The Philadelphia Orchestra is celebrating the healing power of music

Jessica Griffin

There truly is something to be said about the healing power of music. Starting this month, The Philadelphia Orchestra, in partnership with Penn Medicine, will be bringing just that to patients at Penn Medicine’s six hospitals, including those who are being treated for COVID-19. 

According to a release, over the course of the next month, Penn Medicine hospitals throughout the region will stream Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra programs directly into patient rooms on a dedicated Philadelphia Orchestra television channel or on tablets, including rebroadcasts of previous concerts, chamber music from musicians’ homes, and more, with new content added each week. In addition, Philadelphia Orchestra audio and video content will be available on Penn Medicine’s employee COVID-19 support portal, PennMedicineTogether.

“Music has the incredible power to inspire, to comfort, and to heal,” said Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin in the release. “The patients and healthcare heroes battling COVID-19 are going through so much, and it is our hope that by providing them with our gift of music, we can do our part to help them endure, and bring them moments of joy.”

Jessica Griffin

Healthcare facilities that will be partaking in the virtual programming include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Hospital, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health and Princeton Health.

But the healing doesn’t stop there. After the initial program kicks off, the Orchestra hopes to expand to other healthcare facilities as well to provide a resource that is so desperately needed in precarious times such as these. 

At this time, the virtual programming repertoire includes past performances, with the most recent being Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6 from early March of this year when the Orchestra performed to an empty Verizon Hall. Other performances being streamed include a performance of Haydn’s Symphony No. 100 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 from 2010, Nézet-Séguin’s first concert as music director designate; a specially curated chamber concert of works by Beethoven performed by Philadelphia Orchestra musicians from their homes; a concert featuring Brahms’s Violin Concerto by acclaimed soloist Gil Shaham; performances of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, led by Nézet-Séguin; a 2011 performance by then Principal Oboe Richard Woodhams playing Rouse’s Oboe Concerto; a Neighborhood Concert from 2015 and more, the release states.

“Now more than ever, providing additional support for our patients is of the utmost importance, and that includes helping them stay connected and strengthening their mental wellbeing,” said Regina Cunningham, PhD, RN, chief executive officer of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in the release. “Music can soothe and comfort patients, which is incredibly important for those who are hospitalized—especially during a time when visitors are limited in order to safeguard our patients and staff. We are lucky to be in a city with such incredible art and music programs, and we are grateful to be able to bring this music to our patients during this unprecedented time.”

In addition to the work they are doing with health care facilities, the Philadelphia Orchestra will also be offering a way for everyone to enjoy a virtual performance. HearNOW: An At-Home Gala will take place June 6 at 8 p.m., and the hour-long event will feature performances by The Philadelphia Orchestra, individual members of the Orchestra, and guest artists including internationally renowned jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, Grammy Award-winning musician and actor Steve Martin,  Grammy Award-winning musician violinist Nicola Benedetti,  piano virtuoso Lang Lang, and as an extra special bonus, a world premiere commission by composer Valerie Coleman. The gala will be made possible through a mixture of live and pre-recorded elements and will be simulcast for free on philorch.org and facebook.com/philorch, and will remain available for viewing through June 8.

“Even while social distancing, the Orchestra is finding new ways to innovate, remain artistically vibrant, provide educational programming, and be a resource for our communities,” said President and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky in a release. “Although we cannot be with our audiences and collaborators in person right now, we can still connect with one another, powerfully, through music. This virtual gala is a beacon to the future when we can be together again.”

Jessica Griffin / Staff

Performances at the Gala are all aimed to highlight The Philadelphia Orchestra’s enduring relationships with beloved artists from a variety of genres. According to the release, the event will even feature the world premiere of a newly commissioned orchestral work by composer Valerie Coleman. Coleman’s new work, ‘Seven O’clock Shout,’ honors frontline workers and is inspired by the public cheers and applause they receive every evening at 7 p.m. Beginning with a solo trumpet salute, the piece turns from a ballad to a celebration and was written specifically for musicians performing and recording while social distancing.

The Gala on June 6 will conclude with a newly recorded performance of Rachmaninoff’s ‘Vocalise,’ a short film that was produced with the specific intention of serving as a visual reminder of the Orchestra’s legacy and its connection with the City of Brotherly Love.

To find out more information on the Philadelphia Orchestra, visit philorch.org. Philadelphians can also donate to the cultural institution through philorch.org/HearNOW/give or by texting “Orchestra” to 91999. 

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