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"It was moving": Symphony Musician's Union members give independent performance

This is the first time the musicians have performed together as an orchestra since rejecting a contract from the Symphony Society in September.

SAN ANTONIO — The Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony are playing together again. Members of the musician’s union are playing the second of two independent concerts later this evening even as their strike continues. But whether they’ll be able to play together again remains an open question.

For many San Antonio music lovers, Thursday and Friday nights performances are the closest thing to a night at the symphony they’ve had in a long time.

“I was thrilled when the first notes came, and they washed over me, and I started crying. It was moving!” said a fan named Kay Johnson.

Nearly 700 people bought tickets to the Thursday night performance put on by the First Fine Arts program of the First Baptist Church of San Antonio.

“There’s a great show out. Tons of people are coming,” said Alyn Lenhard, who came with his wife Caitlin to see the orchestra for the first time.

Like the sound of the strings and the brass filling the Sanctuary of the First Baptist Church, the fate of the striking musicians hangs in the air.

“Realizing the fact that the symphony might go away if the strike continued,” said Ian Thompson III, who attends the church and helped organize the event.

“And really, the importance of getting the musicians playing again,” Thompson said.

This is the first time the musicians have performed together as an orchestra since rejecting a contract from the Symphony Society in September that would have cut their pay and benefits.

“Now, they’re telling them that they’re going to tear the symphony apart so they can put it back together again,” Johnson said. “It’s absurd.”

The contract would also have significantly cut the size of the Symphony, making it unclear if, after these two performances, the orchestra could every appear in this form again.

The San Antonio Symphony employs 72 full-time musicians. After months of negotiations the symphony put forward what they called their last-best offer which would reduce the size of the symphony down to 42 full-time musicians with a contingent of 26 part-time musicians.

“There is that possibility that tonight or tomorrow night might be their last performances. But not if I can do anything, or my friends, my colleagues, can do anything about that.”

Thompson has daughters who take violin lessons from a member of the symphony. He helped organize the performances with the union, but what he hopes is for both sides to come to the table.

“I think once you get to talking and you focus on the common goals, the other things will fall to the sides,” he said.

The musicians will be performing once more tonight in the First Baptist Church at 515 Mccullough Ave. Tickets are being sold on eventbrite.com.

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