Orchestra will seek bankruptcy, continue to play

As board members entered the building on Market Street where they would vote to file for bankruptcy, some orchestra musicians demonstrated their opposition to bankruptcy in the best way they knew how: by performing Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” in the lobby.

Requests by security guards to leave the lobby were ignored as the quartet continued to play the funeral song.

Facing a shrinking endowment and growing deficit, the orchestra board members decided yesterday to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“We’re running low on cash, we’re running a deficit,” said board chair Richard Worley. “We have to put ourselves into a position that will attract investment funds that will help us begin the turnaround of this orchestra.”

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John Koen doesn’t agree. The chair of the player’s committee says the musicians have offered an employment contract that would save the organization $25 million  in three and a half years.

“My committee made a proposal that would be more than enough to prevent this,” said Koen, a cellist in the orchestra. “They should be able to take the contract we offered and say to donors, the musicians are making a sacrifice but are willing to work with us.”

The only votes opposed to bankruptcy were the five from the player’s committee.

Orchestras in other cities have also filed for bankruptcy recently–including Honolulu and Louisville–but none of the size and quality of Philadelphia.

When the orchestra in Syracuse, N.Y., recently declared bankruptcy, it ceased perfoming. Not so in Philadelphia. The show will go on.

During its performance on Saturday night at the Kimmel Center, the orchestra surprised the audience with an unscheduled excerpt from the somber Enigma Variations. It was a tribute to their supportive Philadelphians. 

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