Music and Concert News and Reviews

Christ Church Preservation Trust’s ‘In Plain Air’ project continues with ​free PECO Family Jams workshop at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, July 8

  • Participants help ​In Plain Air​ composer Phyllis Chen create a record-breaking,
    400-foot music box strip for the September performances. No reservation required.

Philadelphia, PA (June 7, 2018) — In collaboration with the Neighborhood House program of Christ Church Preservation Trust, a catalyst for the arts at historic Christ Church, pianist and composer Phyllis Chen hosts the next PECO Family Jam at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) on Sunday, July 8. PECO Family Jams are PMG’s one-of-a-kind, family-oriented programs, featured every second Sunday of the month between 12:00 and 4:00. Drop in with the whole gang for a variety of hands-on workshops and free kid-friendly tours at 1:00 PM & 2:30 PM.

Praised by The New York Times for her “delightful quirkiness matched with interpretive sensitivity,” Phyllis Chen is a pianist, toy pianist, founding member of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and multimedia artist that performs original multimedia compositions and works by contemporary composers. Inspired by Isaiah Zagar’s mosaics, Chen will work with the community to create a record-breaking 400-foot music box strip, part of ICE’s year-long residency to celebrate Christ Church’s new C.B. Fisk pipe organ, Opus 150. During this hands-on family workshop, each participant will create a one-foot section of Phyllis’ music box mosaic. Attendees will explore music boxes and create music by drawing on and punching holes in special music box paper. Chen will also perform briefly on a toy piano and provide a demonstration of the music boxes’ inner workings.

Chen says, “One of the projects that i really wanted to do was to create a grand music box, an exquisite corpse piece with the community of Philadelphia. This would involve people in schools, or children or adults and weaving it into something that basically became a mural to bring them from the street to the church and sort of see a little bit of the history and the story of Philadelphia.”

ICE’s residency culminates with world premiere performances of In Plain Air,  a work in multiple movements by composers and Chen and composer Nathan Davis, on September 22 and 23, 2018.Movements employing Christ Church’s historic bells, custom instruments, and itinerant musicians will convey audiences across the entire Christ Church campus before introducing them to Opus 150. The 400-foot music box strip, a quilt of community-created strips and Chen-composed strips, will be assembled in early September and used in the In Plain Air performances.

Presented in partnership with FringeArts, all performances of In Plain Air will be free. Major support for In Plain Air has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and Arthur Judson Foundation.

Completed in 2018, Opus 150, a custom pipe organ fabricated and voiced over a three-year period by C.B. Fisk, Inc., sits in the gallery of Christ Church, directly below the iconic 264-year-old steeple built with funds raised by parishioner Benjamin Franklin. Designed in collaboration with the church’s director of music and organist, Parker Kitterman, the instrument inhabits the restored 19th century casework that housed the church’s previous organ and a new Chaire organ on the gallery rail. To celebrate this new instrument and the organ’s historic backdrop in “The Nation’s Church,” Neighborhood House commissioned Chen and Davis to create an ambitious new work that puts the organ at its center.

Program Information:
PECO Family Jams: Music Boxes with Phyllis Chen
Sunday, July 8, 2018 | 12:00-4:00pm
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens | 1020 South Street | Philadelphia, PA
Tickets: 
Free with Museum Admission
Link: https://www.phillymagicgardens.org/public-programs/family-jams/

About Phyllis Chen
Phyllis Chen is a pianist, toy pianist, composer, educator, and curator, whose musical interests have led in numerous directions as a soloist and collaborative artist. She is dedicated to performing and promoting new works to engage audience in concerts and educational programs. Described as “a dazzling performer who wrings novel sounds from the humble toy piano,”(The New York Times) and “a bold pianist with an excellent sense of color” (LA Times), Chen is the founder of the UnCaged Toy Piano, an annual toy piano composition competition and biennial festival in NYC. As a composer, She has received commissions and grants from the Singapore International Festival of the Arts, Fromm Music Foundation, NYSCA, New Music USA, Baryshnikov Arts Center, A Far Cry, Opera Cabal, and others. Chen has released five albums, including three solo albums. Her fifth album, Nature of Thingness (Starkland), featuring chamber works by Chen and Nathan Davis, won the 2016 Independent Music Award for best Contemporary Classical album.

About Christ Church Neighborhood House
Built by the Christ Church parish to serve the residents of industrial Old City, Neighborhood House opened its doors in 1915. In the late 1990s, local artists seeking unusual, flexible, and affordable venues for Live Arts/Fringe Festival performances discovered the building’s large, open spaces. The Neighborhood House program solidified around that homegrown demand and the facility advanced with it, greatly aided by the significant initial investments of the William Penn Foundation.

Today, in addition to housing the Christ Church Parish and Preservation Trust offices, Christ Church Neighborhood House serves a core constituency of cross-disciplinary performing artists who imagine new and experimental works in our ADA-accessible, 110-seat theater. The reach of the arts programming extends beyond the building walls to include concerts in the Christ Church sanctuary and commissions for every corner of Christ Church’s historical campus.

In 2016, Neighborhood House took over operation of the Farmers Market at Christ Church, formerly N3rd Street Farmers Market. Every Wednesday afternoon, May-November, farmers, artisans, and the community gather on the brick pavers outside the church gates.

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