Philadelphia Orchestra To File Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

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The Philadelphia Orchestra announced it will seek bankruptcy protection. It is one of many orchestras to fall on hard times as cultural and monetary support began to wane.


It's hard times for one of the country's leading orchestras. The Philadelphia Orchestra has suffered from declining ticket sales and rising operating costs. And over the weekend, its board voted to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

From member station WHYY, Peter Crimmins reports.

(Soundbite of song, "Adagio for Strings")

PETER CRIMMINS: On Saturday morning, outside the meeting where the orchestra board members were expected to vote for bankruptcy, about 40 players gathered to express their opposition through music.

(Soundbite of song, "Adagio for Strings")

CRIMMINS: The Wister Quartet's Davyd Booth - who also performs with the orchestra - played Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings."

Mr. DAVYD BOOTH (Violinist, Wister Quartet): We feel this is a somber occasion, and we wanted pieces that we felt were both somber and emotional.

CRIMMINS: The chairman of the orchestra's board, Richard Worley, says inside the meeting the tone was also emotional.

Mr. RICHARD WORLEY (Chairman, Philadelphia Orchestra): You have a group of people who care deeply about this orchestra, making a decision that they hoped they never would have to make.

CRIMMINS: The orchestra has a $140 million endowment, but it's restricted. The board projects a $14 million deficit, and says, by June, their operating funds will be gone. Management cites the burden of pension costs and player contracts as a driving factor toward bankruptcy. The players disagree. They had offered management a contract they say would have staved off Chapter 11 if it had been accepted.

In the past several years, many small and mid-sized orchestras have declared bankruptcy.

Jesse Rosen, the president of the American League of Orchestras, says bankruptcy for an organization the size and reputation of the Philadelphia Orchestra is unprecedented.

Mr. JESSE ROSEN (President, American League of Orchestras): We're confronting a culture that is shifting, and there's a message to rest of to the rest of the field in Philadelphia that it's not enough to be really, really good.

CRIMMINS: The orchestra is not dissolved. The players will continue their regular season, and management is planning the next. To assuage worried patrons, the orchestra is offering future subscription packages to be paid in escrow.

For NPR news, I'm Peter Crimmins in Philadelphia.

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