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Elizabeth P. Glendinning, publicist for the Philadelphia Orchestra and volunteer, dies at 91

Ms. Glendinning used her contacts in the music world to stage concerts at Cathedral Village. Before they became world-famous, the musicians performed at Cathedral Village, her family said.

Elizabeth Parrish Glendinning
Elizabeth Parrish GlendinningRead moreCourtesy of the Glendinning Family

Elizabeth Parrish Glendinning, 91, former public relations director for the Philadelphia Orchestra and a dedicated volunteer, died Saturday, Oct. 31, of complications from a prior stroke at Cathedral Village in Andorra, where she had lived for the last 16 years.

Born in Washington, Ms. Glendinning graduated from Wilson High School there. She majored in music at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and graduated in 1951.

In her 20s, she worked on the election campaigns of Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the office of Sen. Clifford P Case (R., N.J.), and as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post before taking a job at WGMS-FM, Washington’s former classical music station.

She traveled in Europe and the Middle East, and spent several summers studying piano at the Aspen Festival in Colorado.

In 1963, she moved to Philadelphia to become the public relations director for the Philadelphia Orchestra under conductor and music director Eugene Ormandy. She was responsible for publicizing the maestro, the orchestra, its volunteers, and the Academy of Music, where the orchestra performed. She also produced all of the orchestra’s publications.

In 1967, she married Henry P. Glendinning, who soon became president of the investment banking company Butcher & Singer. After her marriage, she retired from the working world and turned to motherhood and volunteering.

With her husband, she ran a summer program called the Free Enterprise Fellowships, which introduced high school students to elements of business through internships, tours, and meetings with executives.

After her husband died in 1988, she continued the fellowships for three years. She returned to the orchestra as a board member, and served for 18 years on the board of Germantown Academy, promoting the role of the arts in education.

Ms. Glendinning’s years as a volunteer culminated when the classical pianist Gary Graffman, the president of the Curtis Institute of Music, invited her to join the institute’s board.

In addition to her work on behalf of Curtis, she served on the boards of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and Astral Artists. The latter is a nonprofit that prepares gifted young musicians for careers.

“She found joy in meeting young musicians at Curtis and Astral Artists, and watching their careers take off,” her family said in a tribute.

In 2004, Ms. Glendinning retired to Cathedral Village, where she took charge of the community’s classical music concerts. Her contacts in Philadelphia’s music world allowed her to bring musicians of exceptional caliber to the residents.

“She used her musical abilities and friendships to give us many memorable concerts,” said Emily Starr, a friend for 10 years. “She is one of the few people I can think of who is truly irreplaceable.”

The performers enjoyed staging concerts at the retirement community, Starr said, because the audience was well-versed in classical music and appreciated them.

“Before they became world-famous, performing with the orchestra as soloists, at Carnegie Hall, and around the world, they performed at Cathedral Village,” Ms. Glendinning’s family said. Once the performers became famous, they returned to give more concerts, Starr said.

When she turned 90 last year, Ms. Glendinning hosted a special concert at Cathedral Village performed by some of her favorite musicians.

“Chloe Kiffer on the violin, Clancy Newman on the cello, and Alexandre Moutouzkine on the piano blended beautifully and made the most gorgeous sounds I can remember hearing,” wrote Alice Hershberger in The Villager, the retirement community’s newsletter.

Later came the Largo from Chopin’s Cello Sonata in G minor. "This was contrasted by the very modern — but not atonal — Café Music by 20th-century composer Paul Schoenfield, a lively compilation of jazzy rhythms and melodies that you could almost sing, and that had the audience jiving out the door,” Hershberger wrote.

Ms. Glendinning is survived by a son, David Parrish Glendinning; stepchildren Edward and John Glendinning and Nicoll Goodyear; two grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; and two nieces.

Funeral services were private. A concert in celebration of her life will be held later at Cathedral Village.