When the Philharmonic of Southern New Jersey gave a patriotic performance in celebration of Independence Day on July 1, the musicians were also marking the group’s 30th anniversary.
Orchestra members were dressed in red, white and blue, and patriotic decorations lined the stage at Eastern Camden County Regional High School. Though previously, the concert was supposed to be held outdoors by the Voorhees Town Center, it was moved indoors due to inclement weather.
The performance lasted about an hour, seamlessly weaving American songs like the “Washington Post March,” by John Philip Sousa, and “Born on the Fourth of July,” by John Williams with others. Some songs were accompanied by vocalist Storm Large. Midway through the concert, the orchestra also gave a salute to the veterans in the room by asking them to stand when their march was played.
The Philharmonic are a South Jersey based orchestra comprised of 90 orchestra members directed by Matthew Oberstein. Their July 1 performance marked the third live concert since October, when the musicians regrouped after losing a year to COVID, and the second Fourth of July concert in the past ten years. While their October performance was held with members sitting six feet apart, COVID restrictions have since been lifted to allow their June performance to be held in the amphitheater at Washington Lake Park in Sewell, and their July 4 concert to take place seated closely on stage at Eastern.
Oberstein has been musical director of the Philharmonic for 10 years, and 2021 will be his last season with the orchestra. Although it typically takes eight weeks of rehearsal to prepare for concerts, the director noted that the Philharmonic had performed this concert after just two rehearsals.
“Some of the music we played before, and people are practicing before we get to rehearsal,” Oberstein said. “We had big plans for things we could do in the summer, but until the state lifted restrictions on gatherings, we couldn’t actually plan anything. And even then, we needed the venues to allow us to perform.”
Oberstein said he would never hold two concerts so closely together, but because the group was unable to play together during the pandemic, its members jumped at the chance to perform together again in both June in Sewell and this month.
“Our concerts normally draw people from Gloucester County, Camden County and Burlington County, so we wanted to move around a little bit to go to the people that normally come to us,” Oberstein explained, referencing the choice to play in Sewell. During COVID, the Philharmonic kept the musical spirit going with Giving Tuesdays, when the group posted a weekly video of members performing individually or in smaller groups rather than trying to perform virtually with everyone.
The Philharmonic will take a break for the rest of the summer and return in October for a concert at Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees.
Those interested in performing with the Philharmonic can visit http://www.psnj.org/interact/auditions/http://www.psnj.org/interact/auditions/.
Prospective volunteers can go to http://www.psnj.org/support/volunteer/.