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Philadelphia Orchestra Moves Toward Bankruptcy Filing
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Philadelphia Orchestra Moves Toward Bankruptcy Filing

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  • 1. 4/18/2011 Philadelphia Orchestra Moves Toward B… Reprints This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers here or use the "Reprints" tool that appears next to any article. Visit www.nytreprints.com for samples and additional information. Order a reprint of this article now. April 17, 2011 Philadelphia Orchestra Makes Bankruptcy Move By DANIEL J. WAKIN and FLOYD NORRIS PHILADELPHIA — A humbled Philadelphia Orchestra drew a prolonged ovation on Saturday evening after the final strains of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, one of his sunniest works. Just hours earlier, its board of directors had voted to send the orchestra to bankruptcy court, declaring the move the only way to survive financial disaster. The vigorous applause was certainly for Mahler, but it also seemed to be a vote of support for a beleaguered hometown team. Philadelphia is not New York, with its abundance of musical organizations, said Mindy Pressel of Cherry Hill, N.J., who was in the audience: “This is what we have here for concerts.” Some in the audience took out their frustrations on orchestra executives. “They’re in trouble because of poor management,” said Edward Neifeld of Maple Glen, Pa., who wore a red Phillies sweatshirt. Inside the orchestra’s Kimmel Center home, there were many empty seats — possibly the result of a thunderstorm, though also indicative of a reason the orchestra is having financial trouble. In a program insert given to the audience on Saturday, management also blamed its eroded endowment, not enough donations, “operational costs,” the expense of financing its musicians’ pensions and the cost of vendor contracts. It praised the musicians for their sacrifices, pleaded for donations and urged the audience to buy tickets. “If you care, please do not abandon our orchestra now — embrace us,” the handout said. The decision to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy has sent ripples through the country’s major orchestras, many of which are struggling with money. Several, like Philadelphia, are also facing contract negotiations with their musicians. Allison Vulgamore, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s president and chief executive, sent a memo last week to executives of other major orchestras alerting them to Saturday’s vote. While orchestras have resorted to bankruptcy court in the past, none have been of the caliber ofnytimes.com/…/philadelphia-orchestra-… 1/2
  • 2. 4/18/2011 Philadelphia Orchestra Moves Toward B… the Fabulous Philadelphians — an internationally famous ensemble that was the first American orchestra to visit China and counts Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy as past music directors. It is as much a national treasure as a local one. The orchestra said that it had cash to pay the bills for only two more months and that the gap this season between what it has to pay to operate and what it earns is $13 million. Emergency fund-raising is expected to bring that down to $5 million, management officials said, but that would cover only this season. The trustees voted overwhelmingly in favor of a filing, with only the five musicians on the board opposing. The musicians contend that management is exaggerating the situation and that filing for bankruptcy will undermine the orchestra’s quality and discourage donors. After the vote, Ms. Vulgamore said the board felt heavily the weight of tradition. “But we also talked about wanting to see our future and taking the necessary steps to get there to it.” She said the musicians would still be paid and concerts would continue, but the orchestra would review all contracts with its business partners — especially the Kimmel Center, where it pays rent. It will come up with a reorganization plan to be approved by a bankruptcy judge and will continue to negotiate with the musicians over a new contract. Richard Worley, the board’s chairman, said in an interview that the orchestra hoped to emerge from Chapter 11 “by later this year.” He said the atmosphere during the vote was emotional. “Not every eye was dry throughout the morning.” John Koen, a cellist and chairman of the players committee, spoke from the stage on Saturday, thanking the audience members for their support and announcing that the musicians would offer a special expression of gratitude: the heart-warming “Nimrod” movement from Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations. Its mood reflected a more hopeful outcome than another work on the program — music from Berg’s opera “Lulu,” in which the protagonist dies a tawdry death at the hands of Jack the Ripper. Mr. Norris contributed reporting from Philadelphia and Mr. Wakin from New York.nytimes.com/…/philadelphia-orchestra-… 2/2