This past weekend’s gun violence in Philadelphia appeared to have an affect on Philadelphia Orchestra music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who, in somber tones, addressed the topic with the orchestra’s Sunday matinee audience.
In comments before leading the orchestra, chorus, and soloists in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the conductor noted the toll of those killed and injured in the city.
“Just since we’ve been playing this fabulous set of concerts to end the season with you all, just this week, just in our city, 30 people have been shot by gun violence, five people have been killed by guns just in our city. We’re way past the time for thoughts, prayers, and all of that.”
The Verizon Hall crowd applauded.
“We all understand we are one society,” he said, not divided into political camps of left and right.
“We are one society and we need to take care of that society. We need collectively to do so.”
Citizens can do many things in response, he continued.
“But as musicians, what we can do which is the most powerful is to be messengers — messengers of the great geniuses of the past and the present who are showing us the way, to aspire to peace. Let this performance we are about to give you as a farewell to our 2021-22 season be true words of reminders of what we all aspire to — joy, peace, harmony between everyone, every living organism on this earth.”
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, often used to mark special occasions, was long planned for performances this past weekend ending the orchestra’s subscription season. The work ends with an “Ode to Joy” whose text speaks of joy and brotherhood and a magic that reunites all who have been divided.