A culture war has developed within the financially struggling Philadelphia Orchestra. The orchestra, which filed last week for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, has yet to announce concerts for next year’s season of the Philly Pops–the orchestra’s more colloquial arm.
The battle stems from a collision of the orchestra’s high-brow and middle-brow traditions.
The Pops, led by Peter Nero, performs popular works from rock and roll to Broadway to Christmas specials. Nero’s attorney, Paul Rosen, says the Philly Pops packs the house and turns a small profit, while the orchestra struggles to maintain an audience with a $14 million deficit.
“Peter Nero is a part of the culture of Philadelphia. The Pops is part of the culture. People love it when they go to the shows … they’re dancing in the aisles,” said Rosen. “But the orchestra appeals to a carriage trade, to a more elite group of persons involved in cultural, sophisticated, classical music.”
Rosen said the orchestra has prioritized its own 96 concerts, while leaving the fate of The Pops hanging in the wind.
But Larry McMichael, the orchestra’s attorney, said the Philly Pops has drained money. McMichael says it’s “ridiculous” to say the Philly Pops turned a profit.
“The books and records are maintained by people at the orchestra who are very good. And we have our own financial advisers involved in this case, we understand the numbers,” he said. “And this is not the time for people to pull things out of context and wave things around that are meaningless.”