There’s been trouble at the Creek all summer – the Black Creek Festival in Toronto, where many events have been cancelled for lack of public interest.
One performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the LSO under Lorin Maazel will go ahead this weekend. The chorus say that their contract is not being honoured for the other dates. At least three members have refused to sing. There is talk of possible strike action. Here’s their statement:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
POTENTIAL WORK STOPPAGE AT BLACK CREEK FESTIVAL
No “Ode to Joy” at the Black Creek Music Festival
When Garth Drabinsky’s Black Creek Summer Music Festival announced in July that several concerts in late August were being cancelled due to a lack of ticket sales, they forgot to inform a group of performers who have played a vital role in the organization’s inaugural year: the Chorus. It wasn’t until August 2nd that the Black Creek Festival Chorus, an auditioned ensemble made up of many of the finest singers in the Toronto area, was informed that the dates they had been contractually obligated to keep open for the Festival would not be used.
Adding insult to injury, Drabinsky met with the Chorus at a rehearsal on Tuesday night to explain that the Festival would not be paying any cancellation fee, disregarding the language of the Chorus Agreement. “For our purposes, this is how we interpret the contract”, Drabinsky stated. “If you don’t like it, well, you don’t have to be here.”
Ticket-holders for the Festival’s final performance, featuring Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Lorin Maazel and the London Symphony Orchestra, may find themselves watching an 80-member chorus rising for the “Ode to Joy” with very little to be joyful about.
Ensemble singers are not strangers to being on the lower rungs of the performing arts ladder, but the Black Creek Festival has set a new low with such blatant disregard for the language in their own Agreement. It is difficult to understand how the most egregious of their breaches of contract could be justified, considering the unambiguous nature of clauses such as: “For cancelled Performances, You will receive one-half of the Performance Compensation”.
Garth Drabinsky may have bitten off more than he can chew in his grand plan to reinvent York University’s Rexall Centre as a major summer concert venue in Toronto. He should be applauded for his efforts, but it’s too soon for Toronto to pat him on the back for a job well done. Maazel and the London Symphony players will get their cheques, to be sure. But when the locals go unpaid, and are still expected to smile for the JumboTron on Saturday night, supporters of this new Festival should be asking themselves if this is really a step forward for Toronto, or just another feather in Drabinsky’s infamous cap.
Chorus members will take time during the scheduled rehearsal Wednesday evening to discuss their options. Recent labour disputes in North American performing arts organizations have provided many examples for the Chorus to consider in deciding how to make their voices heard- either in song, or in anger.
Requests for information can be made to the following address, to which all members of the Black Creek Festival Chorus have access: