On Stage: Philadelphia Organ Festival comes to Longwood

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Philadelphia is a city known for its magnificent venues for classical music.

Philadelphia is also known for being a city of “firsts.”

Beginning on March 15, the city will host the inaugural Philadelphia Organ Festival – and Longwood Gardens is a prime participant.

The Festival, which opens on Friday and runs through March 23, invites audiences to discover the region’s rich trove of historic pipe organs, in some of the area’s most beautiful buildings, in performances that showcase the spectacular sounds and grandeur of what Mozart called “the king of instruments.”

Philadelphia-based Partners for Sacred Places, the only national, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization dedicated to the sound stewardship and active community use of America’s older religious properties, is the producer of the Festival.

The Philadelphia Organ Festival has announced exceptional new collaborations with several of the area’s finest arts and culture institutions: The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Marian Anderson Historical Society, Artcinia, The Crossing, and Opera Philadelphia.

One of the Festival’s premier venues will be right here in Chester County. On March 22, Longwood Gardens will host the final evening performance and penultimate event of the Festival with a concert by Alcée Chriss III in the Ballroom.

The Philadelphia Organ Festival’s final performance day on March 23 will include a special collaboration with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Ensemble Arts Philly’s Organ Day, which begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

John Walthausen, Philadelphia Organ Festival Artistic Director, and Jay Fluellen, Philadelphia Organ Festival Director, both accomplished artists, will perform a work for four hands. Organ Day is free to the public and features the incredible sounds of the dynamic Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, the largest mechanical-action concert hall organ in the U.S.

The Philadelphia Organ Festival’s other concert events will be ticketed and will take place at historic and architecturally significant venues throughout the Philadelphia region. Venues include Tindley Temple, Rodeph Shalom, the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Girard College Chapel, the Unitarian Society of Germantown, St. Luke’s Germantown and Longwood Gardens. Festival concerts will feature nationally and internationally acclaimed organists, many with ties to the Philadelphia area.

“This is the first year for the festival,” said Walthausen, during a phone interview last week. “It will be celebrating organs across the Philadelphia area.

“I was brought into the project over the summer. Partners for Sacred Places approached me. Jay Fluellen, the Festival Director, and I know Philadelphia pretty well and we wanted to cultivate neighborhood involvement – places away from Center City.

“We wanted to leave no stone unturned. We went from church to church and to temples – some off the beaten path — evaluating organs.”

“Off the beaten path” took Walthausen to Kennett Square – to Longwood Gardens.

“Longwood Gardens is just an iconic spot,” said Walthausen. “We have a lot of churches but not too many gardens. Longwood has a great organ in a greenhouse – and it’s a fun place to visit.”

Longwood Gardens will host one of the Festival’s showcase concerts on March 22 at 7 p.m.

“Romance in the Garden: Franck and Rachmaninoff at Longwood” will feature a string ensemble joining organist Alcee Chriss III, who will be performing on a 1930 Aeolian.

Winner of both the Canadian International Competition and the Miami International Competition, Chriss delights in this concert featuring original transcriptions for organ and chamber ensemble. The audience will hear music from César Franck’s great masterwork, “the Symphony in D Minor” along with excerpts from Rachmaninoff’s vivid “Symphonic Dances,” which was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1941.

In July 2019, Dr. Chriss, who won the Firmin Swinnen Prize at the 2016 Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition, was appointed as University Organist and Artist-in-Residence at Wesleyan University, where he teaches courses in organ and keyboard skills.

The full program at Longwood Gardens includes: Sergie Rachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances, Op. 45: I. Non-Allegro; Robert Schumann – Six Canonic Studies, Op. 56, No. 4 in A-Flat Major; Florence Price – Retrospection; Marcel Dupré – Symphonie-Passion op. 23, I. The World Awaiting the Savior; César Franck – Symphony in D Minor, M. 48: II. Allegretto; Percy Whitlock – Holiday Suite: I. Waltz in the Ballroom; Harold Arlen – Somewhere over the Rainbow; and Alexandre Guilmant – Symphony No.1, Op. 42: III. Final.

The show will start at 7 p.m.

Ticket prices are: Reserved Seating: $30; Gardens Preferred, Gardens Premium Members, and Innovators: $27; Seniors: $25; Students under 18: $10. Ticket includes all-day Gardens Admission.

“Longwood Gardens will have an amazing concert with Alcée,” said Walthausen. “It’s a varied program including some of his own transcriptions. It’s not every day you’re going to hear organ with an ensemble of instrumentalists.”

The Festival’s inspired programs showcase the organ as a partner in music of many styles and eras, in pairings with vocalists, period instruments, and in rarely-heard collaborations with percussion and contemporary music ensembles—as well as a thrilling musical accompaniment to landmark silent films.

The Philadelphia Organ Festival is part of Sacred Places’ Playing and Preserving program, which strives to heighten awareness and foster greater appreciation for these cultural treasures as well as build support for the preservation and restoration of organs.

The Festival will get underway on March 15 at 7 p.m. at Girard College Chapel (2101 South College Avenue, Philadelphia) with Ravel’s “Boléro for Organ and Brass.”

The Festival’s opening concert showcases Girard College’s famed 1931 E.M. Skinner organ, with heralded soloist Chelsea Chen, joined by brass musicians. The irresistible pulse of Ravel’s classic Bolero is spectacular in Chen’s arrangement for organ, brass and snare drum, on the program with works by Dupré, Bach and more.

The matinee concert on March 16 – “Gothic Drama from Screen and Keyboard: The Passion of Joan of Arc” — is scheduled for 3 p.m. at St. Luke’s Germantown (5421 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia) with Matt Glandorf, organist.

The organ was originally Carlton C. Mitchell 1894 and revised Casavant Frères Ltée.

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s classic 1928 silent film played under the mysterious arches of the landmark Gothic Revival church of St. Luke’s, Germantown features the perfect setting for the dramatic medieval sets that Dreyer constructed for his masterpiece.

Glandorf performs a brilliantly adapted score for the classic film. Now based in Germany, Glandorf has served as a Curtis Institute faculty member, as well Artistic Director of Choral Arts Philadelphia and the Bach Festival of Philadelphia.

The evening concert on March 16 is slated for 7 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown (35 West Chelten Avenue, Philadelphia).

“The Organ’s Modern Touch: Minimalism and Contemporary Works” features Amanda Mole playing a 1919 Austin organ.

Mole is joined by percussionists and singers from GRAMMY® Award-winning The Crossing in Steve Reich’s rarely performed minimalist masterpiece “Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Percussion,” along with solo works for organ by influential contemporary composers Arvo Pärt and Nico Muhly.

On March 17 at 7 p.m., the focus shifts to Tindley Temple (750 South Broad Street, Philadelphia) with a 7 p.m. concert celebrating the Memory and Art of Marian Anderson.

Organist Alan Morrison will be joined by Marian Anderson Historical Society Scholars, vocalists and will be playing a 1927 Möller organ.

Anderson performed one of composer Florence Price’s most moving songs in her historic 1939 performance at the Lincoln Memorial. Now hear Price’s works performed by Curtis Institute of Music Organ Department Chair Alan Morrison and guest vocalists from the Marian Anderson Historical Society.

Rodeph Shalom (615 N Broad Street, Philadelphia) will be the venue for March 19 concert at 7 p.m. – “Reimagining the Sound of Revolution: US Premiere of Garras de Oro” featuring organist Parker Kitterman playing a 1928 Austin with soloists from Opera Philadelphia and a chamber ensemble with live electronics

Politically censored and lost until the early 21st century, the 1926 Columbian silent film “Garras de Oro” is ripe for rediscovery with Juan Pablo Carreño’s thrilling new score. Featuring an ensemble of musicians with organist Parker Kitterman, under the baton of Philadelphia Orchestra Assistant Conductor Austin Chanu, this performance provides an operatic setting for the film’s provocative statement on Colombian and Central American history.

Kitterman, who serves as Director of Music and Organist at Christ Church, is renowned for his contemporary music explorations, and is the perfect match of artist and music for this adventurous, collaborative premiere. Rodeph Shalom is an appropriate setting with its sparkling art deco design recalling the progressive presence of Philadelphia’s Jewish community that has defined much of North Broad Street’s thriving commerce and culture for nearly a century.

“J.S. Bach Cantata BWV 146: Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal” will be the focal point of the concert on March 20 at Unitarian Society of Germantown (6511 Lincoln Drive, Philadelphia) which will be played on a 1964 Rieger.

The cast of performers includes John Walthausen, organist; Rebecca Myers, soprano; Meg Bragle, Mezzo Soprano; Gregório Taniguchi, Tenor; Christopher Talbot, Bass; Evan Few, Karen Dekker, Violin; Daniel Elyar, Viola; Elena Kauffman, Cello; Geoffrey Burgess and Margaret Owens, Oboe; and Lillian Gordis, Harpsichord.

The audience will be able to experience a Bach masterwork as Bach would have himself presented it in 1720s Leipzig.

Walthausen, vocal soloists and a baroque orchestra join in one of Bach’s most beautiful church cantatas. This mechanical-action organ provides the opportunity for performers to reconstruct historic performance practice, and the church’s gallery is authentic to performances in Bach’s day.

From the mighty sound of the organ in the loft to the soaring voices of the soloists and the beautiful ensemble of period instruments, this performance will leave the listener, as Bach intended, in awe. The 1928 Unitarian Society of Germantown’s elegant home on Lincoln Drive makes for a unique setting that highlights the congregation’s freethinking and spirited role in Philadelphia’s religious life.

The Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral (19 South 38th Street, Philadelphia) will be the site for Holst’s “The Planets” on March 21 at 7 p.m. on an organ that was originally Austin Organ Co. (1903) and is now Emery Brothers (2021).

Holst’s beloved work “The Planets” has inspired generations of listeners, including some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed film composers.

The audience will hear excerpts from this classic transcribed for organ, performed by the winner of the 2012 American Guild of Organists National Competition, Daryl Robinson and an ensemble of percussionists.

This program will also showcase a new work – “Two Voluntaries for organ c. 9” — from Benjamin C. Beckman, the winner of the Philadelphia Organ Festival’s Composition Competition.

The Festival will wrap up with “Organ Day” at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts” (300 South Broad Street, Philadelphia) with organists

Tyrone Whiting and Michael Barone performing on the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ (Dobson Organ Op. 76).

Ensemble Arts Philly and The Philadelphia Orchestra present the 12th “Organ Day,” an all-day marathon of free organ music performed on the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, which is the largest mechanical pipe organ in a concert venue in the United States.

Visitors will be able to experience jazz, classical, opera, and the unique experience of “Organ Pumps,” where audience members can lie on the Verizon Hall stage and feel the organ’s powerful vibrations.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.PhillyOrganFestival.org

General: $30, Seniors: $25, Students: $10

Tickets will also be available the day of performance at each venue.

Special community pricing will also be offered.

Meghan Cary

When Meghan Cary headlines at the Living Room and Cricket Café (104 Cricket Avenue, Ardmore, livingroomardmore.com) and shares the bill with Marion Halliday on March 15, it will be a party – a farewell party.

Cary offered the following invite – “Join us for an unforgettable evening of original songs, hilarious stories, and house-rocking collaboration as we take the stage alongside dear friend and phenomenal artist, Marion Halliday, on March 15 at 8 p.m. at the Living Room in Ardmore. This special concert is not just a musical experience, but also a heartfelt farewell celebration for Marion, who is bidding adieu to Philadelphia.”

“Marion is moving back to Kentucky — back to her ‘Old Kentucky Home.’” said Cary, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from her home in Springfield (Montgomery County). “This is her big goodbye party.”

Halliday, a native Kentuckian now splitting her time between Louisville and Philadelphia, is proud purveyor of her own special blend of bluegrass and bourbon-infused, original, women-powered Americana.

While a highly regarded lead singer for many years in various Irish bands, Halliday began focusing on performing her original music in 2016.  She released her debut solo EP, “Rings Around Saturn,” in July 2019. That month, both the album and the artist landed at #3 on the US/International Folk Radio charts. Two songs from the album also landed in the Top 10. The album was included by FAI in its “Top Albums of 2019” list.

This will be the last time the two will perform together locally. It will also be the last time Cary performs at the Living Room. Laura Mann, the club’s founder and owner is closing the popular venue on April 27 to spend more time on her career as a singer-songwriter.

Cary will also be joined by her husband Peter Farrell, Kenny Ulansey on sax and pennywhistle and her son Quinn Farrell on drums.

“This special concert is not just a musical experience, but also a heartfelt farewell celebration for Marion, who is bidding adieu to Philadelphia,” said Cary. “Peter and I will support Marion as she kicks off the show with her award-winning tunes. Marion will then return the favor, adding her soaring vocals to my songs. Kenny Ulansey will add his renowned musicality to our set as well.

“I’ve worked with Mation a lot. She’s a wonderful performer and songwriter. We’ve shared shows a lot. We’ve mashed our bands together a lot.”

Cary’s music has been hailed as healing, inspiring and infectiously joyful. Named Billboard’s “Critic’s Choice” for her debut EP, the stage actress turned folk rocker engages listeners with masterful storytelling and anthemic songs. Cary found solace in words and music after her fiancé unexpectedly passed away — and turned that passion into a platform to empower others to speak their truth by bravely sharing her own.

A frequent performer at such venerable festivals as Philadelphia Folk Festival, Spring Gulch, Huntington, DelMarVa Folk Festival, and music venues around the country, Cary’s message of unity and the power of raising our voices together infuses every show, and her song, “Sing Louder”, has become an anthem for the music-loving community.

Many people have favorite mantras. Cary’s favorite – and very own – mantra is “Sing Louder” – and for good reason.

“Sing Louder” is one of her most popular songs. It was the title track on an EP – “Sing Louder – the Festival EP” in 2015. It is also the title of her latest album.

“The ‘Sing Louder’ album came out in November 2017, but I think of it as a 2018 album,” said Cary. “My book – ‘Sing Louder — Stories Behind the Songs’ – is all about the songs that inspired the ‘Sing Louder’ album – 10 first-person stories.”

Cary explained the inspiration for the book.

“I share a lot of my stories on stage,” said the veteran singer-songwriter. “I do a lot of storytelling in my shows – but it’s also a concert. My band would go crazy if I talked too much between songs.

“After shows, people ask me to tell them more about the songs. I’m a firm believer in sharing my stories – not only for the stories but also to help other people. People come up to me after shows all the time and say things like – I just lost my mom and didn’t realize that it was still affecting me.

“When I was making the record, I said I was going to write a book and let people pre-buy it. That way, I wouldn’t let other things get in the way. I knew I had to write the book and get it finished.

“There I one story for each song on ‘Sing Louder.’ It’s pretty straightforward. I think it’s a good read. The book I’m working on now is a companion to my first album ‘New Shoes’ from 1998. It’s about how I began my music career.”

Cary and her band Analog Gypsies produce a sound that is a blend of folk, rock, gypsy jazz and jam band. At the core of the band are Cary and Farrell. The keyboard and guitar duo produces a big musical footprint with cool grooves and tight vocal harmonies.

“Lately, I’ve been writing, writing, writing,” said Cary. “The way I like to work is to develop songs in front of an audience.

“I have some brand-new stuff, but I won’t record it because I don’t know if it’s going to be there.

“I’m going to be doing singles instead of a full album. I did some holiday songs and then went back in to work on new songs. I’m hoping to have songs – an EP’s worth – by the end of the summer. For me, the real meaning of a song comes out when I play it and people respond to it. The songs evolve. Because I play with Peter a lot – and Marion – the harmonies develop over time.

“Eventually, some of the fan favorites are going to get their day in the studio. I have one new song, ‘Dance on the Divide’ We’ve been doing it for a while and the harmony structures are really tight.”

Even though “Sing Louder” dates back almost a full decade, it is still fresh and vibrant when Cary performs it onstage.

“The song ‘Sing Louder’ is a fan favorite – and very uplifting,” said Cary. “The key line is – ‘if you don’t know the words, sing louder…sing stronger…sing louder, sing stronger for all of the world to hear.

“We recorded the album at Morning Star Studio with producer Glenn Barratt. Glenn’s input on production is amazing.  We even brought 48 people – fans and friends – into the studio to sing on the title track.”

Cary is also a veteran actress who performed in the musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes” and, more recently, performed a one-woman play she wrote called “On the Way to the Waterfall!”

This autobiographical play with music was originally created as a short piece for E.A.T.’s One-Woman Standing play festival in NYC in 2013 and was developed into a full-length play this past summer by Hypothetical Theatre Company. Two years ago, Cary performed it in the Boulder International Fringe Festival and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both the audience and the critics.

“When I lived in New York, I used to help this playwright Tina Howe,” said Cary. “She heard me playing my music and told me — you have to write a play. I didn’t know how to do it.”

The play she was about to write was based on a personal tragedy.

While performing in the musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes” years ago, Cary met and fell in love with Matthew Black, one of the show’s musicians. Cary performed with Black as his backup singer with occasional solos. The pair became engaged, and things were going great. But Black died suddenly in 1995 and Cary’s life path took another unexpected twist.

“Music carried me through that time period,” said Cary. “Matthew and I made music together. When he died, I lost everything I had for the future. Music was something that I could keep. I wanted to keep making music. But I was writing songs with no intention of ever playing them for anyone.

“When I thought about the play, I knew had already written the story in songs. I had written music as a way to heal through this traumatic experience. The play is about going through the same thing — getting knocked off-course and ending up somewhere else.”

When Cary graduated from Hershey High a few years back, she headed off to Duke University to major in biomedical engineering. But the path of life goes through many twists and turns and that’s why Cary now wears a guitar instead of a lab coat. She switched majors at Duke and finished with a bachelor’s degree in drama.

“I thought I wanted to be a biomedical engineer,” said Cary. “I looked at Cornell, but it was freezing up there, so I chose Duke instead. I was on a pre-med track and then got interested in theater. I finished Duke with a degree in drama with a minor in chemistry. Then, I got my MFA (master’s in fine arts) in acting from Florida State University.

“I realized back then that I wanted to perform. When I started, I wanted to do regional theater. I also did Off-Broadway shows and I’m a charter member of New York’s Actor’s Shakespeare Company. I love Shakespeare’s work. I love the way he used words.”

Now, Cary has established herself as a singer, actress, songwriter, and playwright. She is also the mother of two musical kids who have already participated in making music with their family.

Another Cary-penned play is in the works.

“I’m working on another musical,” said Cary, who is one of Hershey’s most famous natives along with Christian Pulisic, an international soccer star who plays for the AC Milan in Italy and the U.S. World Cup team. “I found myself writing all these songs about mothering children.

“Being a mom of two kids in school means I inhabit two entirely different worlds in a given week…or day,” said Cary. “And I was thinking how important it is for me to have both.

“It’s no surprise that sometimes trying to figure out the business of music can be pretty anxiety provoking — you know, how to afford to make records, if and how to sell records, and (most important for me) how to get the music out there so people fall in love and want to connect to and be a part of the music.

“And, for me, even the creative part of music-making can be less than peaceful at times. I sometimes suffer from writer’s block, lack of inspiration, over self-editing or just plain self-doubt.

“But I’ve been blessed – and challenged — with this other side of life that balances it all out. When I’m with the kids and just being and doing whatever it is we’re doing together, the drama that can be a part of the DYI musician’s world seems really inconsequential.

“So, the fact that both of our kids are musical and inspired to make music is really a gift. It means I don’t have to keep the two parts of my life so compartmentalized. Both of them sang on the album.”

Cary keeps a lot of irons in the fire.

Next month, she will present “Songwriting: Inspiration and Technique” at The Morris Arboretum Writer’s Block on April 14, 21, 28, and May 5.

This workshop for experienced as well as aspiring songwriters is intended to prime the pump, inspire new ideas, and introduce songwriting techniques in a supportive and motivating environment.

A different facet of songwriting is explored at each session, with a writing prompt based on that aspect or technique. Each week, participants are invited to share a new song to the group for feedback, and if requested, guidance and coaching from Cary.

Video link for Meghan Cary — https://youtu.be/y1O7bg0SjWM.

Video link for Marion Halliday — https://youtu.be/mgotNB4EACg.

The show at the Living Room and Cricket Café on March 15 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $35.

Another show this weekend at the venue along the Main Line is the twin bill of Dynagroove and Chico’s Revenge on March 16.

The Dukes of Destiny, who have been treating fans to live performances of top-flight blues and soul music for almost three decades, are back in action with a lineup built around John Colgan-Davis (harmonica, vocals) and AC Steel (guitar, vocals). Colgan-Davis and Johnny Never also perform frequently as the Two Johns.

On March 15, Colgan-Davis and the Dukes of Destiny are making a return appearance at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com).

In 1985, five young, local musicians got together and began playing old blues songs in a rambling three-story house in Philadelphia. They decided to take the act on the road as The Dukes of Destiny, a name they got from a matchbook cover urging the reader to “Be the Captain of Your Own Destiny.”

At first, The Dukes of Destiny played house parties in Germantown, generating interest by word of mouth. A gig at the now-defunct Taker’s Café in Germantown launched their public career, and 30 years later, they are still playing some of the hottest, most danceable blues and old school soul in the Philadelphia area. Today The Dukes of Destiny reign as Philadelphia’s longest-lived and best loved blues act.
There have been changes in the act: guitarists left and came back, bass and sax players moved and or left the band, and sadly, singer and founder Steve Brown died in March of 2000. But the approach and commitment of the band has remained constant for 30 years, resulting in a band with a unique tightness and an original approach to the music.

With a mix of powerful original songs and unique arrangements of blues standards, The Dukes of Destiny continue to grow and develop as they share their music through countless live performances and recordings.

The current line-up also features Hammond organ ace Glenn Bickel, drummer Michael Rourke, and organist Ray Adler.

In January, Colgan-Davis and Never added to the band’s reputation by competing in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Ray Adler was with us from 1985 to the mid-1990s,” said Colgan-Davis. “We’re re-doing some songs from then and we’ve learned a lot of new songs.

“With the band, we have this magic where we play off one another. That makes it work – and there are some nice surprises in every set. We never just go through the motions.

“When we’re energized, we play our asses off. When the Dukes are on, we reach a special level.”

If they needed a theme song for the IBC trip, a perfect choice would have been “Born Under a Bad Sign,” a song written by Booker T. Jone and William Bell and made popular by Albert King. The key lyric is, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

“We put the challenge into International Blues Challenge,” said Colgan-Davis. “We were supposed to catch a 7:56 AM flight on a Tuesday, but the weather conditions meant there were flights held over that had been cancelled and delayed due to Monday’s snowstorm. So, our flight was delayed as some of those flights took off on Tuesday morning.

“Finally, we boarded and appeared to be ready to head down to Memphis. But we sat on the tarmac for longer than two hours. Then we had to go to a de-icing station as ice was apparently building up on the plane. We waited to get there, and then ran low on fuel. So, after several hours on the plane, the flight was eventually cancelled.

“We were very disappointed, but we were told we would be on the same flight Wednesday. So, we felt a little better and were prepared to do that.

Only when we got to the airport the next day, that flight was cancelled as well. We had registration for the IBC due at 4 p.m., and we were scheduled to play on Wednesday evening at 8:30 p.m. And there was no other scheduled flight from Philly to Memphis until the evening. Needless to say, we were worried.

“Johnny used to work on putting films and videos together for corporations, so he knew how to jump into “fix-it” action. He got through to some high-up officials at American Airlines. He found a flight from Philly to La Guardia airport in New York, and then a flight from LaGuardia to Memphis. And he arranged through phone calls to the airline that there were no extra fees and that it would be a smooth transfer. So, we were going to make Memphis after all, if a little late.

“Unfortunately, that was not the end of our challenges. We made it to Memphis on Wednesday late afternoon, but our luggage wound up in Charlotte. We had to play that night in the clothes we had worn all day. We played at The Pig on Beale, and we played well. There were some folks from Delaware and Philly that had come down to see us, and it was great to see them. So, Wednesday eventually turned out to be O.K.

“But we had to spend part of the next day calling and hustling out to the airport trying to find our luggage. Fortunately, we hooked up with a wonderful husband and wife shuttle service that made things much nicer and smoother than they could have been otherwise. And the airport folks said our luggage would be delivered that evening. We ate some good food, visited a couple of clubs, heard some great music and prepared for our Thursday evening show.

“Thursday turned out to be another difficult day. It started with our luggage not being delivered. Icy roads meant the delivery service cancelled deliveries. So, we had to take the shuttle service to get back out to the airport to recover our luggage. We got the luggage, and then prepared for our evening show. Unfortunately, there were three time changes as to when we were to perform — two of them after we were in the club. That, to say the least, was also frustrating.”

Finally, they got to the real challenge – the International Blues Challenge.

“We finally got our gig,” said Colgan-Davis. “We did play — and we played well. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it past the quarter finals of the competition. Still, we heard some great musicians from around the world, including Japan, Mexico, Argentina and Croatia. We ate some good food and hung out at some of the iconic bars and clubs on Beale Street.”

This weekend, Colgan-Davis and his crew – and their fans — will again have the opportunity to hang at an iconic club (Jamey’s) and eat some great food (from Jamey’s menu and prepared by his wife Suyun).

“We are happy to return to one of the region’s best places to listen to music,” said Colgan-Davis. “Jamey’s House of Music is a place with a great sound system, a wonderful staff, good and freshly prepared food, and a comfortable vibe similar to the old coffeehouses I played in and went to when I first started playing.

“Jamey’s is a very intimate room with really good sound. There is a great energy that we feel good about. And Jamey and the people there are great. We love this place.”

A few years ago, the Dukes’ lineup went through a major change when vocalist Aryl Wolters retired from the band. As a result, Colgan-Davis had a dual role with the Dukes.

“Now that Arlyn is gone, I’m doing the majority of the singing,” said Colgan-Davis. “I was singing before Arlyn so now it’s back to the roots.

In addition to performing at most of the clubs in the Tri-State area, the Dukes of Destiny have performed at the Pocono Blues Festival, the Waterfront Jam at Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing, the State Street Blues Stroll in Media, the Bucks County R’n’B Picnic, the New Jersey Folk Festival and the Longwood Gardens Summer Concert Series.

“For the past few years, we’ve had great years,” said Colgan-Davis back in 2019. “We played places we had never played before – like the Philadelphia Folk Festival. We also played places we really love like The Kennett Flash and the West Grove Friends Meeting.

“We played the Phoenixville Blues Festival and the Paoli Blues Festival. We really love playing The Kennett Flash. And we love our Chester County crowd.”

Audiences that like to get out of their seats and dance are a big part of the Dukes of Destiny live experience.

“We get all kinds of dancers at our shows,” said Colgan-Davis. “We’ve been playing a lot more festivals. We’re back on the festival circuit. I love playing festivals for a couple reasons. You get a whole bunch of people playing together. That takes me back to the 60s and the be-ins back then.

“Sun Ra had said the message that music is the healing force of the universe, and you feel that at festivals. And kids get to hear real music played by real people. With a band like us that plays off the crowd, a festival show is a real exciting thing.”

Colgan-Davis’s introduction to the blues came when he was in high school at Central High in Philadelphia and saw the Stones performing with Howling Wolf on the “Shindig” TV show. Howlin’ Wolf, whose real name was Chester Burnett, was an American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player who was one of the premier Chicago bluesmen.

“When I saw Howlin’ Wolf on that TV show, I jumped up and said — this is what I want to do,” said Colgan-Davis. “I started playing blues when I was 16. My dad gave me a grab bag for my birthday and a harmonica was in it.

“I started listening to blues records a lot — players like Muddy Waters and James Cotton. I was really into Chicago blues of the 1950s and 1960s when I started. Then, I got into guys like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. One of the first bands I played in was a Philly blues band called Sweet Stavin’ Chain.”

A while later, the Dukes of Destiny became the main musical vehicle for Colgan-Davis. At first, they played house parties in Germantown, generating word of mouth interest. A gig at the now-defunct Taker’s Cafe in Germantown launched their public career.

“The Dukes got together in the mid-1980s,” said Colgan-Davis. “Steve Brown started the band, and it began with that gig at Taker’s Café. Steve died of pancreatic cancer in 2000 and I’ve been the leader ever since. Steve has always been in my mind. We did a tribute concert to him a few years ago and we still do some of his favorites in our set.

“We have a whole range of music in what we can play — everything from Chicago blues to old-school soul. What’s great about the Dukes is that we’re a band. We use each other’s strengths.”

Video link for the Dukes of Destiny – https://youtu.be/j5fM0sugB5w.

The show at Jamey’s House of Music on March 15 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

Jamey’s House of Music will be rocking this weekend on March 16 when the headliner will be the Kelli Baker Band. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Showtime is 8 p.m.

Jamey’s features a popular “Jazz at Jamey’s” on Thursday featuring many of the best singers in the region performing a set from 7-8 p.m. with the backing of the Dave Reiter Trio and occasional guest musicians.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings. On the second Sunday each month, the featured act is the Girke-Davis Project which features club owner Jamey Reilly, Roger Girke, Glenn Bickel, Fred Berman and Colgan-Davis.

Boney James has performed at many venues in eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Atlantic City. Boney James has released a lot of smooth jazz albums.

This weekend, James returns to the Philly area with a new album and a show at a new venue.

James will treat fans to music from his recently released album, “Detour,” in a concert at Scottish Rite Auditorium (315 White Horse Pike, Collingswood, New Jersey, scottishriteauditorium.com) on March 15. It will be his only area show through the spring and summer.

“I released a new album and I’m just having a blast playing shows again,” said James, during a recent phone interview.

“I started the album in January this year. I hadn’t been writing much prior to then. Then, my label picked up my option – and a deadline. I didn’t think it would be that soon.

“The writing flowed pretty good – collecting the ideas and then diving in. I also collaborated with some friends.”

The last time James played the area was a year ago at Scottish Rite Auditorium in South Jersey when he was touring a new LP, “Solid.”

James is a saxophonist, songwriter, record producer – and one of America’s most popular soul, jazz and R&B saxophonists.

When James released his new album in 2020, he flew in the face of convention – in the middle of most unconventional times.

Most music acts balked at the idea of releasing an album in the middle of a pandemic – knowing that the requisite album support tour would be virtually impossible while COVID-19 was still closing down all aspects of daily life.

“I recorded ‘Solid’ in 2019,” said James. “I made most of it at my home studio in my backyard in L.A. I also recorded some of it at Sunset Sound Studio in L.A. A lot of it I can do at home. I also played some keys on the record.”

James followed the same M.O. for “Detour.”

“I made most of it at My Backyard – 90 per cent,” said James. “Then I went to Sunset Sound for the drums and percussion. It always goes well – never a struggle. The songs felt fresh.”

James fares well in the studio but shines the most on the concert stage.

“I really missed playing live,” said James, a four-time GRAMMY nominee with four RIAA Gold records and career sales topping three million units. “I usually play 60-70 shows a year. In 2020, there was nothing. I practiced a lot. I exercised. It was nice to be home for a while with my wife, who is a television director.

“I put out a record and it did pretty well. When it was released, it was a Top 10 Pop Album on Billboard’s charts. It was Top Two on the jazz chart because it was the same week Norah Jones’ new album was released. I’ve released 17 albums and have had a lot of Top 10 Jazz albums – including 11 Number Ones.”

Even during the lockdown, James took care of his fans.

“I also did a bunch of Facebook live mini concerts,” said James, a two-time NAACP Award nominee and a Soul Train Award winner who was named one of the Top 3 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Artists of the Decade.

“I did one a week on Fridays for about 30 weeks. I’d chat with fans and then play a few songs. I called the mini concerts ‘Solid Friday’ because the album was titled, ‘Solid.’ Each session was about 20 minutes long.”

“When we were totally locked down, I didn’t write at all. When I finally got back out on the road, that got me writing.”

“Detour” is a trip through James’ distinctive contemporary jazz/R&B landscapes, layered in quicksilver watercolor images and cinematic set pieces. Detour represents the next extension of Boney James’ trademark blend of genres which includes blues, soul, roots, classical, art-pop and hip-hop.

According to James, “The urge to write again came from the joy of being back on the road, performing in front of live audiences. I had shut down creatively when the pandemic hit. It was the disruptive and disorienting detour we all took when the world locked down, and that’s reflected in the more experimental directions some of the new music takes. The thing about a detour, you may take a different route, but you still get to your destination.”
James is touring with a five-piece band including a keyboard player from Memphis and a bassist from Raleigh (NC). The guitarist, who has been in James’ band for 17 years, the drummer and James are all from L.A.

“The current live set has several songs from ‘Detour’ –songs that I felt would translate most to live performance,” said James. “This is my 18th album, and I can’t get all the music into one show. I try to play everyone’s favorites.

“Some of the must-play songs are ‘Sweet Thing,’ ‘Grazing in the Grass’ and ‘After the Rain.’ I’m always trying to pay my homage to R&B. At the same time, I just try to make my music individual to me.”

Video link for Boney James – https://youtu.be/q3rkzByuwUY.

The show at Scottish Rite Auditorium on March 15 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $39.50, $59.50, $69.50 and $89.50

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) is presenting Cormorant’s Fancy on March 15, Adrenalize on March 16 and Whiskey Rovers on March 17.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is presenting Belfast Connection on March 15 and Collingwood on March 16.

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