Well, folks – they’ve been telling us it would happen. While no announcement was made, I was able to verify at tonight’s Masterworks event the rumor I’d heard the day before: that the Charleston Symphony’s musicians were, in effect, “donating their services” for this concert. Their latest paychecks amounted to just 20% of their normal salaries. I guess that means they’re just about flat broke, having divvied up whatever funds remained in their bank account across the board.
And “across the board” includes the CSO’s non-musician support staff, too. They’ve never stopped performing yeoman’s duty: working 40- to 60-hour weeks and more for the same paltry 20% of their normal pay. And that’s in contrast to the 20 weekly hours the musicians get paid for – though, to be completely fair, the musicians are expected to spend a goodly chunk of their “spare time” in personal practice and concert preparation. On the other hand, many of the musicians have other ready sources of income: like teaching and assorted “side-gigs” (church & chamber music, weddings, etc.) And remember: just about all of these folks – musicians and staff alike – have households (or growing families) to support.
But in spite of the financial blight having finally come home to roost in their pocketbooks, they gave us a darned good show. Guest conductor Bohuslav Rattay flew in on short notice this week to fill in for resident conductor Scott Terrell (who’s away tending to his seriously ill, but reportedly recovering Mom). And he led sparkling, memorable performances of music by Johann Strauss Jr., Dvorak (along with brilliant violin soloist Karen Gomyo) and Mozart (I’ll give you a more thorough review here on Eargasms once my sense of helpless outrage abates and I can think straight again). Under the circumstances, it’s a wonder that the CSO maintained its usual standards of quality (and more) here. But then, I know most of these musicians … so I’m not terribly surprised they pulled it off.
Meanwhile, the operative motto remains “the show must go on.” Both musicians and staff made it clear to me that this is their common goal. But how they’re going to do it, nobody knows. All we can do for now is hope, pray, and SPREAD THE WORD.