Philadelphia Orchestra Board Gets An Awkward Serenade

In a scene Saturday morning that was, in turns, somber, awkward and tense, members of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association board arriving to vote on Chapter 11 were greeted by, of all things, music.

Players dressed in solid black jammed the lobby of 1701 Market St. - the building of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius - to hand leaflets to the board members urging rejection of bankruptcy while a string quartet played Barber (the mournful Adagio for Strings), Schubert and Mozart.

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When a security guard interrupted and told all present that they had to leave the premises, musicians listened politely - and then pressed their bows back to strings for more Schubert.

Some board members smiled as they entered, and even looked delighted. Ramona A. Vosbikian embraced double-bassist Joseph Conyers. Other board members walked past the musicians as if tip-toeing through a firing squad, keeping hats low over their faces and averting their eyes.

"It's so beautiful, no one wants to make them leave," said one building employee checking in board members.

But a few minutes before 9 a.m., one guard had had enough. He asked the media to leave, and told me and musicians that the police had been called and were on the way.

Perhaps mindful of the photos and headlines a scene of that sort would generate, the orchestra's public relations staff worked to resolve the matter.

No police materialized. The Mozart was finished up. Musicians applauded each other. And everyone filed out of the lobby as board members nine floors up decided whether the Philadelphia Orchestra would become the first major U.S. ensemble to go the way of bankruptcy.

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