The Philadelphia Orchestra has always celebrated the diverse culture of the city and that hasn’t changed in the face of the pandemic — it’s just had them think a bit more creatively. Recently, the historic institution started a new virtual series, “Our City, Your Orchestra,” a string of free online concerts performed by small ensembles and recorded without audiences at Black-owned businesses and other “iconic” cultural locations throughout the region.
“We strive to be a diverse, equitable, inclusive Orchestra, dedicated to our communities,” says President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra Matías Tarnopolsky. “This series highlights the people and businesses throughout the region that do remarkable work, but that are struggling right now. We wanted to partner with them and help tell their stories and amplify their missions through music. These performances are available free of charge on our website and Facebook page.”
For this particular series, the Orchestra partnered up with the National Marian Anderson Museum, Harriett’s Bookshop, the Historic Belmont Mansion/Underground Railroad Museum, The Franklin Institute and others. These partnerships were done in a way that not only helps ignite the creative spirit of the city, but also spotlights the organizations being showcased during a time when they need it most.
“It was such a humble blessing for us to be asked to be a part of this wonderful series for the fall season with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Maestro Yannick had already planned something different as part of this year because of everything that the country is going through, and this was a series that he added as a part of the season. We were so honored to be chosen as one of the venues that would feature this partnership and speak to the voice of now and we’re so grateful,” says Jillian Patricia Pirtle, CEO of the National Marian Anderson Museum. “We have been dealing with a lot during our share of this particular 2020 year and the Philadelphia Orchestra was made aware of our plight. When they did know what was going on, they contacted us to state their sincere sorrow for what had been transpiring because they hearken themselves back to the relationships the Philly Orchestra had with Mirian Anderson for years.”
The historic home located in Southwest Center City had to be shut down from the pandemic like many other organizations, and on top of that also had a pipe burst from the old age of the building, which was built in 1857.
“Our partnership with the National Marian Anderson Museum began over the summer. In addition to COVID-19 challenges forcing the museum to close in March, the building suffered severe flooding damage, and we wanted to find a way to help,” explains Tarnopolsky. “During our July 29 HearTOGETHER broadcast featuring a conversation with Vijay Iyer, Afa Dworkin, and Shariq Yosufzai, we included a call to action, asking for donations. The partnership developed from there, and now the museum is one of the first locations for ‘Our City, Your Orchestra.’ From there, we connected with other businesses, cultural, and civic organizations in the region.”
At this time, there are two performances slotted for the free series at the Franklin Institute on Oct. 26 and the Marian Anderson House Museum on Nov. 2. According to a release, the repertoire is chosen specifically for, and in collaboration with, each location to speak to its unique mission, and interviews with leaders at each venue also help to tell their stories. Performances will be available for free on a weekly basis.
“Through ‘Our City, Your Orchestra,’ we hope to provide that unique sense of community and inspiration so we can unite both inside and outside times as extraordinary as these. Music can provide a sense of joy, comfort, and hope, and we are all in need of those things right now,” says Tarnopolsky. “Our goal is to listen intently, unite purposefully, and respond profoundly to the world around us, and there is no way better to do that than through the transformative power of music. We hope this series will help support and reactivate Philadelphia small businesses and cultural organizations as we slowly and safely begin to reopen. We look forward to continuing to work with these partners going forward, as well.”
Other upcoming performance locations include NextFab, Taller Puertorriqueño, the Woodmere Art Museum, and Project HOME with more locations to be announced. As Tarnopolsky says, this is the first step for some creative relief and also recognition for the businesses that need it most. Anderson holds a similar sentiment to the Orchestra president in terms of seeing the series as a healing power for more than one group.
“We are hoping that the city is on the road to being healed by the music. The arts are a healer and certainly it has been shown through the ups and the downs of the city and our country. Wonderful institutions like the Philadelphia Orchestra continue to provide that beacon of light in dark times,” says Pirtle. “I’m also hoping the city and surrounding counties would embrace the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mirian Anderson Museum and Historical Society—they are a part of our history, a part of our present and what will be a part of our future. I advocate for our fellow citizens to support the arts in this manner, support the history [because] this programming is vital to who we are as a society and who we are as Philadelphians.”
To learn more information about “Our City, Your Orchestra” visit philorch.org