Pritzker plan dooms rest of CSO season; opposition grows to slow-walked Illinois reopening

Fri May 08, 2020 at 1:43 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra cancelled the final two weeks of its season Friday. 

Those two June programs, to be led by Riccardo Muti, included three Beethoven symphonies, which would have concluded this season’s aborted Beethoven 250 cycle. All ancillary concerts and events at Orchestra Hall are also lined out through June 27.

As noted in the CSO press release, the cancellation of the rest of Orchestra Hall’s 2019-20 season was made necessary by Governor J. B. Pritzker five-stage plan for reopening Illinois in the wake of the Covid-19 shutdown, announced on Tuesday.

Chicago’s summer classical series have been eviscerated with Ravinia, the Grant Park Music Festival and the North Shore Chamber Music Festival forced to cancel their entire seasons by the continuing shutdown.

Pritzker’s latest diktat slow-walks the reopening of Illinois to a greater degree than any other state in the country. For arts organizations with large or mid-size venues, it provides little light at the end of the tunnel even by the fall. 

The requirements for a complete reopening in Illinois (stage five) that would allow musical performances to take place again include a vaccine being discovered and no new Covid-19 cases for a month. Good luck with that.

The governor said this week that the much-criticized five-stage, four-region plan is not really his decision to make but based on input from unnamed “experts” and virus models that he has refused to specify.

Obviously, everyone must continue to be safe and continue to practice social distancing; no one want to contract this dangerous coronavirus.

But both the plan and Pritzker’s seeming lack of concern for the economic carnage the continuing Illinois shutdown is wreaking on the local economy– restaurants, small businesses and arts organizations–is eliciting mounting opposition in Chicago and across the state.

A Chicago Tribune editorial on Thursday criticized Pritzker for “moving the goal posts” in his evolving rules for reopening Illinois. Columnist John Kass noted today that while restaurants and small businesses are being devastated, all Chicago and state of Illinois employees continue to receive full pay and benefits–even for those who are not working–and there have been no furloughs, layoffs or cutbacks for any government workers during the shutdown.

At least two churches have said they will hold services Sunday despite the continuing shurdown. And Keith Pekau, mayor of Orland Park, said Friday that he plans to open up the southwest suburban town at the end of May in defiance of Pritzker’s edict.

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3 Responses to “Pritzker plan dooms rest of CSO season; opposition grows to slow-walked Illinois reopening”

  1. Posted May 09, 2020 at 6:24 pm by Tod Verklärung

    One could approach this question from multiple angles, but let’s take it out of the realm of politics. What might have happened if the CSO decided to present the Beethoven 9th, as was planned?

    How would the players feel about being crammed onto the stage, blowing into their instruments and trying to project their sound in the direction of Muti, the rest of the band, and the audience? Would Muti have agreed to conduct? Would all the musicians have agreed to perform? From behind them all, the singers would have showered them with the air carrying their voices. From the Gallery, the air of a cough would descend on the rest of the hall. From other elevated levels, more potentially dangerous droplets, even assuming every person was wearing a mask.

    Next question: would people come, knowing they must risk their safety and the physical well-being of others? Would the retirees who serve as ushers for the pleasure of listening risk their health to do so? Would the CSO’s legal department advise the concert be given under these circumstances? Would laid-off audience members want to pay for a ticket with money that might be needed for rent, food, or to sustain their own businesses? Final question:is there a single state in the union where a major orchestra is now giving concerts?

  2. Posted May 12, 2020 at 1:30 pm by Andrew Nogal

    Working musician here. Our industry has been devastated by this pandemic, and the livelihoods of creative professionals across many fields are at serious, unprecedented risk. And yet I can name not a single one of my colleagues who is beating the drum to get Illinois to open up any more quickly than is prudent for the good of public health.

  3. Posted May 21, 2020 at 12:57 am by ADF

    But is what Pritzker is doing prudent? He’s changed the goal posts and has never identified what “data” or what “experts” he’s basing his decisions on. How do we know that he’s actually being honest about anything he says or does?

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