The musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra split into in small ensembles, then fanned out over the city Tuesday.
They performed 14 mini-concerts in public and six in private locations as part of their Audience Appreciation Day, just days after they walked out of the Kimmel Center on strike.
As a horn quartet performed in front of the 30th Street Station, its subtle brass tones competed with masonry renovations on the train station façade and heavy traffic. The horns were followed by a percussion ensemble.
Of all the sections of the orchestra, brass and percussion are the only ones that can cut through the din of a transportation hub.
“We do pop-up concerns and free concerts all throughout the year. We’re able to get out and meet our audience. We’re always appreciative when our audience greets us,” said trumpet player Anthony Prisk, just as a cement truck roared down Market Street. “That what we have to compete with today! A cement truck.”
The musicians walked out Friday, settled the strike on Sunday, then on Tuesday volunteered to play these free public concerts. The Audience Appreciation Day, organized well before the labor contract negotiations broke down and were resolved, had nothing to do with the weekend strike.
Nevertheless, the gesture served to assuage fans after the season-opening concerts were canceled.
“It does have more meaning today, because we’re back to work and connecting to the audience all around the city after the strike,” said associate principal horn player Jeffrey Lang. “It was short, both sides agreed to a fair agreement — not everything we’d hoped for, probably not every they had hoped for, but we’re back on stage performing, which is the most important thing.”
A small crowd of a few dozen gathered Tuesday on The Porch — the train station’s concrete apron furnished with tables, chairs, and landscaping. Tom and Carol Tulba, who are season ticket holders, had seats for the orchestra’s weekend concert — the one that never happened.
“I think the musicians did what they had to do. They had to take a stand,” said Tom Tulba. “We were disappointed, but we understand.”
Following the horn quartet, the percussion ensemble played contemporary minimalist music by Stephen Reich. It caught the attention of Ray Parker, who works nearby in the Cira Centre and often comes to the Porch to take his lunch.
“I’ve never been to the orchestra before, so I thought it would be interesting to see what type of music they’re playing,” he said.
Audience Appreciation Day is organized entirely by the musicians. They were not paid to do this. While the orchestra did not have a hand in coordinating the mini-concerts, it stands behind the musicians’ outreach efforts.