The Philadelphia Orchestra, led by Stéphane Denève, performs “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a naturalization ceremony on Thursday at the Kimmel Center. Philadelphia Orchestra violist Che-Hung Chen, who was sworn in as an American citizen at the ceremony, listens with hand on heart. Photo by Alejandro A. Alvarez.

“Thursday morning’s Philadelphia Orchestra performance … wasn’t being played for the usual crowd,” writes Peter Dobrin in Friday’s (2/23) Philadelphia Inquirer. “Rather, this serenade in Verizon Hall was put together for a group of candidates for U.S. citizenship. The orchestra played ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ before sending the 68 U.S. citizens-to-be out into the Kimmel plaza, which was transformed into immigration court for a few hours. ‘Goose bumps,’ is what Shaza Alrefai said she felt upon hearing the orchestra play at her naturalization ceremony. ‘When the national anthem started, because it is my ceremony, it was very emotional,’ said Alrefai, from Syria. ‘I liked the diversity of the players, they are all from different countries.’… Plans for the orchestra to perform for a naturalization ceremony were first hatched several years ago, but the idea was thwarted by the pandemic … A string trio from the orchestra played at a 2021 naturalization ceremony in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in West Philadelphia.” On Thursday, “violist Che-Hung Chen, a Philadelphia Orchestra member since 2001 and its first from Taiwan, was also being sworn in as a new U.S. citizen…. along with the other candidates from … 34 countries.”