Classical-music, flash mobs, and department stores

Posted on: December 3, 2010

Tuesday (11/30) on the WQXR 105.9 website, Brian Wise writes, “At the Macy’s on Market Street in Philadelphia, October 30 was a regular business day, except for Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’ At noon, a group of 650 vocalists, organized by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, gathered in the department store’s atrium to stage a flash mob version of the famous chorus, accompanied by the store’s famous Wanamaker Organ. A video of the performance has since received more than 5 million views on YouTube, rising as high as the fourth most-viewed, and national news outlets—including CNN and ABC World News—took notice. Although it may seem like a one-off stunt, there exists a long tradition of classical music in major department stores throughout the United States. Long before Muzak, the Philadelphia Macy’s (formerly Wanamaker’s) as well as Gimbel’s, Strawbridge & Clothier and Abraham & Strauss, among others, regularly hosted string quartets, piano recitals, band concerts, choirs and symphony orchestras, especially during period from the late 1890s until World War I. … Jan Whitaker, the author of Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class, notes that department stores saw themselves as social institutions as well as money-making ventures.”

Posted December 3, 2010