In this corner: 30th Street Station, gateway to the Northeast Corridor, to the north, to the south, to everywhere. If you can't get there from here, you can't get there. More than 16,000 people a day shuffle, mosey, and sprint through its cavernous passenger concourse — so cavernous that the frequent announcements of Amtrak trains coming and going spiral up, up, up into the booming resonance.
In that corner: Mindy Cutcher, principal harpist for the Pennsylvania Ballet.
The perfect place to play a harp solo for lunchtime?
Why not? Cutcher will fill the immense chamber with a heavenly noise from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. Kim Bridgford, founder and director of the poetry and arts nonprofit Poetry by the Sea, says her organization is collaborating with Amtrak and 30th Street Station "to bring art and poetry to the public space, in one of America's iconic locations." Cutcher's brave show is the second in a series that began with violinist Sylvia Ahramjian.
Harps are cool. Those things ring out and rock the heavens.
"I'm just game," Cutcher says by phone. "I've played everywhere -- even Monkey Junction at the Philadelphia Zoo. But never a train station." And why the balmy month of January? "You know, January is not a busy month for musicians, and Kim kept asking me, so I said, 'Sure, sounds like fun.' "
Here is Mindy Cutcher playing "Fanfare-Rondeau" from the first Suite de symphonies by Jean-Joseph Mouret:
But what's it going to sound like in 30th Street Station? Will the harp be audible in the rising, ringing hugger-mugger of shuffling feet, rolling suitcases, and resounding, pounding announcements?
"It's going to depend on how many people are in the station," Cutcher says. "The harp carries very well -- it just depends on what other noises are going on at the same time." She has a variety planned, from Robert Maxwell's Ebb Tide to classical and opera excerpts.
Let it here be said that Cutcher will go into battle with not her biggest ax, but a Lyon & Healy Style 100 Semi Grand. We say that's an excellent choice. For one thing, it fits in her van – "and it's actually, heightwise, only two inches shorter than the full grand," Cutcher tells us. She's unsure of the setup she will discover but figures there will be an area "with tables and chairs, maybe" for listening.
Most of all, Cutcher looks forward to playing for whomever comes by to listen. "The kind of people I'll be playing for on Friday," she says, "might not be the people who typically come to the ballet or a concert, and it's kind of nice because I'm exposing them to something they may not have heard before."