Fifty years ago, thousands of whimsical music lovers mustered in fields, experiencing the soulful sounds of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and other timeless artists.
Half-a-century later, a South Philadelphia-based music ensemble is reviving the setlist – and a slightly smaller version – of what would become the most legendary music festival of all time.
On Saturday, Aug. 24, the South Philly Acoustic Jam, an organization of local amateur musicians stemming from various experiences and expertise, will host their Woodstock Tribute event at Old Swedes Church, 916 S. Swanson St., from 2 to 5 p.m.
The “musical mashup” is being presented in partnership with Musicopia, a local organization providing “equitable access to music programming for youth attending under-resourced schools” around the Philadelphia area.
Coupled with an instrument donation drive led by Musicopia, the event, organizers say, is not so much a concert but rather a campfire-style gathering to relish in the rock-and-roll sounds of the 1960s – much like Woodstock itself.
“I imagine a lot of people collecting at a campfire situation where people have instruments and sing,” said Bella Vista resident Ed Kaminski, South Philly Acoustic Jam organizer. “We are trying to, in a way, have no difference between people who are musicians and people who come to hear the music. We see an event where everybody will sing or play if they so desire.”
Over the last year, the South Philly Acoustic Jam, a 350-member group founded in 2015 that runs out of Settlement Music School in Queen Village, has been compiling its own songbook of the iconic music played at Woodstock.
South Philly Acoustic Jam, which fosters a space for musicians who don’t intend to make income through music but still desire to play, will have the now-published song books placed on tables at the event for the public to pick up and follow along during performances.
“There’s a lot of people in this group that know these songs pretty well,” Kaminski said. “There are some people in the group who went to Woodstock, as well.”
While celebrating the music of the past, the event prepares music-making for future generations.
Seeking like-minded individuals, Musicopia’s mission aligns with some of South Philly Acoustic Jam’s objectives, particularly its emphasis on the community’s access to the performing arts.
Since 1974, Musicopia has been providing opportunities for students to experience music through a scope of programs, including school-based workshops, partnerships with Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth, Musicopia’s own ensembles and the instrument donation charity – the highlight of the Woodstock Tribute.
For Musicopia, the collaboration with South Philly Acoustic Jam was a natural marriage.
“There’s this obvious answer of the instruments but then there’s something that’s intangible,” said Denise Kinney, executive director of Musicopia. “The reason we’re able to help so many kids is that we know so many people…there’s things that come out of those introductions.”
During the event, musicians are encouraged to donate any gently used band and orchestral instruments in “playable and good cosmetic” condition, which will eventually wind up in the hands of students across the region.
Musicopia has collected more than 4,000 instruments over the last decade, according to its website.
Just this year, more than 600 instruments were collected, according to Alecia Burke, Musicopia’s Gift of Music Instrument donation manager.
“We rarely get to meet the people giving the instruments, so this is a great opportunity,” she said. “It’s like Christmas, birthdays, New Year’s – every special holiday. Kids are just amazed and so excited.”
Burke says, at the event, she’s particularly looking forward to learning the backstories of the instruments being handed down to budding musicians.
Transcending generations and backgrounds, the Woodstock Tribute is intended to cultivate a sense of collaborative performance, encouraging ordinarily solo musicians to integrate with one another regardless of their age or skill set.
“I think, as a society, there’s this isolation our world is creating,” Kinney said. “And music is one of the few bridges.”
The event, which will include food and beverages, suits the programming of Old Swedes Church, which also strives to deliver music to the South Philadelphia community.
In making the event possible, the organizers express gratitude to Kris Rudzinski, who is director of Settlement Music School – Queen Village, Paula and Jim Minacci, who are managers of Sexton Sideshow Group at Old Swedes Church and the Rev. Patricia Cashman, who is pastor of Old Swedes Church.
Inviting the masses back to the summer of 1969, all are welcome to contribute to the Woodstock festivities by bringing along their own instruments and vocals.
“Think about Woodstock – the audience was just as important to the story of Woodstock as the performances…I think our goal is just for people to have a good time,” Kaminski said. “People who remember Woodstock, they kind of have this whimsical remembrance of a more innocent time. I think we’d like to capture a little bit of that again at this event.”
If you would like more information about the tribute or if you want to join the fun, register on Eventbrite here.
Should you want to join the South Philly Acoustic Jam and/or register as a musician for the Woodstock Tribute, go to Meetup and register here.