It began with the “Rocket Man” incident.
Jim Harris had performed in the choir and played cello for Saint Madeleine Sophie’s church in Mount Airy with then-musical director and organist Molly Mahoney and trumpet player Martha Michael. The trio found themselves experimenting whenever they played together during church services, such as a rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” in hymn style.
So Harris, Michael and Mahoney further mined their musical synergy and formed Saint Mad, named after the church they had performed at, welcoming tenor tuba player Lynda Chen to round out the band in 2005. The quartet fuses pop songwriting with orchestral string and brass arrangement and quirky lyrics.
They play at Crossroads Coffeehouse on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough the first Friday of every month.
With two horn players, a keyboardist and guitarist all sharing vocal duties, and without a drummer and bass player, Harris says he and his band mates find creative ways to adapt to their unorthodox instrumental set up.
“How many trumpet players do you know who could be playing their instruments one minute, and put down and sing besides Louie Armstrong?” Harris says. “In the beginning we tried to find a bass player but we never did, so we just kind of grew into it.”
Saint Mad has performed at Crossroads Coffeehouse for two years, and Harris says they’ve built a following of repeat attendees from their live reputation.
“Some people tell us they mark their calendars every month for it,” says Mahoney.
The band offers an almost entirely new repertoire of original material and cover songs every month, and they focus on a different lyrical theme based on current events and the time of year. Their performance on May 6 includes lyrics about Mother’s Day, the 150th anniversary of the civil war and the Battle of Puebla, which is celebrated on Cinco de Mayo.
“The creativity with being in this band is so great because I get to learn new songs each month,” says Mahoney. “It’s kind of spiritual without being religious.”
Also performing with Saint Mad on Friday, May 6 is Gail Garin, who plays dulcimer and sings. The show will be held from 7 to 10 p.m.