6 months into lockout, St. Paul orchestra, management forge tentative deal

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Musicians and mangers at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have struck a tentative deal aimed at cutting the organization's costs and ending a six-month lockout.

Musician Carole Mason Smith, a lead negotiator, said her committee will recommend musicians accept a proposal floated by SPCO management last week, MPR reported. If musicians vote to accept the deal, annual musician pay would be slashed $15,000 and the orchestra would be cut in size by six players, to 28, MPR reported.

The musicians would get more artistic control over the performances and repertoire.

The move was a reversal from news Monday that the musicians were going to reject the latest offer, which seemed to guarantee the cancellation of the rest of the 2012-13 season.

The musicians' negotiating team told the board of their new intentions even as the board of directors was meeting Tuesday to determine the immediate fate of the orchestra, the Star Tribune reported. Concerts had been canceled through April 21, but the board had hoped to begin concerts again by May 5 if a deal could be reached.

Managers during the dispute had said budget-cutting was needed to erase a $895,080 deficit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, the Pioneer Press noted.

The interim president of the SPCO told MPR that usually by this time of year the orchestra would be selling tickets and subscriptions to the season beginning in the fall. But that season has not even been scheduled.

Late last week, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman had stepped up his effort to broker a resolution of the lockout that dates to last October. Coleman gleefully took to Twitter Tuesday night:

In Minneapolis, Minnesota Orchestra musicians remain locked out in their own contract dispute, and that group's concerts have been canceled through April 27.

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