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Raising the Baton 

While contract negotiations continue at the Richmond Symphony, the beat goes on.

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Last year's brochure for the Richmond Symphony showed musicians outdoors striking casual poses. This year they're back in the concert hall, featured in photos that are strictly business, playing their instruments as an ensemble. If there's a message, it could be that the symphony wants you to remember how hard the musicians work.

As it happens, the musicians in the photos — and the ones you'll see onstage starting Sept. 14 — are working without a contract. In August 2012, they rejected management's final offer but chose not to strike.

"The musicians played all season without a contract and they played at the highest level," says David Fisk, the symphony's executive director. "For that I am truly grateful."

The symphony and the musicians, represented by Local 123 of the American Federation of Musicians, entered a new round of negotiations in late August.

Symphony Week kicks off the season with an emphasis on socializing, including Symphony happy hour at Lemaire on Sept. 17.

"Sometimes it's a little intimidating to go to a concert as your first experience with the symphony," says Scott Dodson, director of advancement and patron communications. Similar events are being planned throughout the year "to make [the symphony experience] as social as possible," he says.

Symphony Week ends Sept. 21 and 22 with a set of a Ludwig van Beethoven concerts, the first in the Masterworks series. A highlight of the series is the Nov. 9 concert with mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, a Richmond native who performs leading roles in New York's Metropolitan Opera and around the world.

The following week, Sept. 28, is the first concert in the Symphony Pops series. The orchestra will play with Classical Mystery Tour, a group that's transcribed dozens of songs from the Beatles' studio recordings. Audiences can hear, for example, the live strings on "Eleanor Rigby" while the guest artists take the roles of the four Beatles.

In the Lollipops series for children, the full orchestra often is joined on the Carpenter Theatre stage by actors, puppets or dancers. The story of Petrushka, as told in music by Igor Stravinsky and interpreted by Grey Seal Puppets, starts things off Oct. 26.

For the Metro Collection series, a group of musicians takes the stage at Blackwell Auditorium at Randolph-Macon College, where the smaller venue allows the audience to be closer to the orchestra.

That's also the attraction at the symphony's new Rush Hour concerts. They take the program of a Metro Collection concert, subtract a few movements, add an adult beverage, and place it in the Gottwald Playhouse at CenterStage for an hour.

The Rush Hour concert of Nov. 21 will include principal clarinetist Ralph Skiano performing part of the concerto that Benny Goodman commissioned from Aaron Copland. On Nov. 24, he'll play the entire work for the Metro Collection concert.

Ticket prices have held steady from last year — Pops tickets even decreased slightly — and it remains possible to see a Masterworks or Pops concert for $10.

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