December 02, 2016
Singer Louis Larkin, a self-described big man – with a large personality and a voice to match – is all about comfort and joy this holiday season.
Most weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the retired special education teacher holds down a seat on the stone wall near the Market Street West entrance to Philly’s City Hall.
He’s been turning out to the courtyard for nearly a year, but this is his first Christmas season there.
And with the annual Christmas Village and its kiosks selling holiday gifts in the hall’s courtyard for the first time as renovations continue at LOVE Park, Larkin is making a joyous noise with a seasonal flare.
A rich and deep bass, Larkin, a born-again minister as well as a singer, sees his vocalizing – a mix of Christmas carols, jazz, classical and gospel – “as an opportunity to serve.”
And at this time of year while rolling through a repertoire of carols, he can grab and hold a crowd.
“The season should be joy,” he said.
While some scurry by Larkin, most passersby pause, a few stop and sing a few bars with him, and some, especially tourists from overseas, chat with him about their travels and homelands.
Last Saturday, Larkin sang with Harold Zavarce, 50, and his 10-year-old son, Eduardo.
The Zavarces, Venezuelans on a visit to Philly via Washington, D.C., came upon Larkin by happy happenstance.
The boy’s face lit up, then his mouth opened in astonishment at Larkin’s power, then turned into a smile accompanied by a sidelong look at Larkin.
When their tune was over, Harold Zavarce said simply: “Beautiful voice.”
The operator of a Christmas Village stand close to Larkin’s hangout is pleased to have the singer nearby.
“He’s a good guy. And it adds to the ambiance,” said a worker at Dakota Prairie Designs.
Sometimes an entire tour group stops to sing with him, one of his favorite things.
“I sing songs people love. And I love the engagement. I like talking to people, especially the tourists. But I love when they sing with me. That happens a lot,” Larkin said Saturday between tunes.
His grandmother and a vocal coach shaped him.
“I love singing. I do it for the joy,” said Larkin.
Well, and the money.
Larkin puts out a collection box. A bad day might net him just $50, but a good day can mean $150 in the bank.
He says he comes out “rain or shine,” though he plans to suspend his singing when it gets “cold, cold” in January, before resuming in the spring.
“I’m a trouper,” he said.