Saturday Night in Our Market

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I have an Italian last name and live in South Philadelphia. So everyone thinks I was born and raised here. Not so. My Mother’s family (and me with it) hails from the Midwest and her Scots-Irish ancestors reached these shores in the early 1600’s. But everyone’s gotta come from somewhere and that’s why when my Mother’s relatives were bragging about their DAR memberships, my Father would proudly announce that he could trace his family “all the way back to the banana boat in New York Harbor.”

The Sicilian half of my family got most of my attention during my childhood, maybe because they were louder than the W.A.S.P. half. My mother would go around saying things like “That’s just not done,” and dispensing other mots of wisdom that I did not begin to comprehend until I reached adulthood. The Sicilian food was better anyway.

The 9th Street Market in South Philadelphia  is commonly called “The Italian Market.” It was predominantly Italian at one time, but starting in the 70’s, there was an influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia. People began arriving from Mexico and Central America about 20 years ago. The market and the surrounding neighborhood is a heady mix of restaurants, cuisines, cultures, ethnic groceries, shops, bakeries and more.

What does that have to do with Cavalleria Rusticana? It started when my friend Doris asked me to join her and another friend for a musical program called Honoring Our Ancestors, presented by the Our Market program and Orchestra 2001,  and held in the 9th Street Market this past weekend.

Orchestra 2001 presented a great program of music from Central and South America, Asia, and Italy.  The last work was  Intermezzo from Cavaleria Rusticana, which is the quintessential Sicilian opera.  The story goes like this:  Mama loves boy more than anything.  Boy doesn’t listen to his Mama.  Boy breaks Mama’s heart.   Boy dies.  We all cry to some of the most beautiful operatic music you will ever hear.  Listen and see if you agree.

My Summer of Jazz in Philadelphia

Jazz and Philadelphia have always gone together in my mind.  One of my fondest Philadelphia memories is attending a Sun Ra concert on Halloween night many years ago. Sun Ra and his Angel Arkestra played on the altar of a church in West Philadelphia (I forget which). We all wore costumes. I was probably a gypsy-that’s my all purpose go to getup for Halloween except for the Halloween when I got married.  But I remember one boy who was dressed in a marching band jacket, and had painted a red heart on each cheek.  He informed us that Vladimir Mayakovsky was also known for painting hearts on his face.  I would not be surprised.

Sun Ra and his Arkestra were masterful.  They could get into a piece by Coltrane and transition seamlessly into a Bag Band Standard like “Take the A Train.”  At the end of the night, Sun Ra led his musicians in a kind of conga line down the middle aisle of the church and the audience rose from the pews and joined in dancing and chanting around the church.  Space is the Place!

Philadelphia City Hall

It has been a difficult summer for me, but Philadelphia did not let me down.  There were free Jazz concerts all over and I was lucky enough to be able to attend many of them.  Here are some pictures and links from two wonderful series of music, one in City Hall and one  in South Philadelphia.   The artists have videos on YouTube and I encourage you to sample all of them.

Jazz in the Gallery

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Monnette Sudler, guitar

Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble

Blackbird Society Orchestra

Bethlehem & Sad Patrick

The Jost Project 

Diane Monroe, violinist

Jazz Bridge in Hawthorne Square

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Goodbye my friend.  I’m glad you enjoyed the music.

Madame Butterfly-The Philadelphia Connection

Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madam Butterfly has a  Philadelphia connection. John Luther Long, a Philadelphia Lawyer, wrote the original story in Center City.  You can read more about  it here.

There’s also a recent  Philadelphia connection.  The two 12 foot high bronze statues below, currently on display in City Hall courtyard,  are on loan from artist   Jun Kaneko  to mark the Philadelphia Opera Company’s  upcoming performance of the opera.   Kaneko originally created brass heads for the  Opera Omaha’s spring 2006 performance of Madame Butterfly.     See more of  Kaneko’s breathtaking set designs  here.

 

Brass Heads in City Hall Courtyard

Here’s a portion of the Philadelphia production.

Virgil Fox, Bach, and the Wanamaker Organ

The above video is an interview of Virgil Fox, and a film of him playing the pipe organ at Wanamaker’s Department Store in Philadelphia.   Click the arrow in the lower left hand  of the You Tube box to view it. 

The organ is still there in the Wanamaker building, although the store is now a Macy’s.  If you are in  Center city Philadelphia,  stop by to see the organ sitting overhead in the store’s Grand Court.  They still play it on a daily basis.

I first heard Virgil Fox’s Album, Heavy Organ, Live at the Fillmore East” when I was around 15.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.   A few weeks ago, my brother mentioned listening to Fox on You Tube and I started jonesing for  for Heavy Organ.  Before he got into the music at that concert,  Fox told the audience,   “I believe that Sebastian Bach is delighted that you are here. Bach and Shakespeare have felt everything. This man Bach is, as history goes on,  proving to to be one of the great inspirations for our inheritance.  All we have to do is open our pores and let him in.”  Fox played though 144 speakers at that concert.  He really knew how to put on a show.

Do yourself a favor and let in Johan Sebastian Bach and Virgil Fox.  Listen to Heavy Organ in streaming audio, by clicking   Here.  You’ll have to create an account at Wolfgang’s Vault, but it’s definitely worth it.  The have a lot of great music including free streaming audio.

To learn more about the Wanamaker organ, press  Here.