By Pam Douglas
Following a thwarted attempt to remove the city’s $100,000 Steinway piano from the Rose Theatre earlier this month, the Brampton Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has been banned from performing at the city-owned theatre where it has played since 2006.
It appears the BSO’s decision to send a moving truck to pick up the piano for “routine maintenance” on Jan. 11 was the final straw that derailed any hope of mending the relationship between the City of Brampton and the BSO.
Brampton CAO John Corbett informed BSO CEO Michael Todd today that the final two performance dates tentatively scheduled for shows in April and May will be cancelled by the city due to “ongoing concerns” with the way the BSO has dealt with the Rose and its staff.
Ticket holders will be contacted by city staff and told how they can obtain refunds.
“It’s quite a surprise,” said Arthur Downes, vice-president of the BSO board, shortly after hearing the news. “I’m unable to comment until we have a meeting with our board.”
The BSO has not been able to mount a performance yet this season, forcing the cancellation of shows just prior to performance dates.
The BSO blamed the city, the city blamed the BSO.
But Corbett, who had been trying to work out issues with the BSO since he took the city’s top job in October, cited three reasons in particular the city has “serious and on-going concerns with respect to the manner in which the BSO conducts business with our facility and its staff,” he wrote in an email to the BSO.
The three he listed are:
1. “The BSO has failed to confirm the last three bookings in time for performances, forcing the theatre to cancel those performances and refund tickets. This has resulted in costs to the city (administrative and lost opportunity costs), not to mention inconvenience to our Brampton theatre-going community, and reputational risk to the theatre.”
2. “Rose Theatre staff has documented their concerns that city staff has been treated inappropriately in previous interactions with the BSO, creating a workplace issue for Rose Theatre staff and management.”
3. “Given the incidents of January 11, 2013 with respect to the attempted removal of the piano, without the city’s knowledge or consent, we have concerns with respect to the security of our property and the well-being of our staff.”
The booking ban extends to all city-owned venues.
The BSO has said it was the city’s fault it could not confirm the last three bookings, and Todd has criticized the management of the theatre, pointing to two past audits identifying problems, the last one blaming mismanagement for not ensuring all city policies and procedures were being followed.
The BSO’s claim of ownership of the piano arose suddenly this month, the day before the BSO’s rival, the Rose Orchestra, was to perform using the baby grand piano.
The BSO points to a line in a December Integrity Commissioner report that said the Mayor’s Gala bought the piano for the BSO. That was contrary to other references to the piano made in the past— including an earlier Integrity Commissioner report that said the Mayor’s Gala bought the piano for the Rose Theatre.
But if the BSO believes it owns the valuable baby grand concert piano at the Rose Theatre, it has failed to disclose that asset in its annual financial filings to the Canada Revenue Agency.
In annual financial statements filed with the government agency between 2000 and 2011, the registered charity declares nothing under “capital assets” each year.
And then there’s the actual receipt for the piano.
The city has produced one, the BSO has not.
The city has a receipt from Remenyi House of Music where the piano was purchased in 2004. The city has also produced a receipt showing the Mayor’s Gala gave the City of Brampton $100,000 to pay for the piano “for the Performing Arts Centre”, which was the previous name for the Rose Theatre.
The BSO has also not paid for any past maintenance of the piano, according to maintenance records dating back to 2006. They reimbursed the city twice in 2011 and once in 2012 for tuning of the baby grand prior to a BSO performance.
The BSO has been in a war of words with the city as the once successful group struggles to find funding and mount a season. City staff thwarted the attempt to remove the piano and a complaint was filed by the city with Peel Regional Police. Peel police said it wasn’t their job to investigate the ownership of the piano, only whether or not a crime had been committed. They concluded the piano was not removed and was still in the possession of the city, and no charges were laid.
With files from Torstar News Network
By Pam Douglas