‘Dancing On My Own’ gets the Philly treatment with a pair of covers

Members of the Philly band Snacktime pose with Phillies jerseys on, instruments in hand.

Members of the Philly band Snacktime pose with Phillies jerseys on. (Courtesy of Snacktime)

As the Philadelphia Phillies start their World Series run against the Houston Astros, musicians are custom-tailoring the team’s unofficial theme song for the occasion.

“Dancing On My Own,” a song by the Swedish pop singer Robyn covered by Calum Scott, emerged from the player’s locker room at Citizens Bank Park and flooded into the streets of the city, all the way up to the Kimmel Center where the Philadelphia Orchestra put its own spin on it.

In tribute to their team, the musicians donned their best Phillies gear and played an orchestral arrangement of “Dancing On My Own” with the power of the full orchestra. It was recorded and released as an online video.

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“We have so many die-hard Phillies fans in the orchestra and in the orchestra leadership, we knew we wanted to do something to celebrate the Phillies,” said Jonathan Rothman. “We also did not want to be the ones to jinx it.”

The orchestra recognized “Dancing” had become the team’s signature song of the 2022 season, but waited until the Phillies clinched the National League Championship before asking Jim Gray, a composer and conductor based in Nashville who has worked with the orchestra in the past, to write an arrangement of the song.

“Jim is a Braves fan, and it brought him great personal pain,” said Rothman.

Nevertheless, Gray moved quickly and with great enthusiasm, delivering the orchestral arrangement of just the chorus in 36 hours. The orchestra rehearsed and recorded a 45-second excerpt of the song in time for the first game.

While the Phillies are in Houston this weekend, the orchestra will be playing a program at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Rothman said they do not plan to include the Robyn song in their program of music by Maurice Ravel and Florence Price.

Independent of the orchestra and nearly simultaneously, last week the band Snacktime played its full-length version of the song during a studio recording session at WXPN in Philadelphia. It was released online yesterday.

Snacktime became popular during the pandemic as one of Philadelphia’s most prominent street bands, playing brassy funk and drumline music for demonstrations, celebrations, and impromptu outdoor parties. They have since started a recording career.

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About a month ago, well before a Phillies World Series was even a twinkle in the eye, Snacktime started working up a version of “Dancing On My Own.” The song is a favorite of the girlfriend of co-founder and sousaphone player Sam Gellerstein.

Earlier this year the two of them were watching the TV show “Girls,” and he heard a song on the soundtrack that perked his ears.

“She’s, like, ‘You haven’t heard this before?’ And I’m, like, ‘No, what’s this?’” said Gellerstein. “Apparently I was the last person on earth to have not heard the song before.”

To surprise his girlfriend on her upcoming birthday, November 6, Gellerstein asked the guys in the band to learn the song. Then last week, during a performance session in the studio on WXPN in Philadelphia, the band played “Dancing” for the first time.

“That was one take,” he said. “It was what it was, and ended up being really beautiful.”

Gellerstein thought he was going to present the WXPN recording to his girlfriend as a private gift, a surprise. 

The World Series thwarted that.

After Snacktime made the recording, the Phillies won the National League Championship and “Dancing On My Own” took on a life of its own. Gellerstein could no longer keep the song under wraps until his girlfriend’s birthday.

“She was so happy,” he said. “It’s a kick for her to see all the coverage of it happening, and of being her responsibility in a funny roundabout fashion that we’re playing it.”

Gellerstein said the song will come into Snacktime’s regular repertoire, at least for the next couple weeks. He said the band has also worked up a techno-pop melody in the spirit of Robyn, to play in tribute to the Phillies.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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