Andrew Lipke and the Azrael String Quartet were the first musicians to grace the stage at Pastorius Park since the free summer concert series reopened post-pandemic.
By his own admission, Andrew Lipke did not pioneer the “guy playing the guitar with a string quartet” genre – he credits Paul McCartney with that– but his concert with the Azrael String Quartet last Wednesday certainly proved its merits.
Andrew Lipke and the Azrael String Quartet were the first musicians to grace the stage at Pastorius Park since the free summer concert series reopened post-pandemic. The longest-running free outdoor concert series in Philadelphia, Pastorius Park’s Wednesday night concerts have brought communities together for 73 years. 2020 was the first year the concert series had ever been cancelled, but, if the large turn-out to Wednesday’s concert was any indication, it was dearly missed.
Lipke, a prolific singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, debuted several songs from his upcoming album, “Murmurs of The River”, which will be released to all on Friday, July 23rd. He also played songs from his albums “Siddhartha” and “Kamala & the Child People”, two in a cycle of concept albums based on Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, one of Lipke’s biggest inspirations. The set also included familiar tunes, with covers of McCartney and Dylan that had concert-goers singing along through the summer night.
Lipke’s music defies genre. At times it inhabits that niche of string-accented folk rock that brought Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown eight Tony awards in 2019. But Lipke does not restrict himself to one style: he has also written a score of punk rock songs for an EPIX movie, sang with acclaimed orchestras, and toured with a Led Zeppelin cover band. The glue that stuck this particular concert together, in the face of Lipke’s broad stylistic interests, was the Azrael String Quartet.
The Azrael String Quartet is comprised of violinists Dana Allaband and Laura Earley, violist Petula Perdikis, and cellist Krista Umile. The quartet was originally formed by Lipke to record his album “The Plague”, which was nominated by Philadelphia Weekly in 2010 as one of their 50 best albums of the year. Outside of working with Lipke, the quartet members separately teach music or play in orchestras across the Tri-State area.
The evening took an unexpected turn when, partway through the first half of the concert, the lights and power suddenly went out. The musicians were left without amplifiers and the stage without light. A less adept group of performers might have lost the interest of their audience in the face of this setback, but Lipke and the Azrael String Quartet finished out the song they were playing as an acoustic set. Lipke projected to be heard even to the furthest picnickers, and when the song was over the crowd raised their voices in one of the largest communal cheers that Chestnut Hill has heard since reopening.
Catastrophe was averted, and power was restored to the stage. The rest of the concert continued as planned, with dynamic flourishes of the string quartet accenting Lipke’s soulful acoustic guitar and tenor voice. As afternoon faded into a warm summer evening, the band’s melodic tunes and the golden string lights decorating Pastorius Park invited a sense of togetherness back to a community that has been apart for too long.
Pastorius Park’s next installments in the Wednesday night free summer concerts include: