Philadelphia Orchestra declares bankruptcy «

    Philadelphia Orchestra declares bankruptcy

    PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AFP) – The acclaimed Philadelphia Orchestra said it would file for bankruptcy, the first major US performance ensemble to do so during the nation’s current economic turmoil. Kate Johnston, a spokeswoman for the 111-year-old orchestra, said however that programming was unaffected for now. “All concerts are going on as scheduled, including a concert tonight,” she told AFP Saturday. The orchestra was performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. The Philadelphia Orchestra Association confirmed its Board of Directors voted earlier to file for bankruptcy protection. Despite the expected filing, the orchestra is fighting for its life and plans a $214 million fundraising attempt within the next few days, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. At the beginning of the performance of Mahler, an orchestra member stood to thank the audience for its support. Meanwhile, outside the hall, a small crowd gathered to watch the performance on a small television. Concert goers were worried about their orchestra’s future. “It’s very sad,” said Joel Porter, visiting from New Jersey to hear the Mahler piece. “It risks causing musicians to secure their own future. They might look elsewhere.” Board chairman Richard Worley said earlier this week that income and expenses faced a “fantastic imbalance” and that although the rescue plan would be difficult, “I believe we can do it.” A number of major arts groups, including museums and opera companies, have faced financial strain since the recession and weak economic recovery in the United States. However, none as prestigious as the Philadelphia group have gone so close to the edge. The crisis announcement came as the city was hosting the inaugural Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. The festival features over 135 events and 1,500 artists spread over 25 days. Founded in 1900, The Philadelphia Orchestra considers itself one of the world’s leading ensembles, with acclaimed performances, major world tours and best-selling recordings. It is viewed on a par with orchestras in Boston, Chicago, New York and a handful of other major venues. However, falling audience numbers and sky rocketing costs have paired the musical excellence with a dismal financial situation. Financial statements published on the orchestra’s website show that accrued benefit obligations — a reference to member pensions — leapt from $9.8 million to $18.9 million between 2008 and 2009, the latest year for which information was available. Over that same period, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service, income at the orchestra fell from $53.1 million to $29.4 million. Just this week, reports said that a major philanthropic organization, the Pew Charitable Trusts, had declined a request to contribute to the rescue package, at least for now.

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