Musicians from the Colorado Springs Philharmonic are about to do something they haven’t done in more than six months — perform together in person.
From 6:30-7 p.m. Wednesday, about 30 musicians, under the direction of associate conductor Thomas Wilson, will play a free pop-up concert outside Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.
With masks and distancing in place, they’ll perform an arrangement of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” from the composer’s Symphony No. 9. Wind and brass musicians will remove their facial coverings to play.
The concert, however, isn’t part of the philharmonic’s official season. It comes solely at the behest of musicians, as they and management are in negotiations over the group’s future.
The philharmonic was originally scheduled to open its new season this weekend, but this summer it canceled live, large-scale performances through Dec. 31. Musicians were unhappy with the decision.
Wednesday’s concert is intended to spur those negotiations along.
“We’re ready to work. Put us to work,” said bass trombonist Jeremy Van Hoy, chairperson of the philharmonic’s players committee. “The (COVID-19) numbers are going down, the (health) regulations are in place, and we’re ready to do live music for a live audience.”
Not so fast, says management. Philharmonic President and CEO Nathan Newbrough said full-scale performances aren’t safe or healthy right now and can’t be entertained.
“If we can perform small works for small ensembles in small venues for smaller-sized audiences, we’re there,” Newbrough said.
“We’ve got a plan to do that, but time will tell if we can deliver.”
Over the last month, musicians and management have been in talks about pay and future performances. While Van Hoy said both sides agree musicians will not receive their full salary this year, which is congruent with orchestras around the country due to the pandemic, they haven’t agreed on what pay and performances will look like.
“We’re getting closer,” Van Hoy says. “That’s what this concert is about, to put some public pressure on management. We want to play, so here’s some free live music, but the undertone is we need to get back to work.”
Newbrough supports finding ways to fairly pay musicians and hold concerts and is optimistic the two sides will come to an agreement.
“We want the public to know we’re focused on creating a safe concert space,” he said, “for the audience and musicians, and for preserving the future of the philharmonic for the generations who come after us who need a thriving full-scale symphony orchestra in the community. We have to preserve that.”
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