It was a typical Philadelphia Orchestra program on Friday, November 22, 1963.
Before taking the stage of the Academy of Music at 2 PM, however, the musicians had been told that President Kennedy had been shot—but nothing further was known.
And so Maestro Eugene Ormandy and the Orchestra launched into Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Alerted by an offstage signal, Ormandy halted the performance. The Orchestra manager informed the audience of the awful news. The president had been assassinated.
The remainder of the concert was cancelled and everyone was left to mourn in their own ways.
The next day the musicians returned to the stage to pay tribute to the slain president with an afternoon memorial concert that was broadcast on CBS television that evening.
That evening the Orchestra’s regular concert was changed also to pay tribute to the slain president. From the stage that night, Ormandy told the audience members that their presence proved “that music can soothe the great sorrow we all share.”
Listen to Ormandy from the stage
With the sorrow that Ormandy expressed, the Orchestra began the evening’s concert in Kennedy’s honor, performing Bach’s “Come, Sweet Death” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”), and concluding with Dvořák’s Cello Concerto.
Listen to an excerpt of the Orchestra playing Bach's "Come, Sweet Death"