For several decades, the Philly POPS has spread the joy of music throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and now, with its inspiring POPS Outside series, the Philly POPS Big Band, led by Matt Gallagher, principal trumpet for the POPS, takes the music to the street, making a concerted effort to reach people where they actually live.
Titled “A Musical Celebration of West Philadelphia,” the free POPS Outside performance takes place Sept. 7 at 5 p.m. in Malcolm X Park, 5100 Pine St., and feature vocalists Jon Williams and Melanie Ashe. The salute to West Philly artists and recording stars with ties to the community will feature classics by Patti LaBelle, Will Smith, Boyz II Men, John Coltrane, The Roots, Jill Scott and John Legend.
“After a 40th Anniversary Season celebrating Philadelphia stories, The Philly POPS is thrilled to be filling Malcolm X Park with the glorious sounds of Will Smith, Patti LaBelle, and other musicians that walked the streets of West Philly,” said Gilberto Vega, the Philly POPS’ Education and Community Engagement Director. “We are pleased to have vocalists Melanie Ashe and Jon Williams represent the next generation of Philadelphia musicians when they share their voices at this free community concert.”
Last year’s POPS Outside performance was held at Vernon Park in Germantown, and Vega believes that Malcolm X Park is an equally vital venue in West Philly.
“We chose Malcolm X Park because of its prime location as a major hub for art and culture in West Philly, joining events such as a summer jazz series and Theatre in the X. The Park’s close proximity to 7 School District of Philadelphia schools ties in perfectly with our commitment to education with our POPS in Schools program and we look forward to celebrating the end of the first week of school with the whole neighborhood.”
Though he was born and raised in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, special guest vocalist Jon Williams embraced Philadelphia as his second home while studying voice at the University of the Arts, where Melanie Ashe is a student.
“Even though I’m not from Philly, I’ve really grown to kind of love that music and that sound,” Williams said. “For me, I saw it as a nice opportunity to learn more about that culture, and learn more about different Philly artists, and what they’ve contributed to the music scene here. That was something I was really looking forward to, as well as, anytime I get to sing with the POPS in any capacity has always been great for me.”
While the evening also includes such hits as “Wake Everybody,” “Lady Mamalade,” “Betcha By Golly Wow,’ and the Coltrane classic, “Lazybird,” Williams will be performing “Hard Times” (John Legend and The Roots), “Summertime” (Will Smith) and “Motownphilly” (Boyz II Men).
“”One of the things I’ve found really cool about Philly is, there’s always been talent here, going back to The Sound of Philadelphia to even currently, talent has never been (lacking) in this city. I think a lot of people don’t necessarily know that on a global scale — they don’t know specific artists ... they may not currently realize how much great music has really come out of here. So I think it’s cool, ‘cause there’s a lot of gems that I’ve picked up ... like ‘Wow! I didn’t know this person was from Philly!’ So I think that’s one of the really great things about this scene.”