited number on the stage of the Ordway Concert Hall, no audience in the seats, a guest artist whose name seems to be all over the music news and a world premiere SPCO commission of a new work for solo trumpet by young, fast-rising, prize-winning Black composer Tyson Davis, who’s barely out of high school. Guest artist Stewart Goodyear, a Toronto-based pianist, will be seen on Friday, Oct. 2, at 9 p.m. on PBS’ “Great Performances: Now Hear This: ‘Becoming Mozart’” with Scott Yoo, no stranger to the SPCO. The program also includes music by Beethoven, Brahms and Goodyear’s own Piano Quartet. 8 p.m. Saturday; repeats at 2 p.m. Sunday. Free.