Moviegoers attending the Chestnut Hill Film Group’s inaugural screening of the season this Tuesday evening were delighted by the artful musical accompaniment of veteran keyboardist Don Kinnear. Kinnear improvised as he watched, for the first time, two silent short films chosen by Jay Schwartz (founder of the Secret Cinema) and employed the operatic style of playing and interweaving themes assigned to different characters for the silent main feature he had seen before, W.C. Fields’ 1926 “It’s the Old Army Game.” With his electronic keyboard and a laptop loaded with a digital version of the Wurlitzer organ of the Virginia Theater in Champaign, Illinois he reproduced the music, sounds and special effects (“toy counter”) the original audiences in the 1920s may have experienced. Watch video interview here.
Mo Speller played the trumpet growing and now, as a singer with the Nothing Wrong Band, plays the trumpet without a trumpet – just using a supple voice. The self-described “polygenre” band of 20-30-50-60 somethings performed a rocking folksy mix last Friday evening to a receptive audience as part of Walk A Crooked Mile Books’ outdoor concert series in Mount Airy. This Friday August 23rd at 7 pm will feature a new band, Skyline, a group of 15-somethings and on Saturday August 31st, Rev. Chris and the High Rollers play their fast paced New Orleans jazz- blues.
Performing, Speller channels Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and sometimes, when bored waiting in line, makes a little trumpet noise just to confuse people.
The story, according to Ron Kravitz, goes that some years ago, Elise Rivers of Community Acupuncture of Mount Airy called him from Ashland, North Carolina 9 pm one Saturday night where she was participating in a community drum circle and said, “Ron we got 85 drummers here. We got to do this in Philadelphia.” And so she arranged for a gathering space in the shaded park-like area adjacent to the Lovett Public Library in Mount Airy. The local drum circle is now in its third year. Along with Kravitz, Bobby Tyrone and Quint Lang, a drum teacher from Collegeville, help lead the sessions, open to novices and experienced drummers alike.
But Kravitz, of Glenside, appears to be the force behind the drum circle. He is well known in the area for his association with or founding of a number of other grass roots music ventures: Music in the Moment, Underground at Ron's, African drum classes and more. He brings a selection from his 1000 plus collection of Bata and djembe drums, bells, and other percussion instruments for anyone to use.
About 25- 30 people participated at the first Sunday of the month July session on a steamy hot afternoon including some kids who just had happened to be passing by.
Among the other attendees were several first-timers like 12-year-old Jacob Slifker who had discovered the existence of the circle while searching online with his parents for somewhere to use his djimbe. During breaks, he got some tips from the experienced hands on using it.
The afternoon heat and repetitive, shifting drum rhythms induced a hypnotic effect and Kravitz drew the circled drummers into chanting along and some into dancing. The circle next meets on Sunday August 4th from 1-3 pm next to the Lovett Public Library at 6945 Germantown Avenue.
“When certain events take place like this festival of Hidden City or different things like that. I don’t know if you’re part of Occupy but it tends to bring people out of the woodwork and put them in a certain space where they can share their talents and creativity. And my experience with these types of things is that it lends itself to a tremendous new and refreshing hope for mankind, for the state of affairs in the world. Because the tendency is to think we are all alone in our own head and even if we do come up with some positive ideas on what to do we feel pretty helpless because what can I do by myself.
When different things happen and people come together, we stand to get a tremendous new inspiration. And actually, ‘I can do something, I do count and there’s other people that think the same as I do.’ If we put our talents and our efforts together we can really make some difference.
I’m a yoga instructor. I teach yoga meditation and music is a big part of what I do. Because music and something that’s called Kirtan, sankirtan which means the congregation and glorification of the supreme joy of life. So basically, just like your drumming circle, same type of principal. People come together and they selflessly express themselves in such a way that the overall effect is that everyone feels a tremendous upliftment the environment becomes uplifted the community, neighborhood, like that. Just imagine if we could have this on a worldwide scale, every day then the whole planet the whole, the karmic pattern of the whole planet earth will be changed, will be uplifted.
It is possible. We don’t have to simply go down into the muck of gross materialism.”
Awbury Arboretum on Friday night, April 26,2013 was one of many venues set up throughout the city for stargazing as part of the 10 day Philadelphia Science Festival. A few dozen or so people showed up at the Arboretum in Germantown. Teenager Maya Anderson came to just hang out with her family and, as a choir student at Settlement Music School, sang impromptu from some of her repertoire. Katie Virtue, a meteorologist and volunteer with the Franklin Institute was on hand to guide visitors to the celestial sights. Some astronomy enthusiasts brought powerful telescopes and lines formed at these for viewing the four moons of Jupiter on this clear, cool spring night. Video story here. And here is Maya "Piping down the valleys wild" from Songs of Innocence by William Blake.
Singer Debra Donahue and songwriter JM Kearns sing a song Michael wrote for a wedding many years ago. “You can’t miss if you’re aiming at me babe…”
When the couple was living in Nashville, Donahue, although she had sung all her life, did not sing at all. But when she moved to Cape May, New Jersey, she and her friend Vicki Watson started a private little hootenanny group singing girlie and old country songs. When Michael moved to Cape May two and a half years ago, their friend Barry Tischler started an open mic night at the Pilot House Restaurant and it took off like gangbusters.. Since then, four separate bands have been formed out of the group and they are playing all around town, at wineries, outdoor venues and clubs. Donahue says Cape May has become home to an “amazing community” of musicians.
Donahue also plays a mean nose flute, treating us to a rendition of Del Shannon and Max Crook’s 1961 #1 Billboard Hit “Runaway”. She’s been playing since she picked up plastic nose flutes from Edmund Scientific, then based in Barrington, New Jersey, when she was 5 Now at 54, she’s a self-proclaimed virtuoso. She produces sounds by breathing out her nose, letting the air pass through a channel, passing over a fipple. Just like whistling, by adjusting the shape and size of the inside of her mouth and volume of air, she can vary the tone. With the simple one dollar novelty item she plays with friends and can produce sounds that hauntingly mimic Celtic instruments like the recorder. She takes us out with “Flow Gently Sweet Afton”, set to the words Scottish poet Robert Burns. “If I can breathe, I can play.”
Although Rachel Wolok was exposed to Israeli dancing as a child, it was not until she had moved from Israel to the United States and was older that she had the time to learn and participate in Israeli folk dancing. Wolok has always loved seeing dancers upon the Tayelet, the famous boardwalk in Tel Aviv. Here she does Israeli dancing with the group that meets weekly at the Germantown Jewish Center in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. Watch video here
The West Philadelphia Orchestra entertained an enthusiastic and dancing crowd of youngsters and oldsters for a Chanukah celebration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on a December Friday night as part of the museum’s “Art After 5” program. The West Philadelphia Klezmer Orchestra, an offshoot of the band, played primarily Klezmer, East European celebration music, for the occasion. What began on a West Philadelphia porch in 2006 as a mostly string ensemble playing Macedonian tunes, Romanian ballads and Jewish folk songs has evolved over the years into brass instrument Balkan band playing Serbian and Gypsy melodies and its own versions of these genres. Watch video here.
Kate Somerville was a long time birder before banjo playing took over and decided to combine her two interests by bringing some musician and bird loving pals from the Mermaid Inn to jam at the Militia Hill Hawk Watch. This is the 25th year of the hawk watch. Volunteers count raptors, by species, migrating south for the winter. According to Marylea Klauder, they had already counted nearly one hundred bald eagles and a record-breaking twenty plus thousand migrating raptors by the time this video was taken in late September. Counting continues until the end of October, along with impromptu concerts, weather permitting. Fort Washington State Park. Watch video here.