The Philadelphia sound travels well

Philadelphia Orchestra members peformed spontaneously in a plane stuck on a Beijing tarmac in this image from a video.
Philadelphia Orchestra members peformed spontaneously in a plane stuck on a Beijing tarmac in this image from a video.
Posted: June 25, 2013

By Allison Vulgamore

The Philadelphia Orchestra recently returned from our China residency and 40th anniversary tour. (For sure, it is a relief to see cheesesteaks on the menu!) While we are exhausted, we are also exhilarated. We returned home a changed orchestra - not in sound, but in spirit. We have been deeply touched by the generosity of the Chinese people and moved by the power of our strengthened bond.

The Philadelphia Orchestra's first visit to China, 40 years ago, was historic. With the establishment of our residency, our latest visit was a promise fulfilled.

Since 1973, we have been united with the Chinese people through music. Friendships have been built and have endured. Connections have been made between our countries and the musicians who performed together. We have cherished and respected this bond with eight return visits, four in the last five years. We have differentiated our relationship with China from those of other American orchestras through continuity and consistency.

We could not share our talent in China without the support of our city. And while our relationship with China has deep roots, they are young compared with those we have nurtured with Philadelphia for more than 100 years. This is home, and we are proud to be your ambassador on the world's stages and in its neighborhoods. From Shanghai to Tianjin to Beijing, Philadelphia was spoken of with an abiding love, respect, and admiration.

And that was before the YouTube sensation of our "pop-up" on a plane! Our pop-up performance, in which four of the orchestra's string players performed the finale of Dvorák's "American" string quartet while stranded on a plane for seven hours in Beijing, reflected the orchestra's willingness to embrace the moment. There is an element of serendipity on tour, and while we wouldn't have predicted that a travel delay would bring one of our proudest moments, it did. I am grateful to our musicians for their keen understanding that in a situation often marked by anger, their music could not only soothe, but enrapture.

That moment was representative of everything we do on and off stage, and everything we do in the name of Philadelphia. We are your orchestra first. And what we achieved in China could happen only because of what we do here. Our work in Philadelphia informs what we share with the world.

This orchestra and its musicians engage the city in myriad musical activities. Through our partnership with the Philadelphia schools, free neighborhood concerts that reach tens of thousands a year, musical programs for families and children, and support for the Curtis Institute of Music, Play On, Philly!, Settlement Music School, and other community organizations, we work to bring music to Philadelphia every way we can. Our musicians are truly teaching artists - on the stage, in the classroom, and, yes, even on a plane. We think globally but always act locally.

We are ever thankful to our patrons and sponsors for their continued cheers and support, especially as we welcomed Yannick Nézet-Séguin as music director this season. We are grateful to our city for allowing us to share our sound with the world, especially with our dear friends in China. Above all, though, we are proud to be your "Fabulous Philadelphians," and we look forward to seeing you this summer.


Allison Vulgamore is the president and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

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