Maazel's Canada chorus are not getting paid

Maazel's Canada chorus are not getting paid


norman lebrecht

August 26, 2011

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:

 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:



  • Thomas Silverbörg says:

    I think THEY should honor their obligation, and then sue him as a group for damages, misrepresentation, dishonoring the contract, and anything else they can think of . It’s the only way.

  • David Ross says:

    To all readers:

    I am a member of the Black Creek Festival Chorister and I am writing solely on my own behalf. The title of Mr. Lebrecht’s post is decidedly misleading. With the exception of rehearsal time already put in for the upcoming Beethoven concert, the members of the chorus have been paid in full for our contributions thus far. This payment schedule has been the norm to date, as the choristers have been compensated promptly following each concert both for rehearsal time and the performance itself. There has been no indication that we will not be compensated for Beethoven-related rehearsal time both previous and forthcoming, or for the concert itself. Furthermore, there is no talk of strike action. As an ensemble, the choristers are not unionized; we cannot strike. The decision not to perform is an individual one, and making such a decision leaves the performer in breach of contract, resulting in the forfeiture of any expectation of remuneration. I’m saddened by this post and by what could be considered, at best, mis-information and, at worst, outright lies.

    It is my hope that an official retraction will be published or that this irresponsible post will be deleted.

  • BlackCreek owes my firm over $25K for services, and contrary to Garth’s numerous promised to pay me, I eventually had to sue BlackCreek …. a last minute defense, stated that the work provided was not timely. Wow, we build 2 websites in less than 5 days (one over the Easter weekend).
    Sad state really, but then again, Garth has been convicted of fraud, and should be in jail not booking concerts along with Kevin Allbrecht, these two really misjudged things. Too bad, Garth bit off more than he could chew and he’s now no longer viable on either side of the boarder
    Imagine that they dragged Capital One into this fiasco and did so knowing that this series was a bust before it got started. What’s in your wallet? It seems if you were involved with The Capital One BlackCreek Summer Music Festival …. the answer is “NOT ENOUGH”.

  • Proudman says:

    Sad to say, but it’s time to seek a lawyer’s advice.
    Just speculating, but my suspicion is that your contract is not with Drabinsky, but with a corporate entity. You may need to move quickly to freeze up assets before the funds are all disbursed and the company is replaced by a numbered company.
    If the venture is failing, all parties may have to share the pain, but fairly and evenly.

  • MWnyc says:

    “For our purposes, this is how we interpret the contract” ?
    Jeez …
    I wonder how quickly the Ontario courts can give their interpretation of the contract.

    Meanwhile, I hope the chorus finds a good way to humiliate Drabinsky publicly over this.
    Canadians tend to be quite fair-minded and will surely side with the singers.

    By the way, Norman, the Black Creek Festival is not near Toronto; it is IN Toronto, in a stadium on the campus of York University. If there are problems with ticket sales, it’s not because people have to schlepp out of town; the subway goes right there.

    • cToronto says:

      “If there are problems with ticket sales, it’s not because people have to schlepp out of town; the subway goes right there.”

      The nearest subway station (Finch) is actually 9km away.

      • NanceD says:

        Actually, the closest subway station is Downsview, and there’s an express bus to York. Still not super convenient, but better than Finch.

  • […] According to author and cultural commentator Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc blog at Arts Journal, former Livent head (and convicted financial criminal) Garth Drabinsky’s management of the BlackCreek Summer Music Festival is being called into question after he allegedly stiffed the chorus that had been prepared to sing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the summer music festival in Toronto. The chorus is threatening to strike if Drabinsky doesn’t pay up, but in the comments on Lebrecht’s blog, a Drabinsky defender points out that the chorus isn’t unionized and therefore can’t actually strike. The same commenter also states that the chorus has, in fact, been paid according to schedule. It’s an odd story—which, really, isn’t anything new when it comes to Drabinsky—and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the whole brouhaha. Read the entire story [Slipped Disc] » […]

  • Decidedly Me says:

    Ha! NOONE associated with Blackcreek has been paid! Not just chorus and web designers. No advertisers, no staff at the rexall or anyone working in the office has been paid in months, and may not ever. Drabinsky and Albrecht have made a mess and now all the poor staff who can’t afford lawyers are the ones paying for it.

  • A staff member says:

    Can’t blame Drabinsky that much as he’s not an officer or director of the company which is iSport Concerts Ltd. he does not sign the checks and has no access to the bank accounts. Kevin Albrecht the CEO of iSport is the man incharge. He never returns phone calls and never responses to e-mails. From my understanding the office staff and the management of the festival have not been paid in 2 months. The part-time Rexall staff and the Production staff have had their pay checks delayed sometimes for weeks. It’s only when they threaten to go to the labour board the company somehow finds the money to pay them.

    Also I’m surprised that the major news outlets have not picked up on the story. I wonder if the staff from Battle of the Blades which is Albrecht claim to fame have been paid, or if the people who work for Albrecht company, iSport Media and Management have been paid. Albrecht should do a show called “Canada’s worst CEO” and he can be the star of it.