April 12, 2013 |
IF YOU COULD make it at Spider Kelly's, you had already made it in the Philly jazz scene. After all, John Coltrane played there, as well as organist Jimmy Smith and numerous other local luminaries at a time ('50s and '60s) when Philadelphia was the place to be for the best in jazz. It was a tough crowd. A piano player kept a bottle of wine and a pistol under his piano. The denizens expected only the best in their kind of music, and they got it. The likes of Louis Jordan and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, playing at the nearby Earle Theatre, came by to scoop up talent for their bands.
April 11, 2013 |
Beirut-born Michael Penniman - Mika to you - might not seem the dream of teen lasses and sorority girls. He's high-pitched, slight-of-build, and makes exuberant music that's an au courant, hit-making encapsulation of all things Glam Rock and fussily British (Sparks, Elton). Yet, there he was - all snug-fitting tux and tight curls - thrilling an all-ages crowd of gals and the boys who love them during a sold-out show at Union Transfer Monday in what was billed as an "intimate evening with . . . " What that meant was that his usually crowded stage and busy arrangements were stripped down to just Mika trilling theatrically and hammering piano, with instrumentalist/vocalists along for the bumpy ride.
March 12, 2013 |
Jane Peebles Whitten, 83, an educator, musician, and philanthropist who taught at West Chester University, died of complications of a stroke Wednesday, March 6, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She was married for 55 years to Benjamin Whitten, a pianist and teacher who died in 2010. Mrs. Whitten was a gourmet cook long before cable television featured celebrity chefs, and she would constantly try new recipes from Craig Claiborne and Julia Child, her family said. "She could make music in the kitchen like few people I have known," said Peter Orth, who studied piano with the Whittens before going to the Juilliard School and on to a career as a pianist.
December 24, 2012 |
There's so much lavish, lovely Christmas adornment at the Voorhees home of Tina and Rocco Fiorentino that it's difficult to take it all in. And no wonder: In every room of this contemporary house with a rich, deep color palette, Santa is there, grinning from walls or tabletops, resting on shelves. No two representations of the jolly old guy are alike. "I guess I have a thing about Santa Clauses," Tina Fiorentino admits with a sheepish smile. "I've definitely lost count. " This is a place where Christmas is epic, elegant, and homey - a place thoroughly enjoyed by the guests who cascade through it during holiday season.
December 20, 2012 |
Like a promising matryoshka doll, Jeremy Denk's Tuesday night recital at the Kimmel Center kept revealing itself. The program's halves seemed split into the cerebral, Bach's Goldberg Variations , and the deeply personal, Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze . Each of these pieces released a series of smaller ones (18 movements in the Schumann, 32 in the Bach) from which sprang smaller and even more complex characterizations. This was a makeup recital; the pianist's October appearance for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society was washed out by Sandy, its program of Brahms and Liszt now lost.
December 13, 2012 |
Phyllis Ragan, 88, a concert pianist who found her true calling as a piano teacher in Delaware County, died Dec. 3 of respiratory failure at the Sunrise Senior Living facility in Lafayette Hill. Mrs. Ragan, the former Phyllis Wheeler, graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1942 and attended the Juilliard School in New York City. In the mid-1940s, she became a concert pianist, winning acclaim. She placed at the piano auditions for the 1943 Eisteddfod, a competition in Wales, but decided not to compete.
November 30, 2012 |
FORMER PHILADELPHIA City Councilman, civic leader and piano player Ed Schwartz died Thursday morning at age 69. Schwartz had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2010 but had been feeling better and was frequently spotted attending Council's weekly Thursday sessions. He last attended two weeks ago, before the Thanksgiving break. The cause of death has not been determined. Jane Shull, Schwartz's wife, suspects that he died from a heart attack. "He had a pretty serious heart condition that could not be addressed anymore," Shull said.
November 27, 2012 |
SYDELLE LEVIN still remembered being stowed in the bottom of a boat and covered with hay and blankets for her family's escape from Russia. They were fleeing the latest pogroms against the Jews by Cossack raiders in the early 20th century. The family made its way to Romania and then, miracle of miracles, to the United States and Philadelphia in 1920. At Ellis Island, her name was changed from the original Sasha to Sarah, and ultimately, while in William Penn High School, in Philadelphia, she picked Sydelle.
November 12, 2012 |
Above all else, she makes a beautiful sound. Some singers are willing to forgo sound quality to put emotion behind a text. But in her Friday-night recital for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society at the Perelman Theater, mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink swathed story after story in an unfailingly civilized tone. Argentinean with Slovenian roots, Fink has the twin virtues of richness and clarity. Often it was impossible to separate her polish from that of her pianist, Anthony Spiri. In the fourth in a set of Schumann songs on texts by Nikolaus Lenau, "The Herdsgirl," Fink's sound was nearly indistinguishable from Spiri's right hand, so neatly matched were they in pitch and color.
November 4, 2012 |
AMID THE COLLAPSED facade of New Thankful Baptist Church, at 18th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, on Aug. 11, 2009, was a piano that was clearly visible in the wreckage. It was the piano that Sarah Caine Young had played at services. In fact, Sarah was the first pianist and organist at the North Philadelphia church, and her music accompanied the gospel hymns that resonated in the building for more than 20 years. Sarah Young, a 35-year employee of the U.S. Department of Human Services, a doting mother and grandmother and world traveler, died Sunday.