Temple Contemporary presents 30-piece orchestra of Philadelphia whistlers

The ensemble features a few South Philadelphia residents.

Rehearsal of Smith’s Nottingham Whistling Orchestra, 2016 (Photo courtesy of Cultural Counsel)

Temple Contemporary is pleased to announce an upcoming performance of an original, site-specific performance composed by British artist Emma Smith for a 30-piece orchestra of Philadelphia whistlers. The performance will take place on Saturday, March 16, at the Christ Church Neighborhood House in Philadelphia’s Old City, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Originally developed in Nottingham in 2016, Smith’s Whistling Orchestra, which features some South Philly residents, is an original orchestral score and performance that roots itself in the time-honored labor traditions of work songs, tracing a living history of labor, agency and expression.

For the Philadelphia iteration of this piece, Smith worked with Philadelphia researcher and Whistling Orchestra’s project manager Aislinn Pentecost-Farren.

Together, they asked local Philadelphians to share their stories of music at work to add to the historic work songs collected from the archives of Philadelphia, from which Smith has written an original score. Auditions were held to assemble 30 of the city’s best whistlers who will join Mimi Drummond, local Philadelphian and retired world-champion professional whistler. The Whistling Orchestra will perform this original score, alongside a series of whistle-alongs. The event will also include an oral history of whistling by Smith.

“I finally have an outlet for a skill I have been honing for fifty years in a real scenario,” says South Philly resident Anthony Feaster. “Whistling is exciting because it’s a unique skill that mesmerizes people. Eyebrows are raised. Minds wonder how a person can do this skill.”

South Philly resident Terry Tumolillo describes the concert as “a group of interesting people with a common love of whistling performing for fun!”

This event will take place in Old City’s historic Christ Church Neighborhood House theater. Built by the Christ Church parish to serve the residents of industrial Old City, Neighborhood House first opened its doors in 1915.

This event is free, and tickets are available here