Upstart Pops orchestra to play in former home of Philly POPS

The No Name Pops, formed by former musicians of the Philly POPS, will play on the same stage the POPS was evicted from.

Jonathan Fink speaks at a podium.

Jonathan Fink, a cellist and founding member of the No Name Pops, announces that the new group, made up of former Philly Pops musicians, will play a concert at the Kimmel Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

An alternative Pops orchestra has emerged as the Philly POPS struggles to find its footing amid lawsuits and a season of concerts that went mostly unperformed. Former musicians of the Philly POPS splintered off to form the No Name Pops, which have been performing for free as small ensembles around the city since May.

On Thursday, the No Name Pops announced it will perform as a full ensemble in the space formerly occupied by the Philly POPS.

On October 28, about 55 musicians of the No Name Pops will perform two shows in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center. It will play a program of R&B classics called “Let’s Groove Motown and the Philly Sound.”

“We are excited that we have signed a contract with the Kimmel Center to perform our first series as the No Name Pops,” said founding member and cellist Jonathan Fink. “Although this organization was started by a small group, we continue to thrive through the solidarity of our patrons, musicians, and administrators.”

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The announcement by the No Name Orchestra took place at the offices of the AFL-CIO union, with which the Philly POPS musicians union is associated. The Philadelphia Musicians Union Local 77 has filed a lawsuit against the Philly POPS for back wages. That suit is pending.

Fink said the intention of No Name is to become a resident ensemble of the Kimmel Center, just like the Philly POPS had been before it was evicted earlier this year.

“We were all shocked to learn that Philadelphia’s only symphonic Pops ensemble would shut down last winter,” said Fink. “We believe our great city should have Pops music.”

Jonathan Fink plays the cello alongside other performers.
Members of the Philly Pops, including cellist Jonathan Fink (right), perform in mouse ears at the Franklin Institute for the opening of the Disney 100 exhibition in February 2023. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Although the Philly POPS initially announced last winter it would close forever at the end of the performance season, it did not. After a positive run of Christmas concerts, POPS leadership decided to try to keep the organization going through a fundraising campaign. However, the ensemble has not been heard in six months as the remainder of its season went unperformed.

Meanwhile, the Philly POPS was evicted from the Kimmel Center for owed rent exceeding one million dollars. Much of its leadership team stepped down. The POPS filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center (POKC) claiming it engaged in “predatory conduct” to eliminate the POPS, including eviction and restricting access to its ticketing system.

Some of the POPS patrons lost faith that concerts would ever happen again and asked the POPS to return money they paid for tickets to performances that did not happen. Longtime POPS fan Jan Giumette went through a lengthy process to have about $600 returned through her credit card company.

Jan Giumette smiles as she poses for a photo.
Jan Giumette, a former subscriber to the Philly Pops, is a supporter of the No Name Pops. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Giumette is now helping other patrons navigate the process of retrieving their money. She has no confidence the Philly POPS will resume performing concerts, pointing out that the final unperformed concert of the season — which was supposed to be in June — was a concert originally postponed a year earlier in June 2022.

“I think it’s a deceitful way for the organization to have held on to those monies,” Giumette said. “I think the key issue is: where did the monies go?”

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Karen Corbin, the CEO of Philly POPS, says concerts will resume.

“While we work through our antitrust lawsuit against the Orchestra, we continue to map out how to move forward with the postponed concerts and look forward to performing for many years to come,” she said in a statement.

Members of the Philly POPS perform in February of 2023.
Members of the Philly Pops perform in mouse ears at the Franklin Institute for the opening of the Disney 100 exhibition in February 2023. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Giumette doesn’t believe that will happen and is putting her patronage behind the No Name Pops.

“The city needs a Pops orchestra. We need that music in this city and I’m excited to see where they go,” she said. “The energy is there, the commitment is there, and we need it.”

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