Philadelphia Orchestra walks out on opening night

Philadelphia Orchestra musicians went on strike Friday evening as the audience waited for the Opening Night Gala performance. (AP file photo)

Philadelphia Orchestra musicians went on strike Friday evening as the audience waited for the Opening Night Gala performance. (AP file photo)

With a Verizon Hall filled with fans for the opening night performance, musicians with the Philadelphia Orchestra went on strike Friday evening.

The musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra have gone on strike. They have chosen to strike at a dramatic moment — moments before the Orchestra season opening night gala Friday night.

“Over the past few months, we have been engaged in contract talks with our musicians. During this time we have been negotiating with a clear understanding that any agreement created today will have great and lasting consequences for the future of the Orchestra,” said a statement from the orchestra.

“Management of The Philadelphia Orchestra and its musicians share the goal of returning ‘The Philadelphia Sound’ as quickly as possible.”

The musicians’ decision to cancel the season opening gala performance was a “disappointing” one, said Allison Vulgamore, president and chief executive officer of The Philadelphia Orchestra.

Vulgamore — who charted the Orchestra’s bankruptcy process — said in a statement the Orchestra “cannot rest on its progress or define a spectacular path for the Fabulous Philadelphians without matching this progress with a commitment to fiscal discipline.”

The Orchestra had been in contract negotiations with its musicians, offering them a two percent salary increase every year for the next three years, bringing their base salary to $135,000. The musicians rejected it.

A few years ago, during the economic downturn, the musicians had accepted salary cuts and freezes, which helped the orchestra emerge from bankruptcy reorganization in 2012.

In a statement, musician committee chairman John Koen said they have been “willing to continue to play at the very highest level while our salary has greatly declined relative to the pay of other major American orchestras,” citing their base salaries are 18 percent less than Boston Symphony, and 24 percent less than San Francisco Symphony. Negotiations are scheduled to resume next Tuesday, October 4, the same day the musicians will perform small concerts in public places around the city, for free, as part of Audience Appreciation Day. Concerts on Saturday and Sunday have been canceled.

Patrons can check the website for updates on negotiations and the scheduling of upcoming performances.

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