Why Being Stuck On A Tarmac With The Philly Orchestra Rocks

Jun 7, 2013
Originally published on June 11, 2013 8:28 am

There are few things as annoying as being stuck on a tarmac — in a cramped, packed plane — for long periods of time. But when you have some of the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra on your flight, it could turn magical.

No, seriously.

It happened to passengers on a flight from Beijing to Macau, this week. They had been sitting on the tarmac for three hours when a quartet of musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra pulled out their instruments and provided what they called on YouTube a "pop up" performance.

The orchestra published video of the performance today:

The bigger story here is that the Philadelphia Orchestra has returned to China, 40 years after its visit cemented the re-establishment of an official relationship between the United States and China.

The New York Times reports:

"Now, 40 years later, the Philadelphia Orchestra is commemorating the anniversary of its visit with a two-week, multicity tour of China, consisting of multiple concerts, small pop-up performances at important cultural sites, master classes, lectures and community outreach visits. The tour concludes on Sunday night with a concert in Macau."

If you've kept track with this blog, you might have noticed that we have a thing for performances in surprising places.

Last year, we told you about the Copenhagen Philharmonic performing before an unsuspecting public at Copenhagen Central Station.

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We end All Tech with a musical performance you'd really want to hear live rather than stream, though you can find it online.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Unintelligible)


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Unintelligible).


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Last Friday, some members of the Philadelphia Orchestra were stuck in a plane on the tarmac in Beijing, China, for three hours. Bad weather was to blame.

BLOCK: Luckily, though, for their fellow passengers, these musicians had their instruments on board.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: (Foreign language spoken). The Philadelphia Orchestra is on tour in China and on the way to Macao. And our musicians would like to offer you a musical surprise.


BLOCK: In-flight entertainment doesn't get much better than this.


BLOCK: An impromptu performance of the finale from Dvorak's "String Quartet No. 12 in F." The musicians were crowded into the middle of the plane, the cellist had her instrument in the middle of the aisle.

CORNISH: It might have been impromptu, but the five-minute performance had the hallmarks of formality, complete with page-turners holding sheet music. And, of course, there had to be an annoying phone call.


BLOCK: Remember to silence those ringers. The Philadelphia Orchestra was the first American orchestra to play in Communist China back in 1973. This tour was to commemorate the 40th anniversary of that historic trip.

CORNISH: The Philadelphia Orchestra is flying back to the United States today. And, Melissa, is it so wrong to hope they run into another delay?

BLOCK: Well, maybe just one more time.


(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.