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Florida Orchestra ends fiscal year on upswing, lowers ticket prices

Baritone Leon Williams and Master Chorale of Tampa Bay will be featured in a live recording of the Florida Orchestra playing works by Frederick Delius.

Florida Orchestra

Baritone Leon Williams and Master Chorale of Tampa Bay will be featured in a live recording of the Florida Orchestra playing works by Frederick Delius.

The Florida Orchestra takes a break from performing during the summer, but that doesn't mean nothing is happening. Here are some notes on recent developments on the orchestral front.

• The orchestra's 2010-11 fiscal year closed at the end of June, and the $8.1 million budget had a small surplus, about $40,000, according to unaudited figures. This is a big improvement over the previous season, when the orchestra posted a $584,000 deficit.

"Every June is a frantic dash," said president Michael Pastreich, describing the flurry of fundraising that leads up to the close of the fiscal year. Results were enhanced by a one-to-one matching gift challenge of $100,000 by board vice chairman Howard Jenkins and his wife, Patricia.

• Single tickets go on sale Monday for the coming season, which opens Oct. 14-16 with Carmina Burana. In an effort to broaden its appeal, the orchestra has introduced a new, lower price scale of $15 to $45 per ticket, compared with last season's $20 to $67. The policy seems to be having the desired effect, with sales of subscriptions, which also reflect the lower prices, up 9 percent over this time a year ago, according to Pastreich.

• An interesting experiment will begin Jan. 6, with the first of three Friday morning masterworks concerts at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. "It has been on our agenda to increase daytime performances,'' Pastreich said, adding that the orchestra was pleased last season with attendance at a new series of three morning coffee concerts at Ruth Eckerd Hall. There will be three more there this season, starting in January. The coffee series at Mahaffey has long been a success story for the orchestra.

Artistically, the Jan. 6 concert is also notable, since it (as well as the Jan. 7 evening concert, with the same program at Mahaffey) will be recorded for a CD on the Naxos label, the first commercial release by the orchestra. Two pieces by German-English composer Frederick Delius will be on the recording, Sea Drift and Appalachia: Variations on an Old Slave Song, which will feature baritone Leon Williams and the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. There is a strong Florida angle to the Delius recording, because the composer worked on his family's plantation near Jacksonville in the 19th century.

• The wind quintet of principals that will inaugurate the orchestra's cultural exchange with Cuba has determined what its program will be for the concert in Havana during its trip Sept. 29-Oct. 2. They'll play a rich swath of chamber music that includes Ibert's Troise Pieces Breves, Barber's Summer Music, Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6, Gershwin's Three Preludes, Francaix's Quatour a vents and Hindemith's Kleine Kammermusik.

The musicians going to Cuba are Clay Ellerbroek, flute; Katherine Young, oboe; Brian Moorhead, clarinet; Anthony Georgeson, bassoon; and Robert Rearden, French horn.

Since the orchestra announced its Cuba exchange in May, clearance has been given for weekly charter flights to Havana from Tampa International Airport, starting as soon as September. The orchestra is looking into flying from or to Tampa instead of Miami, where daily charter flights are in place.

• Several veteran players will be missing from the orchestra this season. Sarah Shellman, principal second violin, is taking a year's leave of absence. Two musicians, assistant principal horn Brandon Beck and viola player Karen Dumke, took buyouts from the orchestra to resign, part of management's strategy to control expenses.

Arrivals in the orchestra include Brandon McLean, who comes from the New World Symphony in Miami Beach to be assistant principal bass.

The collective bargaining agreement between the board and musicians' union calls for a minimum of 24 weeks of work this season, which means there will be periodic unpaid furlough weeks. This is going to be hard on musicians, but Pastreich said it is necessary to keep the orchestra alive in these penny-pinching times. Additional work may be found for the musicians.

"It's an important, fundamental change in the contract," he said. "In the past, we started with a contract that said how many weeks there were, and management had to figure out what to do with those weeks, even though we never really had use for all those weeks. Now we have a floor with a clear promise that we're going to provide more than that floor. The floor this season is 24 weeks. But there are going to be at least two half-weeks beyond that floor, so the season will have at least 25 weeks of work."

• Board member Jane Peppard, a longtime executive with the St. Petersburg Times who retired several years ago, will be chairwoman of the search committee to find a successor to music director Stefan Sanderling, who plans to end his tenure after the 2013-14 season.

Pastreich expects the orchestra to name a new principal pops conductor next year. Several of the guest conductors in the pops series this season are likely candidates.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716.

Florida Orchestra ends fiscal year on upswing, lowers ticket prices 08/13/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 13, 2011 5:30am]
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