Two Notable Things from First Friday in Philadelphia, 10/3/08

Paul and I went into the city for First Friday and, as usual, it was noisy, crowded with teens and preteens trying to be 30 year olds. Also, plenty of guys who epitomize “douchebag” dressed well with lady-friends.

Part of the problem with First Friday is there’s too much. Some things featured are more appropriate, some things not. For example, there was a band covering Led Zeppelin outside one of the galleries. They were pretty good, but didn’t match up with some of the finer art displayed within galleries, or the folksier/hippier crowd in spots. First Friday could really use more jazz music, now that I think about it.

And I do miss the alcohol. The kids populating the place have taken the wine/cheese/microbrew element away, and that’s no fun.

Anyway, we encountered two things that I thought worth sharing, so here goes:

1. Christ Church’s “First Friday Concert Series:” We only saw the end of the first half of the program but all of the second. For a free concert (donations are requested) this was of incredible quality. The organist, John Binsfeld, whom I assume we saw, is a first-rate musician – not only is the organ a great instrument there, with a rich bass tone and decent swell capability (it can move fairly smoothly from soft to loud), but he was flawless on his solo Elgar “March Triomphale” and guided the singers very well. When they sang the chorus from Mendelssohn’s Elijah, “Cast your burden upon the Lord,” their grasp of dynamics, keeping a warm tone and religious atmosphere, and quality of sound demonstrated that this choir can hold their own with the best of them if they like. The alto and bass/baritone we heard were solid while singing selections from Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “Mystical Songs” (“The Call,” “Love bade me welcome,” respectively), knowing how to shape the music and demonstrate passion appropriate for a church.

2. Artists’ House – This might be the best gallery in Philadelphia; Paul and I have visted for years and it rarely disappoints.

Some of the work that stood out:

  • Brett Eberhardt’s graphite drawing, “Sofia Studio” – contemporary artists are very professional and technically sound, but leave a lot to be desired in terms of theme. The starkness of the room arrests; it is beautiful but feels haunting. Contrast with Katia Kapovich’s lines, from “Painting a Room:” Freedom smells of a freshly painted room, / of wooden floors swept with a willow broom, / and of stale raisin bread.
  • Sydney McGinley’s “Footbath #1” – her use of pastels is virtuoso. The colors and lines that occur in the garments recur in the skin and features of her subjects; it’s like the world is a rainbow in a way. The classical poses of those depicted added to the strength of the women in her drawings. The sensuality in the works featured here stems from something soft but womanly and deliberate.

There’s more, please do check out the current exhibition as a whole. I really wanted to spend $100,000 on art that night.


  1. Your observations of the First Friday atmosphere are amusing. I’ve been in Macon and in Columbus and could’ve said the exact same things. Macon’s, at least, is still very alcohol-centered despite the mobs of 15 year old goth girls- or whatever they call them now, but there’s no particularly interesting source, no particularly interesting restaurants, but hey they try… :P

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