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Force Majeure

This week we are putting on a huge concert with the South Bend Symphony.  Strauss, Sibelius, Smetana, and Lalo - great tone poems, huge and complex works that tell deep stories and require serious preparation. 

And tonight’s rehearsal was canceled.

Tonight’s rehearsal was canceled, and mercifully the orchestra’s management was committed to fixing the problem. 

The Force Majeure clause in our contract, as in most contracts, would mean that the canceled service was UNPAID, despite having been on our books for months.  I’ve held this Tuesday night clear of other gigs and scheduled students around the rehearsal.  I might have hired a babysitter or arranged a playdate.  It’s been my job ever since the schedule came out in August to show up at 7:30 tonight ready to play Don Juan.  And just because we have two feet of snow on the ground and wind chills of 25 below, or whatever, suddenly I’m not making any money tonight, and no one is liable. 

At nine this morning I was on the phone with our operations manager and executive director, trying to find a place in the remainder of this busy, overcrowded week to reschedule the rehearsal.  We considered adding overtime to the remaining services, but in practice that would have resulted in long, fatiguing rehearsals which were too expensive for the actual amount of extra work we could get done.  We considered letting it stay canceled, and doing the concert on less rehearsal time, which was undesirable both artistically and financially.  We considered - and eventually settled on - the addition of an afternoon service later in the week, but it was not a given that we could arrange it.

Because this orchestra is not full time, everyone works other jobs.  Some are exclusively musicians, and some do real, “civilian” work during the day, so the choice to call a rehearsal on a weekday was fraught.  We on the committee had to ensure that players whose obligations prevented them from making the rescheduled date would still be allowed to play the concert.  We had to clear it with our  union local, since it was a last minute change to a time disallowed by our contract.  We had to decide whether to wait a day and put the options to a vote by the membership, or to make the decision right away so that people could start planning their schedules and adjusting their calendars. 

So that was a flurry of exciting emailing.  Actually the busiest I’ve been since all of this snow started.  We had it all settled before lunchtime. 

I’m so glad that in this orchestra we have such a good working relationship between management and the players committee.  I’m glad that they were committed to keeping us working.  I’m glad that a solution could be found.  I’m glad that we will still get to play this exciting concert, and that we’ll have the time we need to prepare it to the high level it deserves. 

I hope that people will come out and hear us on Saturday night.  Details HERE


  1. Bravo. You did a great job making this all work. We are so lucky to have you on our Orchestra Committee. Not to mention your expertise at playing the oboe. Without the added rehearsal we would not be ready for Saturday night. You should really submit this to Voice of the People. It deserves to be published in the Tribune.


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