Last night a crowd gathered at The Porch, a parklet and performance space at 30th Street Station. There were eight pianos under a tent, each of them designed by a local artist or art collaborative. One was yarn-bombed; another had been turned into a car; another served as a canvas for a bright green garden. There were drinks, soft pretzels and free ice cream, and people wandered around trying the pianos, some more sheepishly than others. Decidedly not sheepish? The eight professional jazz pianists who were hired for the event. They played singly or as teams of two and burned up standards like "Caravan," "Cheek to Cheek" and even Billy Joel's "Piano Man." After announcements, all eight pianists played "Heart and Soul" at the same time, then departed from the central melody to make a robust jazz cacophony. That and free ice cream? Phenomenal.
The jazz emphasis is no surprise considering who's been overseeing the Heart and Soul project: the University City District's Mark Christman, who, in addition to his day job, is the founder of Ars Nova Workshop, a nonprofit that brings jazz and experimental music to Philadelphia. Now Christman just has to worry about what's going to happen to the eight pianos/art projects, which will be placed at busy locations throughout University City for 10 days.
Promoting local art, community engagement, neighborhood exploration and social interaction—Heart and Soul does it all. It's a shame it's only for 10 days.