THE IMPLOSION of the Barnes was an inside job.
After squandering millions on legal fees, the board then sat on its hands, maintaining that it couldn't raise $1.5 million a year to keep the facility where it was. It could raise no money to stay, but found hundreds of millions to move.
When it comes to the Philadelphia Orchestra, you can't help but wonder if their board has the same kind of death wish. Its move to bankruptcy court, which got worldwide attention, has clearly prompted key players to scout out the job market. Appearances at the Mann have been cut back. And many subscribers are seemingly bewildered and even angered by it all. All the while, the mellifluous sounds of the orchestra are increasingly being drowned out by a cacophonous vacuum cleanerlike sound of money being sucked out at a furious rate.
People should know that bankruptcy court is no place to be - unless you're a lawyer or some other type of insider, in which case there's often a feeding frenzy for money to be made.
Both Mayor Nutter and ex-Gov. Ed Rendell have told us it's no big thing.
And it's true that bankruptcy might have been a palatable option for the orchestra - if it was to be a pre-packaged proceeding, an in-and-out thing designed to shed obligations and return to business. Instead we are now plodding along, and bankruptcy court is no place to be to simply ponder the future, or one's navel.
Let's look at the growing ensemble of participants: As we know, there's money in bankruptcy. By published accounts, there appear to be at least 17 lawyers involved, enough for a virtual chamber orchestra. When it comes to the revered Philadelphia Orchestra, you'd expect civic pride and charity to be a motivating factor to pitch in and help out. After all, it is represented in the bankruptcy by a law firm associated with a board member.
But, alas, as often seems to be the case in Philadelphia, when it comes to other people's money, charity goes by the board. We're looking at legal payments of many hundreds of thousands of dollars - and a lead lawyer alone charging $750 an hour. Add up all the lawyers involved and shudder at the rate of hourly outflow.
So what's a subscriber to think?
When I moved to Philadelphia in the mid-1980s, we had a Saturday night series and a midweek series for my wife and mother-in-law.
By chance, we ended up in the Eugene Ormandy family box. The tenure of Maestro Riccardo Muti was terrific. Then our interest waned when questions were raised concerning the World War II allegiances of his successor, Wolfgang Sawallisch. And, ideology aside, we were also busy with our kids. But now that
we're empty-nesters, it might make sense to renew.
So I checked rates and availability. For approximately $900 per person, I could get a full season's subscription and the best seats. Ordinarily, that would buy me a season of the orchestra. Or . . . would it? In my calculation, my check might simply feed the bankruptcy process.
So I'm conflicted. Maybe I'm being too hard on those involved. After all, $900 might get me 72 minutes of that lead bankruptcy lawyer's time - and he might be truly entertaining. Maybe he plays an instrument or does standup. (But spare me a 72- minute lecture on "Fascinating Aspects of Bankruptcy." There is no such thing.)
So what do I do while the decibel level of the sucking sound grows? For now, I'll put the money toward my classical CD collection and save up some travel money for New York's Carnegie Hall.
I've seen this program before. It doesn't end well.