Well, well, well. It looks as though an orchestra is making a serious effort to fling itself into the not so new century. The Philharmonia Orchestra of New York — which calls itself PONY — is that orchestra.
Allow me a brief moment of trivia. Any time the word philharmonic (or philharmonia) is in the title it means a group of musicians founded the organization.
The orchestra had its first concert in March of 2016. The piece they performed was Mahler’s Symphony No. 2: Resurrection. The choice of the Resurrection Symphony was deliberate.
PONY was founded by the orchestra members of New York City Opera but also draws players from the ranks of the New York Philharmonic and The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. After the demise of City Opera in 2013 there was a gap in the cultural life of New York which is now being filled by PONY and the recent reemergence of the opera company.
Meet the Philharmonia Orchestra of New York, a.k.a PONY
The story here is what PONY is trying to do in its concerts. First off, the venue is Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater. However, Jazz at Lincoln Center isn’t in Lincoln Center but rather the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. Go figure.
The Rose Theater was designed to have the best jazz acoustic in the world. No seat in the theater is more than 90 feet from the stage. The combination of the acoustic and the intimate setting is intriguing but that doesn’t bring an orchestra into the current zeitgeist.
The massive movies in high resolution along with state-of-the-art concert lighting take care of the zeitgeist issue. Movies? Well, kind of. The video screen combines live shots of the orchestra and prepared video art. Video art? Visual art? I’ve no idea what to call it.
Time will tell if this approach draws the younger audience, the seemingly unattainable prize sought by orchestras everywhere. Having taken a look at PONY’s social media, I’m not seeing anything which resembles a rigorous effort in that arena.
I will continue to bring this up since half of all smartphone time is spent on social media. Any organization that wants to thrive might want to think about being more present in the arena where half of our attention is residing.
Research says Americans are checking social media 17 times a day on average. Given that, two posts per week is not going to cut it. Two per day? That’s getting there.