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Monday, March 2, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 16.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Peace for Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra?
Music fans assess the strike

For fans of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, there is good news: On Nov. 7, labor and management agreed that the holiday pops concert slated for Nov. 29 and 30 will take place as scheduled. A lasting agreement may be near.

"We'll be meeting the week of the holiday pops concert and hopefully iron out the rest of the contract," says bassoonist and musicians' spokesman Todd Jelen.

The season began on a thoroughly disappointing note. In a disagreement over attendance policy, travel compensation and other issues, musicians struck Oct. 1. The chamber orchestra's first two performances were canceled, including the popular Halloween concert scheduled for Oct. 24.

The strike has been difficult for musicians, management and chamber fans.

"I certainly was disappointed when I heard about the strike," says season-ticket subscriber Albrecht Gaub, a native of Stuttgart, Germany. An editor at A-R Editions Inc., the Middleton-based scholarly publisher of classical music, he holds a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hamburg.

Gaub subscribes only to the WCO's Masterworks series, not the pops series that includes the Halloween concert ("Halloween doesn't mean anything to me"). He was particularly disappointed at the scuttling of the Oct. 3 season opener, which was to have featured violinist Kyoko Takezawa.

"The programming of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra is usually too popular," he says. "The first program was the only one where I would have said, 'Fine, I'll see this.'"

Gaub understands the musicians' needs, but he doesn't think they should be compensated for travel from distant states, as they've asked. "It becomes somehow outrageous," he says, "because in the end the concertgoer has to pay for it."

Not every Madison concertgoer holds that view. "The musicians' demands are reasonable," says Kathleen McElroy, who on Oct. 3 attended the musicians' strike performance of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 2 in D Major," held at Bethel Lutheran Church. She feels that the musicians who "bring such joy to thousands" of people in their year-long season "deserve widespread support."

In recent years, the sports and entertainment industries have lost audiences because of strikes. But chamber bassoonist Jelen isn't too worried about bringing subscribers back: "I think the public in Madison is pretty dedicated to their arts organizations."

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