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The melody remains

Tom Adams’s House Party’s over at D’Angelo’s

3 minute read
Adams tickled D'Angelo's ivories for eight years and made everyone feel like a star. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Klauber.)
Adams tickled D'Angelo's ivories for eight years and made everyone feel like a star. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Klauber.)

After eight years, close to 400 Tuesday nights, and thousands of songs, the weekly “sing-ins” at D’Angelo’s Ristorante, on S. 20th Street in Center City, are no more. Tom Adams House Party (under the de facto leadership of veteran pianist Adams) was called everything from a sing-in to an open-mic night, but the truth is, it was an almost indescribable event where singing and playing amateur professionals, semi-professionals, professional amateurs, and a core group of regulars of all ages gathered together with warmth, support, and good fellowship. Together, they sang the songs of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway musicals past and present.

Certainly, there are other open mic nights around the city. But none are like the Tuesdays at D’Angelo’s, and those who made this a regular weekly stop for eight years are treating the event’s demise like a death in the family.

Perhaps you needed to be there to understand why, but a typical evening, as I described in a Philadelphia Inquirer story I wrote three years ago, went like this:

“Tom Adams has worked closely with the likes of Bette Midler and Cybill Shepherd. He is also a man of infinite musical patience, an absolute requirement on this job. Each and every Tuesday, month after month and year after year, Adams calls the performers — some regulars, some newcomers, some great, some near great, and some otherwise — up to the microphone one by one and in no particular order. As for the repertoire, Maestro Adams backs them in renditions of everything from ‘Send in the Clowns’ and ‘It Had to Be You’ to those who arrive with complex musical scores in hand.”

They're always glad you came

Yes, the quality was variable, which happens at events like this. But what only happened at D’Angelo’s on Tuesday nights for eight years was that each and every performer was made to feel like a star. That’s rare.

The city’s many open-mic nights and jam sessions are all fine and all have something to offer. They are not, however, nor will they be what Tuesdays were at D’Angelo’s.

D’Angelo’s was a once-a-week singing “Cheers,” a place where everybody knew your name. It was permeated by warmth, support, and all other good things that families — yes, families — share. It was, indeed, a family.

As for its demise, nothing is forever, especially in the fickle worlds of show business and Philadelphia nightlife. The Tuesday-night experience has, simply and sadly, just run its course.

There is something of a lasting legacy here, due in no small part to Adams, Janet Wright, and Shelia Weiler, who co-founded the Tuesday concept, and the dedicated and loving participants, who have grown musically by leaps and bounds. To be sure, Adams’s goal, as he said three years ago, was to “uphold the tradition of live musical accompaniment,” adding, “This ain’t karaoke, baby.”

It certainly wasn’t — and it will be missed by everyone who ever sang a song on any one of D’Angelo’s 384 Tuesday-night singing house parties.

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