Symphony Will Play Beethoven This Weekend; Beyond That, A Mystery

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Cellist Linda Verner performs with fellow musicians on the ninth floor of Children's Hospital of San Antonio.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Cellist Linda Verner performs with fellow musicians of the San Antonio Symphony in 2016.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg met Monday morning to determine what kind of funding would be available for San Antonio Symphony operations, with City and County managers looking to have a plan in place on Tuesday, Wolff said.

“All we’re talking about right now is a funding mechanism,” Wolff said, that would allow County funds to match City funds as they have in the recent past.

“And that’s to get us through whatever portion of the season that they hope to salvage,” Wolff said of the reconstituted Symphony Society.

The Symphony’s concerts began last weekend with apprehension, sadness, and resignation after its management had announced the cancellation of the remainder of the season. But halfway through Friday's Tricentennial Celebration concert, conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing announced that the season had been restored, touching off a raucous standing ovation complete with loud cheers and whistles from the audience of more than 1,100.

What the remainder of the 2017-18 season will look like is uncertain, however, as community leaders and a restored Symphony board look to solve persistent operational questions that had the orchestra on unsteady footing in the first place.

“We are working on that presently,” Craig Sorgi wrote in a text message Monday. Sorgi is a violinist and negotiating chair of the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony, the musicians' union. “Everyone is communicating efficiently and working toward a plan,” he continued, noting that the number of concerts that will be staged hasn’t been specified yet.

Newly appointed Symphony Society Board Chair Kathleen Weir Vale is leading the organization's efforts to restore the season, which had been canceled at a Jan. 3 board meeting called by former chair Alice Viroslav. Vale called past and present board members to a meeting on Sunday to decide what the rest of the season could look like. However, what exactly was decided is unknown.

Past board members, including Taddy McAllister and Jim Lowe, who both resigned following a contentious meeting last May, have officially rejoined the board.

Assistant City Manager Lori Houston confirmed last week that the City has potentially more than $350,000 in available funds for the Symphony’s current season, should it meet its obligation for a full season, but that the funds would require a vote from City Council.

Lang-Lessing originally had programmed a three-weekend Tricentennial Festival program, including last weekend’s Spanish-themed concerts. This weekend, Jan. 12-14, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts will host Dream Week concerts featuring Beethoven’s Eroica, with a special narration by County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4).

For now, these concerts are set. What follows remains to be seen.

4 thoughts on “Symphony Will Play Beethoven This Weekend; Beyond That, A Mystery

  1. It seems to have become a cyclic, integral part of San Antonio’s unfolding history that its symphony struggles to survive. It is also unique that a city with a major medical center, major universities, military national headquarters, and the presence of newcomer billionaire oil and gas corporations during their historic “born again” experience in the Eagle Ford Shale doesn’t harbor enough high salaried supporters and corporations to establish it as a permanent, valued member of community life. The Spurs are a source of pride for San Antonio and rightly so. So should be an outstanding symphony. Is the fact that the Symphony is not equally appreciated an indication that sports outranks great music in San Antonio? Or is profit margin truly the measure of the quality of a community’s life? A city population with a high level of well educated citizens should be able to do better. Perhaps another tradition engrained in San Antonio that is a roadblock to progress is the “cheap labor” standard that Texas set decades ago as our biggest attraction to outside investors. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” San Antonio deserves quality in the life of its arts. A major city should be able and willing to secure a major symphony orchestra as an ongoing integral part of its community life. Surely, San Antonio citizens are capable of stepping up to the plate in this Three Hundredth Anniversary Year and end this perennial challenge forever by securing our symphony’s financial future for posterity, not just for one more season. What a tribute to our history and to ourselves that truly would be. Are we willing to establish this landmark achievement in this our Three Hundredth Aniversary Celebration Year?
    We surely have the capacity to do so. Do we have the vision and the will to do so?

    • Spot on! Permanent protected endowment! If the city and county and contribute $100 million to build the Tobin Center and the another $5 million each to build a parking garage (which the musicians must pay to use) then surely we can talk about that kind of money to build a permanent, protected endowment for the San Antonio Symphony! You can’t have a World Class Orchestra on the cheap!

  2. So happy to hear that Taddy McAllister and Jim Lowe are back on the symphony board! They are such great supporters of the orchestra and have much expertise to offer.

  3. I too am pleased to know that Jim Lowe has returned to the Sym board. He’s crazy smart, dedicated, reasonable, and shot full of common sense.

    Now, let’s get that endowment so the Sym can focus on strategic planning without worrying about where the next payroll is coming from. Looking at you Toyota (for starters.)

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