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Carnegie Hall Stagehand Strike Forces Cancellation of Opening Night Gala

By Louise Burton on Oct 02, 2013 11:46 PM EDT

Hours before Carnegie Hall's opening night gala was scheduled to begin, Carnegie Hall stagehands went on strike--forcing the venue's management to cancel the event. The centerpiece of the evening was to have been a Philadelphia Orchestra concert led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

High crew costs have plagued Carnegie Hall for years. Stagehands there are paid some of the biggest salaries in the industry, with the highest paid bringing home more than $400,000 a year. The stagehands are members of IATSE/Local One, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

Carnegie management recently denied the union's request to have full jurisdiction over the Hall's new education wing, scheduled to open in fall 2014. According to a statement issued by the Hall's management, "Acceptance of the union's demands would not only restrict education work within the new spaces, it would divert significant funds away from the Hall's music education programs and into stagehand fees."

Union president James J. Claffey asserted the union's right to jurisdiction in the new education wing. He said in a statement: "Local One has unfortunately been left with no choice but to exercise its legal rights at Carnegie Hall after 13 months of bargaining. Carnegie Hall Corporation has spent or will spend $230 million on its ongoing studio tower renovation, but they have chosen not to appropriately employ our members as we are similarly employed throughout the rest of Carnegie Hall."

There is no word yet on whether any other concerts will be canceled due to the strike. Clive Gillinson, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, said: "Carnegie Hall sincerely regrets any inconvenience this strike will cause our artists, concertgoers, and everyone with whom we work. We are disappointed that, despite the fact that the stagehands have one of the most lucrative contracts in the industry, they are now seeking to expand their jurisdiction beyond the concert hall and into the new Education Wing in ways that would compromise Carnegie Hall's education mission."

At the present time, all future performances remain on Carnegie Hall's schedule. Tonight's gala is the only event that has been cancelled.

News of this strike comes during a week filled with other bad news for classical music--conductor Osmo Vänskä resigning from the Minnesota Orchestra and the New York City Opera shutting down. But there is a bright spot to this story. The Philadelphia Orchestra has decided to give a a free "Pop Up Concert" in Philadelphia on Wednesday evening. The concert will take place at Verizon Hall at 6:30 p.m.

All seating is general admission; tickets are not required. Musicians will be dressed in casual attire, and the audience is invited to do the same.

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TagsCarnegie Hall, Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, IATSE/Local One, James J. Claffey, Clive Gillinson, Verizon Hall

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