Robert Rivard / Rivard Report
Sebastian Lang-Lessing, the San Antonio Symphony's musical director and conductor, announced to a Tricentennial Celebration concert audience Friday night that the orchestra's shows would go on, reversing the announced cancellation of the Symphony's season.
"I've been instructed to announce ... that the season is going forward," he said to a standing ovation inside the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. "It doesn't mean the challenge is over. But with all your support we can make it."
The crowd at the Tobin Center was warmed up even before the announcement, giving Lang-Lessing and the orchestra two standing ovations before the concert started. At a pre-concert talk for season ticket holders, Lang-Lessing had signaled the big news, said two audience members.
“There’s an implication this may not be the last one,” Paul Gialma said of the weekend program. Both Gialma and Jean Van Gee, seated next to him, wore Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony T-shirts, in support of the orchestra's labor union, the members of which faced losing their jobs after this weekend.
The announcement of a continued season was the latest twist in a months-long saga.
Late Wednesday night, news broke that the Symphony Society of San Antonio, which manages the 78-year-old orchestra, was canceling the remainder of the orchestra's 2017-2018 season, which had 20 more weeks of scheduled performances after two Tricentennial-related performances this weekend. The move came after months of leadership struggles and troubled negotiations over the Symphony's continued operations.
The concert Friday and a repeat performance Saturday night were to have been the Symphony's last, cutting the season short by some 20 weeks. The Tricentennial concert's guest artist, Puerto Rican-American soprano Ana María Martínez, told the crowd, "... I am sure you can feel as we feel the emotion of an evening that started out to be so sad and now has become a celebration.
"I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but today is Maestro’s birthday.”
It was not immediately clear what factors were behind the decision to resume the Symphony's season and how the resumption would be supported financially.
"I'm looking forward to hearing how SSSA will be able to fund the resuscitation of the season, and wish them the best!" said J. Bruce Bugg Jr., chair of the Tobin Endowment, via text message following Lang-Lessing's announcement.
"I am delighted for the sake of all musicians and the [city of San Antonio] – in that order," said Symphony Society board member Jim Berg. "Both deserve to be better served."
On Thursday, the Symphony Society's board chair, Alice Viroslav, announced her resignation, but musicians and former board members held out hope that private donors or public entities would come forward to somehow salvage the season.
A new nonprofit organized last summer, Symphonic Music for San Antonio (SMSA), pulled out of a planned transition agreement on Dec. 27, and the musicians' labor contract expired Dec. 31. However, they reported to work this week, rehearsing in preparation for the Tricentennial concerts.
Made up of representatives of three large Symphony donors – H-E-B, the Tobin Endowment, and the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation – SMSA was the nonprofit organization positioned to take over leadership of the Symphony.
Dya Campos, director of public affairs for H-E-B, said the corporation has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the first half of this season. She declined to comment further on Lang-Lessing’s announcement.
Rivard Report Publisher Robert Rivard contributed to this report.