Features: Have Cello Will Travel


IT TOOK AN eight-week strike in 1965 to show the Philadelphia Orchestra what every politician knows: that no matter how successful you become out in the world, you still have to get home to mend fences and to meet the folks.

One of the lessons of the strike was the realization that too few persons in the Orchestra’s hometown knew the group or had been to its base of operations, the Academy of Music. Both players and management were chagrined at the lack of public indignation at the silence in the Academy that fall. They also realized that to raise the amount of money they were going to need in the years to come, they were going to have to do some serious soul-searching.

In the months that followed the strike, there was much talk about broadening the base of support, dissolving the Establishment image, finding ways to get the Orchestra into the community and developing new audiences.

One of the first objectives was broadening representation on the board to include new members who could give money or raise money to help solve some of the Orchestra’s financial problems.

Further expansion of the board to include representatives of the black community, the players, the city schools and universities will probably take even more time.

The next significant effort came this Winter — getting out to meet the folks. The Orchestra finally found a means of going out to play in the community for audiences unlikely to make the trip to the Academy.

The desire had been there; the money hadn’t been. And it took another round of contract talks to win the Musicians’ Union over to the players’ point of view that the Orchestra might profitably appear at less than full strength.

With this new clause in the contract, players and management began talking about splitting the Orchestra in half for concerts in the schools. School auditoriums are rarely large enough to hold a 10-piece orchestra, and the split was also a comfortable way of expanding the musical coverage possible in a short time.

The implementation of the idea moved slowly, because there were two points of view. One said go out and be fruitful; the other said bring the world into the temple. The argument is still alive among players and planners. Many felt an audience should be brought to the Academy where the acoustics help rather than hinder and the ambience is impressive. These people argued that the Orchestra plays best at the Academy, and can deliver its message better to an audience. Also, each performance would reach nearly 3,000 listeners as opposed to the smaller numbers in the school auditoriums.