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Violinist Cancels Detroit Recital Amid Strike

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Violinist Sarah Chang canceled a Monday recital at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, citing criticism and intimidating e-mail she said she received by being “unwillingly drawn into” a strike by Detroit musicians.

Chang was invited to perform in the recital last week after the Detroit Symphony Orchestra canceled its season-opening concerts because its unionized musicians were on strike to protest proposed pay cuts.

The 29-year-old former child prodigy said in a statement posted Monday on the symphony’s website that she has been “unwillingly drawn into an inner dispute that does not appropriately involve me.”

“While it has always been my deepest wish to fulfill my musical contribution to the city of Detroit, I will sadly be withdrawing from my recently announced recital,” Chang said in the statement. “My original intention to bring music to the community has been derailed.”

Symphony spokeswoman Elizabeth Twork said Monday that critical comments had been posted on Chang’s website and that the performer had received intimidating e-mails.

Pickets by striking musicians began Oct. 4. Management implemented a 33 percent base pay cut for orchestra veterans in the first year of the new contract. Musicians had offered a 22 percent reduction.

Musicians’ spokesman Haden McKay told The Associated Press on Thursday that members were planning to picket outside Chang’s performance. He said Monday the musicians were pleased with Chang’s decision, but stressed that the musicians weren’t behind any critical or intimidating comments toward the violinist.

“If anything was less than polite or threatening, we deplore that,” McKay said. “That was the last thing that we wanted.”

In an earlier statement on the DSO’s website, Chang expressed a desire to honor her commitment and perform works by Brahms and Franck as planned. She said she had asked that proceeds from ticket sales go to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Musician Pension Fund. She was to have been accompanied by pianist Robert Koenig.

But the statement Monday said the recital would not go ahead.

“I wish my friends and colleagues in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and its management a speedy resolution,” said Chang, who is not a member of the Detroit union.

Symphony President and Chief Executive Anne Parsons called the criticism of Chang “harassment” and said “those responsible should be held accountable.”

“We are appalled at the treatment and criticism she has received for agreeing to appear at the DSO,” according to Parsons’ statement on the symphony’s Web site. “We look forward to the opportunity to present her to our Detroit community in the future, the other innocent victims of these unethical tactics.”

McKay said the Detroit union and the president of the American Federation of Musicians were among those who had sent open letters to Chang asking her to reconsider plans to hold the recital. He said a member of the Detroit orchestra also had a “low-key, heartfelt” telephone conversation with Chang on Sunday.

“They were all extremely positive in tone,” McKay said of the requests. “Asking for gesture of solidarity.”

Online:
Musicians union: http://www.detroitsymphonymusicians.org
Symphony: http://www.detroitsymphony.com

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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