ISO musicians strike back - at 2nd Presbyterian 

click to enlarge Raymond Leppard conducts ISO players
  • Raymond Leppard conducts ISO players

On a cool, brilliantly sunny, late-Saturday afternoon, the entire complement of Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra players appeared in front of an overflow crowd at one of Indy's architectural landmarks, N. Meridian Street's Second Presbyterian Church. Ostensibly the players were there to give a benefit for Betty Perry's groundbreaking Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, ISO sponsored and founded in 1995.

But the musicians were also there to demonstrate their solidarity in opposing the ISO executive board's unyielding (at this writing) new-contract demand to scale back drastically the orchestra's operations and the players' salaries because of stated long-term financial difficulties. The players have offered counter proposals considerably reducing the severity of the cuts. Because the two sides have yet to reach an agreement, the board has put the players in a lockout mode from their Hilbert Circle Theatre home for at least their first two scheduled weekend concerts.

With a yeoman's effort, ISO conductor laureate Raymond Leppard led the orchestra in three works: George Chadwick's "Noel" from his Symphonic Sketches (1904), Bach's Concerto for Two Violins and String Orchestra in D Minor, BWV 1043, and Elgar's most famous Enigma, Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36. This was five days following his conducting his 85th-birthday concert at Uindy. Though I don't consider normal reviewer's criticism to apply in this case, I can say that Leppard's conducting skills kept his players -- as he had done for the 14 years (1987-2001) under his music directorship -- at a level I'm used to hearing among their best-played concerts at the Circle. The two soloists for the Bach, Jayna Park and Michelle Kang, coming from the ISO violin section, delighted the audience with their professional aplomb.

The warm, extended, standing ovation fervently indicated the audience's strong desire for a quick settlement of this player / management dispute--for a quick resumption of the orchestra's fall schedule--and for a quick return to the Circle Theatre. (I was informed that the players made the last offer and are awaiting a response, expected this week, from the ISO executive board.) Sept. 22; Second Presbyterian Church

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