The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, July 26, 2004  

Is Anyone Listening?

What follows is a little bit of ketchup blogging, so, please, if you will, bear with me.

Last Tuesday, July 20, the Philadelphia Orchestra performed one of its free community concerts -– I understand they’re doing just three this year -- the latest at Penn’s Landing.

Near as I could tell, and I’m open to correction on this, several of the orchestra’s best players, our real stars, were not in attendance. That is, they were not performing Tuesday night. Naming names, which I kind of like to do, and as best I can, among the missing: David Kim, William de Pasquale, Roberto Díaz, Jeffrey Kahner, and Ricardo Morales.

Oh, and by the way, Christoph Eschenbach was nowhere to be seen. And do you know what? Nobody cared, least of all me.

The orchestra’s program began with the first verse of “The Star Spangled Banner.” (We stood, hands over hearts; politics be damned, in Philadelphia we love this country, and Pennsylvania has lost a disproportionate number of its citizens to this senseless war.) But ask any singer, and a singer I am not, the “SSB,” beautiful as it is, is a tough one.

Also on the program Tuesday night: Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (Op. 26), Tchaikovsky’s Serenade in C major (Op. 48); Rossini’s Overture to The Silken Ladder; and Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 in D major.

Then, to conclude the evening, the Philadelphia Orchestra played “America the Beautiful.”

The orchestra performed but two verses, and the audience was asked to sing along.

Most of you know the first verse, but it was the second stanza of the second verse that truly brought tears to my eyes and the proverbial choke to my throat.

And here it is:

America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

The lyrics, as I’m sure you know, are by Katharine Lee Bates (d. 1929).

Miss Bates has been away from us for 75 years, but those four lines are words worth committing to memory today.

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