Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kelly Hall-Tompkins & Music Kitchen in New York Times: 'For the Homeless, Music That Fills a Void'

[Kelly Hall-Tompkins and Mark O'Connor playing in a shelter in the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Manhattan.]

On Dec. 15, 2009 AfriClassical posted “Kelly Hall-Tompkins & Mark O'Connor Perform O'Connor's 'Double Violin Concerto'” and two days later the two musicians performed for the homeless:
“These concertgoers were eight tired, homeless men who had been taken to the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church shelter for the night. They listened to the latest performance by Kelly Hall-Tompkins, a professional violinist who has been playing in shelters for five years under the banner of Music Kitchen.” “Music Kitchen has a catchy motto ('Food for the Soul'), T-shirts with a logo and a pool of donors. But the operation is essentially Ms. Hall-Tompkins, 38, an ambitious New York freelancer who plays in the New Jersey Symphony and has a midlevel solo and chamber music career.

“I like sharing music with people, and they have zero access to it,” Ms. Hall-Tompkins said of her homeless audiences. 'It’s very moving to me that I can find people in a place perhaps when they have a greater need for, and a heightened sensitivity to, beauty.' She invites musician friends to play and uses her networking skills to cajole prominent soloists into joining. They include Emanuel Ax, the pianist, and Albrecht Mayer, a principal oboist of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Hall-Tompkins asked Mr. Ax to take part when he was playing a concerto with the New Jersey Symphony, and she encountered Mr. Mayer in a Tokyo hotel hallway while both were on tour.

“The concerts have an air of authenticity and directness that sometimes does not exist in concert halls. Not all the listeners are new to classical music. One woman at a concert said the experience had been bittersweet because it brought back memories of working at the Boston Symphony Orchestra and 'how much my life has changed since.' For the performers, it can also be bittersweet. 'When I have people to play for, it means they are having really hard times,' Ms. Hall-Tompkins said. But the benefit is mutual. 'The artists, I find, are just as moved as the people we’re supposedly trying to help.' “Ms. Hall-Tompkins’s first concert was in 2004, when her husband, Joe Tompkins, a percussionist who volunteered as a cook at Holy Trinity, suggested she play for the men there.”

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