As a banjo player and as a comedian, Steve Martin has had deep meaningful relationships with many classical orchestras around the country. Most particularly, Martin and the hallowed Philadelphia Orchestra have had particularly tight ties. In 2018, Martin headlined the orchestra’s 161st Academy Ball with conductor/music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin as cohost to benefit the legendary local hall the Academy of Music.
Over the Father’s Day weekend, Martin joined an illustrious gathering of musicians of all genres for Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s “HearNOW: At-Home Gala,” a virtual event dedicated to music education in the area.
Composer/trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, opera singer Renée Fleming and piano virtuoso Lang Lang all took part in the event. But it was Martin and the orchestra’s rousing, Copland-esque take on “Office Supplies” elaborately multi-tracked from the homes of Martin and the many other musicians, — that took our breath away.
The instrumental was originally heard in far less orchestrated fashion on his most recent musical effort, 2017’s “The Long-Awaited Album,” a collaboration with his longtime bluegrass backing ensemble, the Steep Canyon Rangers.
“The reason it is called ‘Office Supplies’ is a secret I will tell you at the end of the song,” said Martin with a smile at the beginning of the video.
So what was the big reveal? Ever the absurdist, Martin said, “At the end of the song, if you’re not thinking of office supplies, I haven’t done my job.”
Along with the virtual at-home fest with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Martin’s most recent work, an animated short film of his first book, 1977’s “Cruel Shoes,” debuted at the 9th annual Chicago Comedy Film Festival before the COVID-19 quarantine.
(Gifts in support of the Philly Orchestra can be pledged at http://www.philorch.org/HearNOW/give or by texting “Orchestra” to 91999.)