St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill has announced the 2023-24 season of one of the Hill’s most popular offerings: “Five Fridays.”
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill has announced the 2023-24 season of one of the Hill’s most popular offerings: “Five Fridays.” The series of five chamber music programs offered on Friday evenings at 7:30 p.m. provides area residents with the chance to engage in two of their favorite passions: classical music and fundraising.
Launched in 2011 and inspired by St. Paul’s Church’s then-music director, Zachary Hemenway, “Five Fridays” provides a forum for a broad variety of local musicians, many of whom are recent graduates of the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia’s world-class conservatory. The program also raises money for two local fundraising nonprofit organizations: Face-to-Face Germantown, a social services group, and Family Promise of Germantown, formerly Interfaith Hospitality Network, an affordable housing advocacy and service organization.
Last season, the series of chamber music recitals, which are presented in the foyer of St. Paul’s glorious neo-Gothic sanctuary and spaced out across its labyrinth raised more than $8,000 for the two charitable organizations. Sponsors take out advertisements in each performance’s printed program to cover the cost of engaging the musicians, and parishioners contribute to proffering a notably sumptuous reception following each concert.
“Five Fridays” 2023-24 opens Oct. 6 with violinist Danbi Um and pianist Amy Yang. The vocal ensemble “Vox Fidelis” (“Faithful Voice”) will perform on Nov. 10. Pianist Sonya Ovurtsky Fensome will play on Feb. 2, 2024. The intriguing ensemble of flutist Lily Wintringham, saxophonist Jonathan Wintringham, and pianist Zhenni Li will be the featured artists on March 15. The season will be brought to a close on April 19 with the Puget Sound piano trio.
For more information, visit stpaulschestnuthill.org/music/five-fridays.
Peter Nero, the founder and longtime director of the Philly Pops, died Thursday, July 6, in Eustis, Florida. He was 89. Nero was named musical director and player-conductor of the Philly Pops in 1979 and remained at the ensemble’s helm until retiring from his posts there in 2013.
Born in 1934, Nero was a trained classical pianist, arranger, accompanist, conductor and composer. His career took off during the late 1950s and continued well into the 21st century. Along the way, he branched out into a jazz-inflected popular musical style that was all his own. His style was described as playing classical with one hand and jazz with the other.
The decades of the 1950s onward were fascinating ones here in Philadelphia. It was in 1956 that the Philadelphia Orchestra came into full ownership of the Academy of Music, its historic home since its founding in 1900. Built in 1857, the Academy of Music had deteriorated into a forlorn state by the mid-1950s. In 1957, then music director Eugene Ormandy and the Orchestra hosted the first “Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball” to spearhead a multiyear project to restore and renovate the “Grand Old Lady of Locust Street.”
By the 1960s, Orchestra’s subscribers advocated for the creation of the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra resembling Arthur Fiedler’s Boston Pops up north. There was even talk about hiring legendary composer Henry Mancini (“Moon River” and the scores for “The Pink Panther” films) to be the Pops’ music director. Sadly, nothing came of it.
Still, the need for a fully professional pops orchestra in Philadelphia didn’t die and, by the late 1970s, the Philly Pops was born with Peter Nero on its podium. Nero filled the bill with panache and charisma, establishing a full season of concerts, first at the Academy of Music and then, following its opening in 2011, at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. Tickets to its annual holiday concerts were hard to come by because of the popularity of the programs. Nero led the Pops in the annual Fourth of July concert in front of Independence Hall for decades, entertaining locals and tourists with a bevy of patriotic songs and marches.
His passing leaves a void in the region’s musical scene, all the more so now that the activities of the Philly Pops have been suspended as a result of a dispute between it and the Kimmel Center, which is owned by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association. Philadelphia audiences want and need a pops orchestra. If the dispute cannot be amicably settled, perhaps the Orchestra Association might consider meeting that hope of decades ago: establishing its own Philadelphia Orchestra Pops.
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