It was the usual uneventful Wednesday. Not much going on besides a Netflix disc that came in the mail. That is, until this appeared in my Facebook Newsfeed from the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Facebook page.

“Originally scheduled to perform at Carnegie Hall’s Opening Night concert tonight, Yannick and the Orchestra will instead make a FREE “pop-up” appearance at Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall at 6:30 PM. The Carnegie concert was cancelled due to a strike by its stagehands. Commonwealth Plaza activities begin at 5:30 with several pre-concert events to be announced throughout the day. Be there to help us create a joyful celebration of spontaneous music making! #PhilOrchFreePopUp”

I checked their website (I don’t trust Facebook interns), and it was there too! Free pop up concert

That was both horrible and wonderful at the same time. First let’s talk about the horrible.
The Carnegie Hall Stagehands, all of whom make more than the highest paid musician in the Philadelphia Orchestra, went on strike. Here we have a world class orchestra just emerging from bankruptcy. Opening night at Carnegie Hall was a wonderful opportunity for them to give them exposure (yes folks, they still got it!), perform with Joshua Bell and Esperanza Spaulding, and to also make a bit of cash. Over a world class hundred musicians had their performance cancelled because 5 guys who earned an average of $420,000 in 2011 for moving chairs around the stage for over $400k a year want more money. One example is Dennis O’Connell, who oversees props, made $530,044 in salary and benefits during the fiscal year that ended in June 2008.

Now the wonderful part.

Philadelphia was treated to a terrifically fun evening, while New Yorkers can go back to talking about Anthony Weiner.

There was a fun pre-concert activity in the foyer. A small group of string players from the orchestra assembled for a “conductor’s competition”. Volunteers could step up and conduct the opening of Mozart’s well-known Eine Kleine Nachmusik. The audience’s favorite would be chosen to “conduct” onstage during the concert! It was interesting for several reasons. It involved the audience and not in the usual passive manner. The musicians actually followed the conductor. This clearly displayed the impact of the conductor’s job on the podium.

(Click photos to enlarge)

Conductor's competition

The winner was a very young girl named Madeleine Church. She was brought to the stage and was able to do the William Tell Overture with Yannick’s gentle advice and encouragement.

Madeleine Church

Madeleine Church

The place was packed – every tier was filled with enthusiastic listeners. When concertmaster David Kim walked onto the stage, it was as if the 2010 Roy Halladay just threw another no hitter in the playoffs. When conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin walked out, I thought I was at a rock concert. The only Philadelphia team that has never disappointed us, indeed.

The program was all well known chestnuts that the orchestra has already worked up. Nothing wrong with crowd pleasers for an already pleased crowd.

Tchaikovsky – Marche Slav

Saint-Saëns Samson and Delilah Bacchanale

William Tell Overture with Maddy Church conducting.


Polonaise from Eugen Onegin

Yannick announced not only that is was OK to record the encore, but he encouraged us to post it online. To underscore that point, he took photos of the audience from the stage and posted them while speaking.

Here is my iPhone video from row 8:

After the concert, YNS was in the lobby signing the orchestra’s new CD.
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This morning, he was on Radio Times promoting it.

One thing I really liked was the 6:30PM start time for the concert. Usually they start at 8PM. At the end of a long workday (I usually go to the Thursday night concerts), it is easy to be really tired by the end of a concert at 10:30 or so and then get on the train. Last night I was home in time to watch that Netflix disc before bed time!