It’s not every day that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney declares a Mongolia-Philadelphia Friendship Day. Then again, it’s not every day that the President of Mongolia, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, visits Philadelphia at the invitation of The Philadelphia Orchestra.
The Friday, September 23, visit was a rare one by a democratically elected leader of a crucial U.S. ally to the City of Philadelphia and the first time an elected leader of a foreign country visited a U.S. city at the invitation of an arts organization. This elicited tremendous interest in Washington, with a description of the visit being read into the Congressional Record (the first time an orchestra has been recognized on the floor of the Senate) and with Secretary of State John Kerry writing a personal letter to the Orchestra, marking the first time he has written a letter of praise to an arts organization as secretary.
President Elbegdorj’s visit marked a significant step forward in U.S.-Mongolia bilateral relations and came in anticipation of the Orchestra’s trip to Mongolia for two concerts, residency activities, and other events in the capital of Ulaanbaatar as part of its June 2017 Asia Tour, when it will become the first Western orchestra ever to perform in that country. The Orchestra’s presence in Mongolia will also make history as the largest non-military/non-government American delegation to visit Mongolia in over 30 years of bilateral relations between the two countries.
President Elbegdorj’s visit began with an Official Welcome Ceremony at Philadelphia’s City Hall with Governor Wolf and Mayor Kenney. That was followed by an Official Welcome Luncheon at the Kimmel Center and a Philadelphia Orchestra concert. The Orchestra delighted the delegation by playing the Mongolian National Anthem at the top of concert. The president then gave a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania’s American Center of Mongolian Studies and had a private tour of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell before returning to New York.
“We were delighted that President Elbegdorj accepted our invitation,” said Philadelphia Orchestra President & CEO Allison Vulgamore, “and are eager to work directly with him. All of us with The Philadelphia Orchestra believe deeply and whole-heartedly in the power of people-to-people diplomacy, and we are excited about the new artistic and cultural adventure that awaits us in Mongolia in 2017.”
Philadelphia Orchestra President & CEO Allison Vulgamore greets Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj at 30th Street Station. Photo by Jessica Griffin
(Left to right): President Elbegdorj, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf at the Official Welcome Ceremony at City Hall. Photo by Jessica Griffin
Allison Vulgamore welcomes President Elbegdorj to the Green Room at the Kimmel Center. Photo by Jessica Griffin
During the Official Welcome Luncheon, a quartet of Philadelphia Orchestra musicians perform the first movement of Mozart’s String Quartet No. 17 in B-flat major, K 458 (“The Hunt”). The musicians are (left to right): Concertmaster David Kim, Principal Second Violin Kimberly Fisher, Principal Viola Choong-Jin Chang, and Principal Cello Hai-Ye Ni. Photo by Jessica Griffin
Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin meets President Elbegdorj prior to the Orchestra’s matinee concert while Allison Vulgamore looks on. Photo by Jessica Griffin
Allison Vulgamore introduces President Elbegdorj prior to the Orchestra’s matinee concert. Photo by Jessica Griffin
President Elbegdorj acknowledges the applause of the audience at The Philadelphia Orchestra’s concert. Photo by Jessica Griffin
President Elbegdorj gives a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania’s American Center of Mongolian Studies. Photo by Jessica Griffin
President Elbegdorj gets a private tour of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell from two Independence National Historical Park Rangers. Photo by Jessica Griffin