The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2024 Pride Concert

Written by:
Lewis Whittington
Share This:

There was a sense of musical occasion for The Fabulous Philadelphians in the Marian Anderson Hall for the third annual Pride Concert, free to all those who registered or showed up in time to claim any remaining available seats, the hall was packed to the rafters by this largely GLBTQA+ crowd. Out maestro Marin Alsop was on the podium for the second year in a row and this crowd greeted her like a classical rock star when she bounded onstage. She remarked “ yes, this is the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection.” Alsop now heads Vienna Radio Symphony and will be guest resident conductor next season with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The program featured music past and present by gay composers. Alsop opened with a rousing performance of Leonard Berstein’s Overture to Candide. Alsop leaning into its dynamic orchestral counterpoint and quicksilver tempos.

Things were a bit bumpier on the rarely performed 1945 version of Aaron Copland’s ballet score Appalachian Spring. The excerpts from this version sounds a bit disjointed in this setting and the orchestra seemed a bit under rehearsed. But the strings sounded lush throughout. And of course, Alsop landed its score’s brilliant crescendo to maximum effect.

Next, the mighty combined voices of ANNA Crusis Feminist Choir, The Philadelphia Gay Mens Chorus and Philadelphia Voices of Pride filled the entire choir loft for the concert, singing Philadelphia composer Robert Maggio’s As Long As We Live (Alons! Alons!) was commissioned by the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus in 2006, for this performance arranged for full orchestra its premiere by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Maggio’s dramatic lyrical score illuminates the text by Walt Whitman. The poet’s messages of unity and traveling together through adversity was not lost on this audience.

However passionate Uncle Walt’s text was, the combined choruses rocked the house belting out the bona fide gay anthem ‘We Are Family’ to the orchestra’s surprisingly funky arrangement. Alsop had the moves on the podium and  the entire audience was clapping on the beat (often a rarity) and otherwise in a disco contact high from the day. Marin introduced the next number by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Jennifer Higdon who lived with her wife in Philadelphia for decades as her adopted city. The couple had been together 40 years and Alsop noted that she had the honor to officiate their wedding.
Then Alsop cued Higdon’s Fanfare Ritmico and the orchestra continued to swing in this thrilling performance. The piece fueled by a matrix of percussive instruments and driving orchestral counterpoints, and blazing brass with sounds that engulfed the hall.

Sapphira Cristal, a runner up on Ru Paul’s Drag Race last year, but winning Miss Congeniality also adopted Philadelphia as her city and the audience loved her back when she Sashayed onstage in a bright yellow with showgirl gown slit at the thigh and a mile-high afropuff. Sapphira worked the audience with style and a mini-history lesson about Philadelphia spoke to a lot of GLBTQ+ activism pre- Stonewall- The Dewey’s Diner sit-in of the ‘annual reminders’ in front of Independence Hall of the mid-60s and several other ‘firsts’ post Stonewall.

Cristal then launched big-band era maestro Cab Calloway’s Minnie the Moocher accenting its gayest subtext. Vocally she used her full vocal range, from mezzo to basso, in a rowdy super-vamp that brough the house down, meanwhile, the orchestra proved just how much jazz swing they have. Cab would definitely approve. Sapphira chatted with the audiences with her love for the city before launching into a shaky rendition of ‘People’ Jules Stein’s classic from ‘Funny Girl.’   

Marin closed the concert with a fiery performance of Tchaikovsky’s Allegro motto vivace movement from his 6th symphony and a penultimate symphonic showpiece, vividly rendered in this performance. Alsop told the audience that Leonard Bernstein had been her mentor and as an encore bookended the concert with another classic from Candide, which brought the orchestra and the choirs to radiant musical bloom.

The life-force of high desert New Mexico—summer monsoon rains— almost always begins on opening weekend of the Santa Fe Opera,...
Imagine how many hours alone Tracy K. Smith spent on her way to becoming the 22nd Poet Laureate of the...
Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker was the keynote speaker for the rededication ceremony of the Marian Anderson Hall in Kimmel Center...
Search CultureVulture