Thinking Out Loud

May 2, 2011

Orchestra Members Walk Out on Crystal Cathedral Concert

The paychecks they received were half of what they were verbally promised, so eight musicians representing one quarter of the Crystal Cathedral orchestra, decided to walk with just an hour remaining before showtime.*   The L. A. Times reported that the Cathedral later blamed accounting errors, but other parts of the story suggest that some orchestra members had not been paid for the previous Easter.

The impact this had, according to the cathedral, was minimal. 

About a quarter of the orchestra — including an oboist, flutist and four French horn players — walked out a mere hour before services began Sunday…

Crystal Cathedral spokesman John Charles said Easter services weren’t affected by the eight people who walked out. Checks have been sent to those who performed.

“No one would have ever known they were missing,” he said of the eight.

No one noticed the entire French horn section missing?  As a musician, that seems somewhat hard to fathom, and at least one woodwind blogger was insulted.  But not so hard to fathom is the underlying bitterness the musicians — like so many others having contracts to do work for the church — are feeling:

“This church is known for three things: an inspiring minister with a vision, fabulous music and wonderful architecture,” said oboe player Holly Patterson, one of the musicians who walked out Sunday. “Out of those three things, only one exists now.”

You can read the story at the L. A. Times; also this blogger has a friend who had to sue the church to get paid;  while a longer story in the Orange County Register, notes that a website has been formed to rally those who are fans of the church’s unique music:

A few members have started a new website,, which says its mission is to “host a gathering place for Hour of Power viewers and the local congregation interested in keeping alive the traditional music of the Crystal Cathedral.” Most of the music featured on the website is from before April 2011. The site says that some most recent music has been featured for “purposes of comparison only.”

Of course, some will argue that this is part of the folly of having paid church musicians; of having a system whereby ministry is being done so professionally, that only professionals participate; and that, in the average church, the musicians are all volunteers. Should churches use paid musicians to augment special seasonal performances, or use them regularly as do some churches?

*The choice of the word “showtime” as opposed to “church service” or “concert” was intentional.    

Click picture for photo credit.

The use of today’s discussion question is in no way intended to detract from the more obvious question: Should not churches pay their bills?

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