Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians strike

Walkout cancels Saturday performance less than 2 hours before it was to begin

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra canceled its Saturday performance after musicians went on strike, officials said.

The concert at Symphony Center was to begin at 8 p.m., featuring performances of Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 5 and Ottorino Respighi's Feste Romane.

Instead, musicians set up a picket line outside Symphony Center , bewildering patrons who arrived for the performance.

"We were negotiating all day today after having negotiated many times," said bassist Stephen Lester, chairman of the Orchestra Members Committee. "They were trying to force us into a concessionary contract, reducing our benefits and making it difficult for the orchestra to pay for health care and keep our basic standard of life."

The previous collective bargaining agreement expired Sept 16, CSO officials said.

Deborah Rutter, president of the CSO Association, called it a sad night for the symphony.

Rutter said the association and musicians have had 11 negotiating sessions, the last of which ended about 6:15 p.m. Saturday, when musicians rejected the association's final offer.

"We believe that we offered a very fair contract," Rutter said.

As the musicians began to picket, dozens of confused concertgoers gathered outside Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.

"This would have been our first time at the orchestra," said Al Green, who with his wife, Karen, drove in Friday from Dubuque, Iowa, to see the show. "I'm not sure when we'll get another chance."

Phil Mijal, of Woodridge, said the experience was "very frustrating."

"We came all the way from the suburbs and it would have been nice if they had called," Mijal said.

Officials said ticketholders can exchange their tickets for a future CSO performance, donate their tickets, or request a refund through the Symphony Center box office at 312-294-3000.

cdrhodes@tribune.com

mcaro@tribune.com

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