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More than Just a Concert: the Fabulous Philadelphians Honored to Take Part in Papal Visit

July 08, 2015

“To play for Pope Francis, and in service to the events celebrating his generous visit to our city, is a high honor for everyone associated with The Philadelphia Orchestra.”

That’s how Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore describes the world-famous ensemble’s participation in two events during this fall’s first-ever visit to Philadelphia by Pope Francis.

Philadelphia Orchestra President & CEO Allison Vulgamore joins Mayor Michael Nutter, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, and other dignitaries in Rome to announce the Orchestra’s participation in the upcoming papal visit.

Of course, music lovers all over the Delaware Valley are thrilled that the Orchestra is a highlight of the eagerly-awaited papal appearance. As part of the World Meeting of Families Festival of Families, the Philadelphians and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin perform for a massive audience (including His Holiness) on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Saturday, September 26. The concert also features tenor Andrea Bocelli, a global megastar, as well as Grammy-award winning, multi-million album-selling Latin-American favorite Juanes.

But on a more spiritual plane, on Sunday, September 27, Yannick and the Orchestra, together with the 500-member Archdiocesan choir, will return to the Parkway to perform at the Papal Mass.

The Orchestra is no stranger to the Catholic mass, having recently performed many of the great classical requiems, from Mozart to Brahms and Verdi. (While the Orchestra hasn’t played for a pope before, it did perform the Verdi at Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in 1980 for a later nationwide PBS broadcast.) But appearing at an actual mass, where they will perform the liturgical music with the Archdiocesan choir, is clearly something very special.

Cellist John Koen calls it a “transcendant” event. “When we heard of the pope’s visit, we were delighted and immediately wished to do our part to represent the City of Philadelphia.”

Vulgamore was in Rome for the announcement of the Orchestra’s role in the pope’s visit. I was honored to be a member of the Philadelphia delegation, a tight-knit team of our City’s religious, government, and business leaders. It was an extraordinary opportunity to convey the message that the Orchestra’s participation in these events is in service to the entirety of Philadelphia. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be joined by Philadelphia’s Archdiocesan choir to perform at a very special Papal Mass on the Parkway for our communities, which will also be broadcast to world audiences.”

In Rome Vulgamore represented the Philadelphia arts and culture community; she was joined by Mayor Michael Nutter and Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director for the World Meeting of Families, as well as Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (president of the Pontifical Council for the Family). She expressed deep gratitude to the World Meeting of Families, to the Orchestra’s supporters who are making their participation possible, and to the Fabulous Philadelphians.

“Our Orchestra has brought music to the world for more than a century, and now we are proud to take part in helping to bring the world to Philadelphia for the papal visit. Like so many Philadelphians, the musicians of the Orchestra, Yannick, and our entire organization will all contribute time and talent toward this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We are incredibly proud to share our music with Pope Francis and know we will be part of an audience in the City of Brotherly Love that will be changed and inspired.”

Details on attending the concert and Mass are still being finalized. For more information regarding the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, visit WorldMeeting2015.org.

The Orchestra’s participation in the Festival of Families concert on September 26 and the Papal Mass on September 27 has been made possible through the generous support of the Maguire Foundation, Harry and Kay Halloran, Chris Donahue/Federated, the Connelly Foundation, Andrew Lesko, Thomas Ajamie, Christian and Adrianna Henkels Fund/Schwab Charitable, Jeremiah and Kathleen O’Grady, Ed Kicak, and Vincent Roberti, in addition to an extraordinary partnership with Senator Robert P. Casey and the advocacy of Senator Pat Toomey and Congressman Brendan Boyle.