Category Archives: music

April 2017 – Spring Cleaning

april2017-coverThe April 2017 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesSpring Cleaning – is now available online & in print.

March 2017 – “Helping Hearts”

march2017-coverThe March 2017 Edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – “Helping Hearts” – is now available online & in print.

February 2017 Edition: Moments & Milestones

february2017 cover.qxdThe February 2017 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges is now available online & in print.

January 2017: New Beginnings

january2017 cover.qxdThe January 2017 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesNew Beginnings – is now available online & in print.

Rock “N’ Remember Live! is back by popular demand

Rock “N’ Remember Live! is back by popular demand!  Spotlight Productions is bringing iconic 60’s groups to the Benedum Center (237 7th St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222) on March 4 at 7:30 p.m. for one night only.

Spotlight Productions has assembled a power packet 60’s show that features legendary groups, Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, Dennis Tufano, original voice of the Buckinghams, and Terry Sylvester of The Hollies.

“This year’s Rock ‘N’ Remember Live! show consists of all original lead singers of the 60’s, who topped the charts with over 30 top 20 hits,” shared Charlie Pappas of Spotlight Productions. “It has been years since all of these headliners have played in Pittsburgh and audiences are essentially getting four great shows in one!”

peter-noone-highest-resHerman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone: Peter (Herman) Noone, born in Manchester, England has been delighting audiences all of his life. At the age of 15, Peter achieved international fame as lead singer of the legendary 60’s pop group, Herman’s Hermits. His classic hits include: I’m Into Something Good, Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, I’m Henry the VIII I Am, Silhouettes, Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat, Just A Little Bit Better, Kind of a Hush, A Must to Avoid, Listen People, The End of the World and Dandy. Accompanied by his band, Herman’s Hermits’ Peter Noone consistently plays to sold-out venue’s the world over.

gary-puckett-splash_0x0_acf_croppedGary Puckett and the Union Gap: Gary Puckett and the Union Gap was one of the most successful musical groups of the 60’s. Gary’s distinct signature voice garnered six consecutive gold records and top ten billboard hits with titles, Young Girl, Woman Woman, Lady Will Power, This Girl’s A Woman Now, Keep the Customer Satisfied and Don’t Give Into Him. Gary and the Union Gap have performed on more than thirty television shows and prime time specials as well as a command performance for the President and Prince Charles at the White House. Gary was raised in Yakima, Washington near the City of Union Gap and now resides in Clearwater FL.

dennis-tufano-promo-picDennis Tufano, Voice of The Buckinghams: Dennis Tufano, a native of Chicago is the original voice of the 60’s pop group, The Buckinghams. With the voice of Dennis, The Buckinghams went on to score five major hits which include Kind of a Drag, Don’t You Care, Hey Baby They’re Playing Our Song, Mercy Mercy Mercy and Susan. Dennis who now lives in Los Angeles continues to tour and astound audiences around the country with that unmistakable voice of his.

terry-sylvesterTerry Sylvester of The Hollies: Terry Sylvester started his musical career at the famous “Cavern Club” in Liverpool, England in the early 60’s with his first group “The Escorts” and appeared at the Cavern Club with the Beatles on many occasions. In 1965, Terry joined the Swinging Blue Jeans. Terry got his big break in December 1968 when he was asked to replace Graham Nash of the Hollies. The Hollies scored a string of top 20 hits including  Bus Stop, Stop Stop Stop, On a Carousel, Carrie Anne, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, Long Cool Woman and The Air I Breath. In 2010 Terry was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is only the 5th Liverpool born to enter the hall. The other four are the Beatles. Terry is still touring, mainly in North America.

Tickets (starting at $39.00) go on sale today, Wednesday, November 2, and may be purchased at the Theatre Square Box Office (655 Penn Avenue, Downtown) by calling 412-456-6666 or online at TrustArts.org.

23rd annual Highmark First Night announces headliner Nigel Hall Band

fn17_fn_logo_final-black-colorThe Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announced today that the Nigel Hall Band will perform as the headline act for the largest family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration in the region-the  23rd annual Highmark First Night Pittsburgh. In addition, the theme for this year’s celebration is PITTSBURGH: THE NEXT 200 YEARS, chosen to reflect the culmination of the City’s year-long Bicentennial celebration and serving as an impetus for citizens to think about what is to come in the City’s future.

For the sixth consecutive year, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield will serve as the presenting sponsor for the event, produced by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

A full announcement regarding the programming schedule for Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2017 will take place on Tuesday, December 6 at 10 a.m. at the Trust Arts Education Center (805-807 Liberty Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh) in the Peirce Studio. KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today Live co-hosts Kristine Sorensen and Jon Burnett will host the festive press preview.

“With over 40,000 anticipated for the Trust’s largest open house of the year, we are thrilled to present a band that promises to warm everyone’s soul on First Night,” shared Sarah Aziz, the newly appointed director of Highmark First Night. “We are also honored to serve as the culminating event for Pittsburgh’s Bicentennial and hope to curate an evening of events that reflect the history, innovation and diversity of our City, and that leaves every attendee hopeful about the 200 years ahead of us.”

Ninety percent (90%) of all Highmark First Night Pittsburgh events are held indoors. At the end of the evening, visitors enjoy the Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale: the countdown to midnight, raising of the 1,000 lbs. Future of Pittsburgh ball 150 feet in the air above Penn Avenue Place, and a spectacular Zambelli fireworks finale. The Nigel Hall Band will perform on the Highmark Stage during this rousing Grand Finale.

Nigel Hall grew up in Washington, D.C., in a highly musical family. His fingers first touched the keys before he hit kindergarten age, and his ears were wide open. “I grew up with records,” he said. “That’s why I’m obsessed. My father had a vast collection. I’d be in third grade with my Walkman and everyone’s listening to Ace of Bass, and I’m listening to ‘Return to Forever,’” Chick Corea’s fusion project with Stanley Clarke. The vintage sounds of LADIES & GENTLEMEN… NIGEL HALL, infused with his electric freshness, together make both an audible autobiography and Nigel Hall’s musical mission statement.

“I like to sing songs that reflect my being and who I am as a person,” he said. “Because that really touches me. When you hear a song and it makes you cry, or it makes you happy or it evokes any kind of feeling, that is music. That is what music is supposed to do. And music is the last pure thing we have left on this earth. It’s the only pure thing.”

This soul provider’s debut album is out and soaring along with kudos from critics across the country as well as incredible live shows to celebrate the release. With the digital version and vinyl LP currently available, Feel Music Group released it on CD Friday, February 19, 2016. LADIES & GENTLEMEN… NIGEL HALL captures the spirit of the songs that made Hall a musician. It was produced by Eric Krasno, guitarist and producer of a dizzying array of artists including Norah Jones, Justin Timberlake, Talib Kweli, Aaron Neville and Matisyahu.

Admission Buttons are $10 in advance or at the door (children 5 and under FREE) and are worn by attendees on New Year’s Eve, giving access to all indoor and outdoor attractions at Highmark First Night Pittsburgh. Admission Buttons are on sale at TrustArts.org/FirstNightPGH, the Box Office at Theater Square (655 Penn Avenue), or at 412-456-6666. Additionally, participating Giant Eagle store locations will have buttons available for sale starting in early December. Some indoor performances also require seating vouchers, which are free tickets. Events requiring vouchers are listed at TrustArts.org/FirstNightPGH.

Reserve your spot to celebrate in comfort and style during Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2017. This priority reservation opportunity is your chance to lock in low pricing before it goes up for the general public on December 6. Enjoy priority seating, access, parking, and more! For more information on becoming a part of this special sponsorship opportunity, visit this link or please call 412-471-3518.

Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2016 sponsors as of release date include: Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield as the presenting sponsor, Dollar Bank, First National Bank, Giant Eagle and PNC. FedEx Ground returns as a title sponsor for the annual parade which includes special themed puppets designed by Studio Capezzuti. Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2017 community supporters include The Buhl Foundation and The Fine Foundation and The Grable Foundation. Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2017 media partners currently include KDKA TV and Pittsburgh City Paper.

Highmark First Night Pittsburgh, a production of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, is an arts-focused and family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration in downtown Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. It is the largest single-day celebration in the region offering 100+ events at dozens of indoor and outdoor locations within the 14-block Cultural District. The celebration offers something for everyone.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announces the opening of BOUGAINVILLEA: A BOTANIC PERMUTATION at 709 Penn Gallery, 709 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The exhibition features 2D artwork by Don Dugal, an artist inspired by the showy-colored, warm-weather bit of flora which has traditionally been overlooked by artists because of its amorphous blooms and inability to ‘pose’ as a cut flower.

Dugal explains: “My interest in Bougainvillea stems from my intimate contact with it during my residence in Honolulu, where the plant is a common garden feature. For 20 years I lived with a huge mass of Bougainvillea growing outside my kitchen windows, where in bloom and full sun, it would flood half of the house with a surprisingly intense, reflective, pink glow. Having taught Art courses that emphasized the importance of color in Nature, as well as those that explored the historical use of artist’s pigments, Bougainvillea presented itself as a natural subject. My art has always leaned to a synthesis of the perceptual with the psychological – accompanied by garnishes of Art and Music history.”

Don Dugal was born and educated in Detroit when automobile culture, devotion to beer and frantic urban expansion were at their zenith. He received a BFA in Painting from Wayne State University, studying under professors David Mitchell and Robert Wilbert, and then found his way to the state of Hawaii, where, having studied with professors Ben Norris and Ken Bushnell, he received, in 1969, an MFA in Drawing and Painting, from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Successful exhibitions in Honolulu prompted him to stay on in Hawaii where he initiated a 41-year career of teaching Painting, Drawing and Design at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Significant solo exhibitions include those at the Contemporary Museum in 1980, 1994 and 1999 and the Honolulu Academy of Arts (now the Honolulu Museum) in 1983 and 2007. His work is in the collections of the Hawaii State Art Museum, the Honolulu Museum, the Honolulu City Arts Commission and the Springfield, Illinois Arts Commission. He was awarded an Individual Artist Grant from the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts in 1999, and several commissioned works by Dugal may be found at the Hawaii Convention Center and the Honolulu City Medical Examiner’s Office. He retired from the University of Hawaii in 2010 and in 2011, after careful research, chose Pittsburgh as a home.

709 Penn Gallery: A project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust  and managed by the Trust’s Education and Community Engagement department, 709 Penn Gallery features exhibits by local and regional artists working in multiple disciplines and is located at 709 Penn Avenue near the intersection of Penn and Seventh Street. Gallery hours are Wed., Thurs. from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Fri., Sat. from 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., and Sun. from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. FMI about all gallery exhibitions featured in the Cultural District, please visit www.trustarts.org.

JazzLive December Schedule

270913_collage_jazzThe Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and BNY Mellon Jazz Presents JazzLive, a year-round FREE live jazz series taking place at the Backstage Bar, Cabaret at Theater Square and Katz Plaza. Open to the public, this popular Pittsburgh Cultural Trust music series showcases some of the region’s finest jazz musicians every Tuesday from 5-7 PM in the heart of the Cultural District. From September to May, all performances take place in the Backstage Bar at Theater Square, 655 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA.

This season will feature local favorites, as well as flavors from every genre, including Latin and reggae. The fall season will end with a holiday performance by Benny Benack III, a Pittsburgh-born musician who, at the age of the 25, is heralded as one of the most versatile and virtuosic voices of his generation.

The following is a schedule of the remaining fall JazzLive performances:

November 29 – Thomas Wendt

December 6 – Yoko Suzuki

December 13 – Poogie Bell

December 20 – Roger Humphries

December 27 – Benny Benack III: The Holiday Session

For more information and a full schedule, call 412-456-6666.

Rich Engler Presents Michael W. Smith Dec. 14

Coming live to the Benedum Center on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 7:30pm, Rich Engler Presents Michael W. Smith joined by Republic recording artist Jordan Smith, Season 9 winner of NBC’s The Voice. Incorporating a 53 piece symphony orchestra at each performance, this seasonal crowd-pleaser will travel to nearly 20 major markets.

With a vast collection of critically-acclaimed holiday albums, the 2016 Christmas tour will showcase selections from Michael’s extensive Christmas repertoire. Additionally, the Christmas tour will help benefit Operation Christmas Child, known for distributing over 135 million shoeboxes of Christmas gifts to children in need in 150 countries.

“Being on stage with a full symphony orchestra, performing some of my all-time favorite songs, is a dream come true”, says Michael W. Smith. “And I have to say, I have never heard a voice quite as pure and beautiful as Jordan Smith’s. It’s going to be a great night! Christmas is my favorite time of year, and performing these holiday shows each November and December is a major highlight for me.”

“One of my favorite things about Christmas is the music that accompanies the season,” shares Jordan Smith.

Don’t miss this wonderful “family oriented” Holiday Show Dec. 14 at the Benedum Center. Tickets are reserved at $45.75, $55.75 and $65.75. Some limited gold circle seats are also available, and are on sale now at the Theatre Square Box Office, by phone at 412-456-6666 or online at www.trustarts.org.

Waynesburg U students participate in collegiate choir

singersSix Waynesburg University students successfully auditioned and participated in the recent 2016 Pennsylvania Collegiate Choir held at Susquehanna University.

Dr. A. Jan Taylor, director of choirs and music education at Prairie View A&M University, led the choir of 95 singers.

A total of nine Pennsylvania colleges and universities were represented at the festival.

This was the first year that Waynesburg University music students were represented at the festival, according to Melanie Catana, director of choral music and instructor of vocal music at the University.

Students who participated include:

Susan Dunsworth, freshman entrepreneurship major from Erie (Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy)

Briana Ryan, sophomore music ministry major from Monongahela (Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School)

Rachel Philipp, junior arts administration (music concentration) major from McMurray (Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School)

Kayla Goncalves, junior music ministry major from Boca Raton, Florida (Olympic Heights Community High School)

Thomas Faye, freshman music ministry major from Pittsburgh (Penn Hills High School)

Philip Hurd, recent music ministry alumnus from Elizabeth

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” celebrates its 15th season

nutcrackerPittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” celebrates its 15th season onstage with a 26-performance run Dec. 2-27, at the Benedum Center.

Fittingly, the milestone intersects with the 20th anniversary season of the man who created it: PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr.

When Orr arrived in Pittsburgh in 1997 to take the helm of PBT, a new “Nutcracker” was on his mind. He’d just relocated from New York City’s American Ballet Theatre and was experiencing the city’s traditions and history through fresh eyes.

When it came time to reimagine PBT’s rendition of the perennial holiday classic, the concept felt intuitive: He planned to revive classic story elements of “The Nutcracker” while creating a sense of place unique to Pittsburgh. His new staging debuted in December 2002 at the Benedum.

“I wanted this production to be the city’s own. I wanted Pittsburghers to feel a sense of familiarity, of home, because this show is such a tradition for so many families,” Orr said.

With help from artists, historians and locals, he began assembling relics and references to weave into the traditional scenes and story of “The Nutcracker.”

He commissioned scenic designer Zack Brown to conceive the sets and costumes, designed to reflect the color and vibrancy of Tchaikovsky’s score.

He consulted with the late Milan Stitt, then head of dramatic writing at Carnegie Mellon University, to help write the libretto and call forward essential elements of the original E.T.A. Hoffmann tale published in 1816.

He brought in an old friend and dramaturge – Long Island native Byam Stevens – to help implement this new dramatization, believing that the story telling, the theater, was vital to enhancing the dancing.

When a board member unearthed a vintage copy of “Kaufmann’s Christmas Stories for Boys and Girls,” commissioned by Kaufmann’s Department store at the turn of the 20th century, Orr wove it into the story. Onstage, the book spills out a cadre of toy characters who spring to the defense of The Nutcracker and Marie in the Act I Battle Scene.

And, of course, “The Nutcracker” is “nothing short of magical (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).” Local magician Paul Gertner trained the company in the art of illusion – mysteries that Orr’s performers hold close to the vest. For over a decade, Drosselmeyer’s sleight-of-hand tricks have left audience members of all ages marveling.

Inside the PBT Costume Shop, Janet Groom Campbell and her team brought Zack Brown’s costume renderings to life with 18 shimmering snowflakes, 16 colorful tutus resembling flower petals, a stage full of elaborate Victorian party dresses and many more hand-crafted costumes.

Of the 215 costumes of “The Nutcracker,” 110 were built in the PBT Costume Shop. For specialty pieces, the company enlisted artisans, like Pittsburgh local Svi Roussanoff, who constructed the head pieces for The Nutcracker as well as his rival, the Rat King, and his rodent army.

The scenery and special effects complete the picture with colorful set pieces and drops, including a growing Christmas tree and flurries of snow.

Throughout the show Pittsburghers can spot local character, including the Snow Scene’s Mount Washington view, a proscenium clock inspired by the Kaufmann’s clock at Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street downtown, and a Land of Enchantment that pays homage to Pittsburgh’s historic amusement parks.

Over time, Orr has added new nods to Pittsburgh culture – and its sports. Act I has seen a toy penguin wearing a hockey jersey, rats waving Terrible Towels and even Party Scene cameos by local celebrities like Mr. McFeely, Hines Ward and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Beyond the Pittsburgh and pop culture references, Orr has a tradition of creating unique casting combinations to ensure that no two performances are exactly alike.

“It carries the comfort and warmth of tradition, yet it is never the same show twice. We are always finding new wrinkles in the characters, new layers to the story and variations in the dancing,” Orr said. “I really do believe that you could watch each of the 26 shows and discover something new each time. There is something magical about that.”

Among the 26 performances, the company will present a Student Matinee performance, sponsored by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 2, as well as a sensory-friendly performance adapted for patrons with special needs at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27. (Photo by Rich Sofranko)

Tickets start at $28 and are available at www.pbt.org, 412-456-6666 or by visiting the Box Office at Theater Square.

FMI: pbt.org