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  • Writer's pictureZach Finkelstein

COVID-19 and How to Cancel With Grace and Dignity

Some organizations are "postponing" or cancelling, leaving artists in the lurch for tens of thousands of dollars income and expenses.

And some organizations are stepping up as leaders to fill in the gap in our most desperate times.

I'd like to highlight two organizations today who have tried to the best of their abilities to put their artists first: Chicago Opera Theatre and True Concord Choir and Orchestra.

Chicago Opera Theatre had a gala scheduled for tomorrow night and cancelled it with this public release:

Amid ongoing concerns about the Coronavirus COVID-19, Chicago Opera Theater has made the difficult decision to indefinitely postpone our Gala and Season Reveal on Friday, March 13, 2020.

While authorities at the CDC, state, and local levels have not yet advised cancellations for an event of our size, we take the safety of our staff, patrons, and artists very seriously. We share this news with a heavy heart, and are expecting to see further restrictions on large gatherings soon.

As you are aware, our gala each year is an important part of our overall annual fundraising. We are so grateful for your generous support through sponsorships and ticket purchases for this event, and any gift toward this event is now fully tax-deductible, and certainly would be honored if we are able to reschedule. For questions around this or refunds, please contact are closely monitoring the situation surrounding COVID-19, and taking every precaution at our office and performances. Like all of you, we are sorry that our community is in this unique situation and we hope it will be resolved soon. We look forward to sharing our 2020/2021 season and special announcements with you soon.Thank you for your understanding, and of course for your support of COT.

Despite the financial hardship, Chicago Opera Theatre is ignoring the #Forcemajeure clause and paying its artist the full fee. One singer involved told me, she's "grateful they’re in a position to do so and made the choice to in an uncertain time".

The second organization that should be commended is one I work for, True Concord Voices and Orchestra. I was slated to sing a Mass in B Minor Solo/Prochoral gig with them in two weeks time in Tucson, and received a cancellation last night. It was my third cancellation of the week in what has been a very trying time for me personally and financially.

However, the way True Concord handled it brought a smile to my face. Not only has the organization committed to programming the concert next season in addition to their normal full season, but despite a potential deficit for the year, they committed in the email to paying an advance of half the artist fee through additional fundraising. The artistic director had a "passionate discussion" with the board, and they all decided to create a fund for artist relief, to go back to their donors to explain the situation and ask for additional funds to help artists.

True Concord is not a big organization, nowhere near the size of Chicago Opera Theatre or the $50 million symphonies who are cancelling on artists by the dozen. Why are they committed to paying their artists while much larger organizations are citing #Forcemajeure? Because they believe in the "talented professional musicians" of the choir, "many of whom rely on performances for their livelihood". They care and they are willing to risk it all for the people who make it happen.

So let's give a big round of applause to Chicago Opera Theater and True Concord Voices and Orchestra for zigging when everyone else is zagging, for stepping up when everyone else is hiding behind their lawyers, and for showing leadership in a dark time when the easiest thing to do is, well, absolutely nothing.


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