About 90 people turned out to cheer striking Utah Symphony musicians at a benefit concert Friday evening at Westminster College.
The audience, composed largely of orchestra members and their families, gathered in Gore Hall, a 140-seat auditorium just opened this week. There they heard performances by the Utah Symphony Horn Quartet and Bass Quartet, the violin duo of Leonard Braus and LoiAnne Eyring, and selected members of the orchestra in the Beethoven Septet.Despite the nine-day impasse that has forced the cancellation of one concert, a combined benefit with the Sundance Institute, and cast doubt on next week's subscription opener, spirits seemed high both onstage and off. Between numbers bass player James Allyn joked that his group was "available for weddings."
On a more serious note concertmaster Ralph Matson, citing the instrumental reductions of symphonic scores that were popular in pre-phonographic times, dedicated the Beethoven "to a vision of the future that doesn't contain such compromises."
That was a reference to the cutbacks the management of the orchestra is proposing to alleviate the current financial crunch. The players, by contrast, are campaigning for pay raises and non-erosion of gains awarded them in earlier contracts.
Earlier Friday another round of talks took place involving negotiators for both sides. Again, the musicians reported little progress except in the area of working conditions. Management negotiators have said there will be no response to the latest salary proposals until the symphony board as a whole has had a chance to consider them Monday.
Former Utah Gov. Scott M. Matheson, representing the musicians, has been invited to address that meeting. Plans then call for the board to address the orchestra the following morning.
According to the symphony office, any decision to cancel next week's concerts would have to be made following those meetings. A refund/exchange policy would protect all ticket holders, it was emphasized.
At the same time the management announced Friday that it would not "discuss issues related to the musicians' strike while negotiations are ongoing" - a move at least one observer described as a "news blackout."
Management spokesmen said they were acting on the advice of their attorneys.