The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and its musicians have agreed to extend their contract, which was set to expire in 18 months, by another two years.
SPCO President Jon Limbacher said the agreement comes as players and management continue to face the challenges of the pandemic but look to the post-COVID future.
Like many other orchestras, the SPCO had to turn to livestreaming concerts in a hall without an audience. And even that ran into problems last year when the inability to ensure timely testing of performers for each week’s performance led to the temporary suspension of live shows.
The agreement shows the organization is moving forward in solidarity, said Limbacher.
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"And by having a 100 percent focus on the recovery, we're confident that we can get to the other side of all this and be stronger and more unified and really poised to pursue our vision of being a great orchestra for everyone in the community," he said.
Musicians unanimously approved the agreement, said trumpet player Lynn Erickson, who chairs the Orchestra Committee.
It's a sign of how the organization pulled together to face the challenges of making music in the time of COVID-19 and is looking to the future, Erickson said.
“I feel optimistic about how our management and our board is handling the organization through this pandemic, and I think we will come out stronger at the end,” Erickson said. “I think we will be OK. And I look forward to the end of this.”
While there is a 2 percent wage increase next year under the current contract, there are no increases in the extension. Limbacher said he is grateful to the musicians for that, as it helps balance the budget.
Both Limbacher and Erickson raised the possibility of live performances in front of audiences at the beginning of the 2021-22 season in the fall.
Limbacher cautioned, however, that he believes it’s going to take much longer to get over the full impact of the pandemic on the performing arts.
The SPCO has five more livestreamed concerts scheduled, but hopes to round out the current season with some outdoor concerts in June. Like Erickson, Limbacher said he can’t wait for a return to performing with an audience in the hall.
“I think it’s going to be so very special and sweet,” he said. “I think there is so much pent-up desire to hear live music, to share with others in the audience. Maybe we all took it a little bit for granted. And I think it’s going to be special when we get back to live performances and just living our lives the way we are supposed to live them.”