Monday, February 8, 2016

The Curtis Symphony Orchestra

Christoph Eschenbach conducts the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Messiaen's Turangalila-symphonie.

The Curtis Symphony Orchestra


I was backstage at the Kimmel Center the other night when the Curtis Symphony Orchestra prepared for a performance of Messiaen's Turangalila-symphonie. Click on the photos, or here for the video.

It was the final concert for student members of the Class of 2011, and was conducted by Christoph Eschenbach.


I've just started shooting a long term project at The Curtis Institute of Music, for a series that will run in the newspaper and on in the fall, when the exclusive, tutition-free conservatory opens a new facility on the 1600 block of Locust Street. It's the school's first major expansion in more than two decades, and will have a new orchestra rehearsal space, expanded teaching and practice rooms, and for the first time, student residences and a dining hall.

It's going to be fun. I like classical music, I like hanging out behing the scenes, and I especially like sharing little-known things I see with readers. In the case of Curtis, most of it is hidden away. Other than the excellent free Student Recital Series (the best live music deal in town-more than two hundred free public performances every year) most Philadelphians don't know much about what happens inside the old Curtis mansion on Rittenhouse Square (Curtis published The Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies’ Home Journal). You know, the buidling in the opening scenes of Trading Places...


... the movie where Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy), acting blind and legless in the park, hustles a woman - "Hey, baby, what's happening? How are ya doing? Once you have a man with no legs, you never go back, baby. I know what you're thinkin. You seen Porgy and Bess?" - and seconds later meets Louis Winthorpe, III (Dan Aykroyd) for the first time on the Curtis front steps -  the "Heritage Club" in the film.

Inquirer Staff Photographer
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About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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