Sour note: Philadelphia Orchestra may declare bankruptcy

April 12, 2011 8:27:55 PM PDT
The Philadelphia Orchestra might be days away from declaring bankruptcy.

Though the Orchestra, renowned the world over for its distinctive sound, is made up of confident and unrivaled musicians playing in seemingly flawless harmony, it is now doubt and discord that threatens to silence the music.

"It comes down to money, unfortunately," Donald Carter of University Center said.

Plagued by deep financial difficulties, the Philadelphia Orchestra is hurtling toward bankruptcy; its Board of Directors is set to make a decision as soon as this Saturday.

Representatives of the board and musicians declined to comment, citing a press black out, but sources tell Action News that the relationship between the two groups has hit a particularly sour note.

Among other things, a bankruptcy declaration would relieve the Orchestra of its obligation to the musicians' pension fund.

Though filing Chapter 11 would allow the group to get its financial house in order, its musical house might be dealt a devastating setback. Sources say if the board votes yes, the musicians might begin a six month work stoppage.

"To lose the orchestra is to lose a significant part of what Philadelphia means. It's horrendous," Susan Ice of Center City said.

The Orchestra has long operated at a multi-million dollar deficit; the cost of running it is significantly higher than for smaller, less prestigious ones.

Now, facing declining revenue and limited philanthropic interest, orchestra officials are facing the possibility that this top tier organization may have to change its tune to play another day.

"It's enormously sad. I mean it's one of the finest orchestras in the world. I lived all over the world and one of the reasons I came back to Philadelphia is the cultural institutions. So, it would bother me tremendously," Frank Mosca of Center City said.

Because of the press blackout, it is not clear just how likely the board is to vote one way or the other, but no matter what the outcome, the Orchestra will have to raise several hundred million dollars to keep things operating at their current scale.