On what was to have been the opening night of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's 70th anniversary season, locked-out ASO musicians and their supporters are planning “A Deafening Silence,” a silent observance, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday across Peachtree Street from the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown.
The musicians will, however, be back to music-making on Friday, when they independently perform two free concerts at Kennesaw State University.
Speaking of "A Deafening Silence," Daniel Laufer, an ASO cellist and ASO Players Association negotiating committee member, said, "There will not be any speeches or music during the actual event. "We expect ASO musicians, the ASO Chorus and many more to come and to make a statement by our silence when there should have been music in Symphony Hall."
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Woodruff Arts Center management locked out musicians for the second time in as many years on Sept. 7, when the ASO administration and the musicians had not reached agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement when the previous one expired.
The two sides have not negotiated since, and in recent days both ASO music director Robert Spano and principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles have decried the lockout and voiced strong support for the musicians.
Spano lamented in Wednesday editions of The New York Times that “our brilliant and creative musicians, who need to be intimately involved in the creation of our path to the future, have been asked to leave the building — and Atlanta is left with a deafening silence.”
The musicians then borrowed Spano's phrase for Thursday night's protest.
On his Facebook page on Wednesday, Runnicles called the "A Deafening Silence" observance "an existential call for help by a remarkable orchestra in the face of a breathtaking and incomprehensible assault on their integrity and survival. "
ASO and Woodruff management on Wednesday told the AJC that their goal remained the same: "finding long-term solutions that will allow us to balance the (orchestra’s) artistic and financial needs.”
The ASO musicians will perform free concerts at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday at Kennesaw State University's Dr. Bobbie Bailey and Family Performance Center's 624-seat Morgan Hall.
The concerts, at which seating will be first-come, first-served with no ticket required, replace a paid-ticket performance planned for 8 p.m. the same night that was cancelled by the ASO administration due to the stalled negotiations with the musicians.
The school then invited the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Players’ Association to play. While admission is free for both replacement concerts, donations for the musicians group will be accepted.
Instead of music director Spano, the Friday programs, including works by Dvorak and Beethoven, will be conducted by former ASO conductor Michael Palmer.
The canceled concert was to have been the first of three KSU performances by the ASO as part of an extended residency by the orchestra during the 2014-15 season.
“We are proud of the partnership we have formed with the ASO, and we are disappointed that the concert that we originally planned has been cancelled due to the ongoing negotiations," said Michael Alexander, interim director of KSU's School of Music. "We continue to hope for a positive resolution. As a School of Music, our job is to support great music and provide an educational opportunity for our students. These free concerts will help us provide a positive outlet for all involved during this difficult time.”
The musicians also will hold an open rehearsal with School of Music students on Friday afternoon.
On Thursday, the University of Georgia's Office of Performing Arts announced that an ASO concert scheduled for Oct. 12 at Hodgson Concert Hall has been postponed. It was to have been conducted by Runnicles and to have featured violinist Nicola Benedetti.
The musicians announced that the ATL Symphony Musicians Foundation will immediately begin fund-raising to support additional free public concerts. With each $30,000 raised, the musicians will schedule an another concert. These performances will feature "guest conductors and guest artists from around the world who stand in solidarity with the musicians," according to the announcement.
Information about the KSU performances: 470-578-3214, arts.kennesaw.edu/music.