Doing it their way, Philly Pops musicians will marry during Sinatra tribute

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 Philly Pops Concertmaster Michael Ludwig will marry first violinist Rachael Mathey during a concert at the Kimmel Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philly Pops Concertmaster Michael Ludwig will marry first violinist Rachael Mathey during a concert at the Kimmel Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

This weekend the Philly Pops will open its concert season with Ol’ Blue Eyes — and a wedding.

The Pops will perform the music of Frank Sinatra to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. It will double as wedding music for two of the orchestra’s musicians: concertmaster Michael Ludwig and violinist Rachael Mathey.

Ludwig and Mathey met in 2007 in Breckenridge, Colorado, where Mathey — then a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University — was performing for the summer with the National Repertory Orchestra.

Ludwig, a seasoned classical musician who has spent many years with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic, arrived in Breckenridge as a soloist.

Two years later, they started dating, and their lives have become increasingly intertwined. In addition to playing with the Pops, both also lead the Roxborough Orchestra — Ludwig as music director and Mathey as general manager.

“Rachael and I do everything together,” said Ludwig. “Literally. Everything in life we do together, including being onstage and sharing music together. This is really what it’s all about.”

After getting engaged in the summer of 2014, they looked for a novel way to get hitched.

“We didn’t want to do it the traditional way,” said Mathey. “All of a sudden, after a concert, Michael and I were driving home and he said, ‘I have a crazy idea. What would you think of getting married during a Philly Pops concert?’ I said, ‘Wow, that would be incredible. Can we make it happen?'”

The Pops was on board with the idea. They tried to swing it on Independence Mall during the Fourth of July concert, then again during a summer concert at Longwood Gardens, but balked at the unpredictability of an outdoor wedding.

This concert worked out because both are big fans of Frank Sinatra.

“It was fortuitous timing,” said Ludwig. “It’s interesting because we are a private couple, and we’re sharing one of the most intimate moments of our live with people. But we’re sharing it with special people — family, friends, colleagues, many people that we love and love us. What better way to share a moment when we are celebrating our love for one another?”

There will be 65 invited wedding guests among the 2,000 audience members. A private reception will follow the concert.

This will be a working wedding for the happy couple. At a certain point in the concert, Mathey will excuse herself from the stage to change into a wedding gown. After the ceremony, she will continue to perform the rest of the concert, seated next to her new husband, still wearing the gown.

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