Hundreds Turn out for Orchestra Musicians' Concert; It Was a Benefit for the Musicians, Who Had Been Locked Out

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Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY

Hundreds of music lovers filled the pews of St. Paul's by the Sea Episcopal Church Monday evening, spilling over into temporary chairs placed along the side of the sanctuary.

By the time the small orchestra composed of members of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra began to play, there was standing room only at the back of the Jacksonville Beach church.

"It's great," Susan Pardue, chairwoman of the negotiation committee for the orchestra's musicians, said during intermission.

"It's so exciting that after all this time, we still have that much support."

The musicians had been out of work for several months after their five-year contract with the Jacksonville Symphony Association ran out in August. Citing a cut in government contributions and an annual deficit, the association locked the musicians out in November.

The JSO and the musicians finally came to terms this week.

But the musicians had been putting on concerts such as Monday's in Jacksonville Beach as a means of hanging onto community support.

They recently began putting on benefit concerts and seeking donations around the Jacksonville area to help raise money during the labor dispute.

The two-hour event that began at 7:30 p.m. included selections by George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn.

After the concert, some of the musicians, their attorney and representatives from national symphony and musician organizations conducted a question-and-answer session to discuss the labor dispute with the audience.

"We have to get the musicians back on stage; the community deserves it," said Bruce Ridge, a bassist with the North Carolina Symphony and chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Orchestra Musicians.

Laura Brownell, director of Symphonic Services Division of American Federation of Musicians, also attended the concert, as did Leonard Leibowitz, attorney representing the musicians.

"It is my hope that the management will recognize the sentiment I have found in the community," Ridge said.

"You see the overwhelming crowd here. Extra seats added, it's just wonderful."

He said all the benefit concerts around Jacksonville have been as well-attended.

During the question-and-answer session, Leibowitz said, "We never wanted to stop negotiating. …