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Go Birds! Philly's cultural envoys sound off, at home and from afar

The Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Philadelphia Eagles Swoop and The Phillie Phanatic join actor John Lithgow onstage during the 163rd Academy Of Music Anniversary Concert & Ball at Academy of Music on Jan. 25, 2020.
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The Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Philadelphia Eagles Swoop and The Phillie Phanatic join actor John Lithgow onstage during the 163rd Academy Of Music Anniversary Concert & Ball at Academy of Music on Jan. 25, 2020.

As the Philadelphia Eagles get ready for Super Bowl LVII, their legendary fan base is gearing up with them — as are some of Philly's cultural ambassadors. WRTI is one institution firmly in step with Eagles fandom. (Ask our General Manager, Bill Johnson.) So too is The Philadelphia Orchestra, starting with the enthusiastic example of Yannick.

If you're reading this more as an Eagles fan than an Orchestra fan, hold up: I'm not referring to Yannick Ngakoue, the fearsome defensive end who was in talks to join the Birds' roster in 2020, but ended up going elsewhere (a lot of elsewheres, actually: the Vikings, the Raiders, the Ravens and now the Colts). No, I mean Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who just signed his own contract extension, to remain at the Orchestra through 2030 — a move that, as he told Susan Lewis, reflects well on "a winning team."

Earlier in his tenure, Yannick showed that he can bleed green as well any adopted Philadelphian, conducting the Orchestra in a spirited version of the Eagles fight song.

"Fly Eagles Fly" — based on a victory song written by Charles Borrelli and Roger Courtland in the 1950s, which opened with the more traditional rallying cry "Fight, Eagles Fight" — has been a staple of tailgating parties, SEPTA stations and anyplace else you might find a high concentration of fans. After the Eagles won the NFC Championship, Jalen Hurts even led the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field in a singalong.

OK, so perhaps Hurts could take some vocal cues from his own offensive line. Following the smash success of A Philly Special Christmas, Jason Kelce, Jordan Mailata, and Lane Johnson are probably getting calls for gigs. (I'm sure we'll also see Kelce wield his baritone saxophone again soon, as he did a while back at Central High.)

I'm going to state for the record that WRTI would roll out the red carpet for Kelce and his gang in our performance studio — where we last heard "Fly Eagles Fly" played by bassist Anthony Tidd, with Lady Alma on vocals. But first, of course, there's work to be done.

"Fly Eagles Fly" at WRTI
Anthony Tidd & the Sittin' In gang play the Eagles fight song in our studio, in 2018

A final take, hot off the presses: James DeFrances, a Pennsylvanian now living in Malibu, shared his own version of the Eagles anthem this week, featuring a men's chorus, a marching band drumline and a big band. DeFrances is something of a journeyman musician — his Twitter bio reads "CEO of Flexosphere | Automotive Afficiado | Big Band Crooner | Investor | Philanthropist | Aspiring Politician" — but he sounds committed enough in this performance, and the cover art is picture-perfect.

We'll leave it there for now. Rest assured that we'll be listening for any other notable versions of the song. Sign up for our weekly newsletter so you don't miss out. Oh and one more thing: Go Birds!

Nate Chinen has been writing about music for more than 25 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Editorial Director at WRTI, he oversees a range of classical and jazz coverage, and contributes regularly to NPR.