After previously canceling all shows at Walt Disney Hall through May 10, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association has followed through with the inevitable and declared the remainder of the 2019-20 season a wash, too, meaning that concerts scheduled at the storied hall through June 6 are officially off.
Payroll reductions for full-time staffers and layoffs for part-timers were also announced as part of the LA Phil’s bid to remain afloat during the economically devastating coronavirus pandemic.
What remains to be seen is what will happen with any or all of the shows scheduled for the Hollywood Bowl, where the Philharmonic moves all its activities after mid-June. As of now, the L.A. Phil still has the Playboy Jazz Festival on the books to unofficially open the Bowl summer season June 6-7, followed by an official gala opening night with Brandi Carlile and orchestra June 13.
The organization also leases the Bowl to outside promoters, with shows on the calendar beginning in late May. A handful of artists who had late spring shows scheduled for the Bowl have already canceled of their own accord, including Dave Chappelle and Lady Antebellum. But late May shows by Daryl Hall & John Oates and Alice Cooper and June concerts by Halsey, Bob Dylan, Andrea Bocelli and Steely Dan remain on the calendar, however uncertain it seems that mass-scale gatherings will have resumed by then.
“We’re hopeful that there will be all or some of our Hollywood Bowl season, but tours are being canceled and artists are canceling too,” Chad Smith, the organization’s CEO, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “We’re re-modeling it every day.”
The hurt felt by Bowl-goers who may not get to see Janelle Monae or Maxwell with an orchestra this July doesn’t compare, of course, with the hurt being put on employees who will see a partial or complete loss of their paychecks as the entire nation’s concert halls remain dark indefinitely.
“The measures we are taking are painful, but we must act today to safeguard the LA Phil for tomorrow,” Smith said in a statement. “We cannot predict how long this pandemic will last or what its impact might be on our Hollywood Bowl and (John Anson) Ford seasons, and so we are addressing the challenge now based on the information we have, in a way that we know is difficult but believe is responsible.”
The announcement from the Philharmonic Association said the organization is “cutting all non-essential expenses and starting April 13 will institute payroll reductions shared across the organization.” Famed artistic director Gustavo Dudamel will forgo his pay while the venues remain closed. Regular part-time staff, reported to number 94 employees, are being let go, and 174 full-timers are looking at pay cuts of 35% (or more for top staff), while keeping their benefits. “Under the terms of a renegotiated interim contract, beginning on April 20 all (101 full-time) Orchestra members will receive 65% of their weekly minimum scale,” the announcement said.
Disney Hall had shut down March 12. Employees had been kept on the payroll in the intervening four weeks. In the Times, Smith said that the loss of ticket revenue just from the canceled three months of Disney Hall shows would amount to $9-10 million.
Among the May and June shows that have just been canceled: concert performances of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” a tribute to Ravi Shankar by daughters Norah Jones and Anoushka Shankar, a Steve Reich program and several classics programs to have been conducted by Dudamel.
Smith added that the LA Phil will likely rely even more heavily on philanthropy in the coming dark months, however long they may last.
The Philharmonic Association pointed out that core staff supporting YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) will be kept on, to provide students instruction remotely.
“For the sake of the musicians, staff, students, teachers and the audiences and communities we serve, we are determined to support the Association as it takes these very difficult steps,” said board chair Thomas L. Beckmen. “We have immense faith in the LA Phil leadership’s ability to guide the organization through these uncertain times. When we emerge from them, we will be ready to come together again in the communal experience that means so much to us all.”
Some arts institutions in L.A. have already pulled the trigger on the summer. The Center Theatre Group, the other major downtown arts organization, moved at the end of March to cancel all of its spring and summer plays at the Ahmanson, Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas theaters, with hopes of resuming for the fall season. The CTG has furloughed 50% of its staff until early August, the Times reported, and instituted pay cuts for the half of the staff that will remain on in some capacity.