Monday, June 29, 2015

Pergola Rosso – A True Terroir Wine

Angelini Pergola Rosso CreditL Bill Rockwell

Another red wine from Italy I recently tried comes from Le Marche, a region in the central part of the country. Grown on a 200 acre farm owned for three generations by the Angelini family, the Angelini Pergola Rosso is made from 100% Pergola Rosso grapes, the local name for vernaccia nero, the word used collectively for dark skin red grapes grown in the Marche.

This dry red wine has a medium body and smooth texture, is nicely balanced and meant to be drunk young. “Wine and Spirits” magazine included the 2011 vintage on its list of the Top 100 Value Wines priced under $15. I sampled the 2013 vintage, which comes with a suggested retail price of $16.99.

The bouquet of this estate bottled wine is laden with plum and berry, while the taste profile has noticeable tannins and pronounced notes of black raspberry, blackberry, black currant and dark cherries. The finish has a medium length that ends with a hint of pepper and spice, especially cinnamon. The alcohol comes in at 13.5%

The wine can be drunk alone or as an accompaniment to food such as zuppa de mare, Italian favorites like lasagna and pizza, pulled pork sandwiches and Gorgonzola cheese.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Out of This World! - Jewelry of the Space Age

Lunar Excursion Module, Cartier Paris, 1969, Made for and formerly owned by Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins, Cartier Collection Photo Credit: Nils Herman

    The mystery and infinite possibilities of outer space have gripped the imagination and shaped our culture, especially in the latter part of the twentieth century. From Saturday, June 27, 2015—Monday, January 4, 2016, Carnegie Museum of Natural History captures the essence of the final frontier
    Out of This World! Jewelry in the Space Age, a fine jewelry exhibition that brings together scientific fact and pop culture in a showcase of wearable and decorative arts related to outer space, space travel, the space age, and the powerful influence these topics have had on human civilization.
    Beginning with jewelry and artifacts memorializing the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1835, Out of this World! travels forward through time to explore nearly 200 objects from landmark moments in space-related history. Pieces in the exhibition include ephemera, jewelry, and objets d’art inspired by events that captured our imagination, such as the 1865 publication of Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, the 1957 Sputnik launch that kicked off the space race of the Cold War, and milestone NASA missions.
    Out of this World! also reflects upon the futuristic artworks inspired by space themes that reach beyond the current age.  Some objects make decorative use of materials originally developed for the space program, while others take their inspiration from such cultural phenomena as the Star Wars saga.
    This exhibition is on view in Wertz Gallery: Gems & Jewelry, part of Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems
     Highlights of the exhibition include:
 * Lunar Excursion Module by Cartier Paris, an 18-carat-gold model of the Apollo 11 lunar module made to commemorate the first moon landing in 1969—and only one of three in existence

* The Tampa Necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels, featuring a rocket and a trail of diamonds, inspired by Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon
Planetoid Valleys

* Planetoid Valleys by Björn Weckström, modeled after the silver necklace worn by Princess Leia (actress Carrie Fisher) in the movie Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

* Dynasty Ring by Mark Schneider, designed to look like the machine that Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Ann Arroway (actress Jodie Foster) uses to make contact with alien life at the climax of the movie Contact

* Jewelry created from materials created or used during the space race, such as polymer, titanium, and fiber optic glass—and jewelry made with materials from space, including meteorites

* Custom-made jewelry by local Pittsburgh artist Paul Michael Bierker inspired by sci-fi television shows and films such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Firefly

Necktie:Designed and owned by Megan Isaacs
    Out of this World! Jewelry in the Space Age was originated by the Association for the Study of Jewelry & Related Arts, LLC, with Elyse Zorn Karlin as consulting curator, and Eric J. Hoffman as the space consultant. Support for the exhibition has been provided by Schneider Downs, Burns White, and Caesar’s Designs.
    Out of this World! was conceived and organized for The Forbes Galleries, New York City, by Elyse Zorn Karlin, private curator and Co-Director of the Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts (ASJRA).

Monday, June 22, 2015

Livon Pinot Grigio - A Nice Match for Seafood and More

Livon Pinot Grigio Photo Credit: Bill Rockwell

    Pinot Grigio is the most frequently drunk white wine in Italy, and the varietal is growing ever more popular in the U.S.
    One recent find I came across made by an artisanal producer in Collio, one of the best white wine regions of Italy in the province of Friuli Venezia Giulia on the border with Slovenia and Austria, the Livon Pinot Grigio is a bone dry white wine with a profound minerality.
    In the glass, the wine has a pale flaxen color with a light green corona and a bouquet that, while faint, has accents of citrus, nutmeg and honeysuckle. In the mouth the wine is crisp and dry with a pleasant acidity, a medium bodied texture and a taste profile that includes yellow plum, lemon, green apple and spice notes. The finish is long and sustained.
   Because of its austere dryness, I would hesitate to drink the wine as a sipping or recreational beverage but think it would be a great match for certain foods beginning with oysters on the half shell, linguini with white clam sauce, grilled prawns, mussels in a white wine/garlic sauce, Dungeness crab, roasted chicken, fish such as walleye, lake perch, halibut, sole and haddock and lighter flavored risottos.
    While the wine is ready to drink now, it will keep for a good 4 to 5 years. The Livon Pinot Grigio has an alcohol content of 12.5% and an average price of around $16.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Sean Jones

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is proud to present the fifth annual Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival (PJLIF) on June 19 - 21, 2015. The three-day festival boasts international flair and promises the best jazz in a variety of settings: outdoor stages, ticketed special engagements, and indoor “gigs” at over 20 small venues through Pittsburgh’s downtown Cultural District.  This year, the festival will present artists with both international reputations—and musical origins.  PJLIF attracts more than 20,000 attendees from around the country.

Rachelle Ferrell | Friday, June 19 at 8pm | Tickets are $38
Ticketed Performance at the August Wilson Center (980 Liberty Avenue)
One of the most distinctive voices in music, Rachelle Ferrell is equally at home with gospel, blues, jazz or classical music. Her collaborations with people like Joe Sample, Lalah Hathaway, Gerald Albright and Will Downing have places her as a favorite amongst jazz and soul music. Don't miss this rare appearance of this formidable performer in the beautiful theater at the August Wilson Center.

Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion will also be held at the August Wilson Center on Saturday, June 20th at 9pm. Ticket prices start at $42.25

Bourbon & Bass | Friday, June 19 at 6:30pm | $45.75
Ticketed event at Peirce Studio, Trust Arts Education Center (805/807 Liberty Avenue)
Every system, every group, every organization has a foundation; that element that holds things together; that constant…
In the whiskey world in America, some say bourbon is the backbone of whiskies. In the music world some say it’s the bass that is the engaging rhythmic constant.  We’ll let you be the judge as we present BOURBON AND BASS: A MUSICAL TASTING EXPERIENCE. Join musician Dwayne Dolphin Trio and the founder of Raise Your Spirits, Max Miller, as they take you on a journey through the history, origins and elements of bourbon and bass.  Three craft bourbon expressions…world class musicians…one unforgettable evening. Limited seating is available.

Rodger Humphries Jam Session | Thursday, June 18 at 8pm | Free admission
James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy (422 Foreland Street)
The best Jam Session in the city. Roger Humphries is rated by music critics as one of the most exciting percussionists in the business. He has provided the rhythmic beat for such greats as Ray Charles, Horace Silver, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Stanley Turrentine, James Moody, Lee Morgan, Dr. Billy Taylor, Benny Green, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Clark Terry, J.J. Johnson, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Jon Faddis, Slide Hampton, Randy Brecker, Joe Williams, Milton Jackson, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy Witherspoon, Nathan Davis, Pete Henderson, Don Patterson, Gene Harris, Grant Green, George Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Bill Dogget, Jack McDuff, and a list of great musicians that goes on and on and on.On February 23, 2008 the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh issued a proclamation as Roger Humphries Day. He was given a certificate of recognition for his legendary performance in the field of music and teaching.

Jazz Tour of the Historic Hill District | Saturday, June 20 at 10am | $15
Elise H Hillman Auditorium (1825 Centre Street)
*45 minute tours beginning at 10am, 11:30am and 1pm.

Kaufmann Center and the the Hill House Association are presenting an amazing opportunity to experience some of the hottest and most historic jazz spots in the city of Pittsburgh.  Visit the Hill District’s legendary jazz scene in this guided tour and relive a part of Jazz History at such hot spots as the Court of Ideas, the Crawford Grill, the Legacy, the New Granada and the Original Savoy Ballroom! Molley’s Trolleys will pick up tour participants at 7th & Penn in front of the Benedum, and return guest back to the Benedum at the end of the tour.

Friday, June 19, 2015
Nate da Phat Barber (DJ), 9th Street Stage, 7-9pm
Aaron Abernathy & the Nat Turner Band, 9th Street Stage, 9:30-11:30pm
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Mavis "Swan" Poole and Soul Understated, 9th Street Stage, 2-2:45pm
Craig Handy

Craig Handy and Second Line Smith, Penn Ave. Stage II, 2:45-4pm
Big City Line Dance, UPMC Dignity & Respect Campaign, 9th and Penn., 4-4:45pm
Murray, Allen, Carington, Penn Ave. Stage I, 4-5:30pm
Somi, 9th Street Stage, 5:30-6:30pm
Songs for My Father Reimagined, Sean Jones/ Rodger Humphries, Penn Ave. Stage II, 6:30-7:45pm
Joey DeFrancesco Quartet, Penn Ave. Stage I, 7:45-9:15pm
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Camila Meza, 9th Street Stage, 2-2:45pm
Bebel Gilberto, Penn Ave. Stage II, 2:45-4pm
Christian McBride Trio, Penn Ave. Stage I, 4-5:30pm

Etienne Charles

Etienne Charles Calypso Review, 9th Street Stage, 5:30-6:30pm
Sammy Figueroa and his Latin Jazz Explosion, Penn Ave. Stage II, 6:30-7:45pm
Average White Band, Penn Ave. Stage I, 7:45-9:15pm
Full biographies and additional artist information can be found here:

A free Jazz Crawl in the Cultural District, featuring 150 local and regional musicians at multiple venues kicks off the Festival Friday, June 19, from 5:30–9 p.m.  In addition to late-night club performances, Jam Sessions at locations throughout the Cultural District begin at 10 p.m., June 20 and June 21.

AFTER THE CRAWL, enjoy the following late-night events taking place within the Cultural District and beyond.
BILL’S BAR AND BURGER, Westin Convention Center Hotel, 1000 Penn Avenue  | Mark Lucas at 9pm
JAZZLIVE JAM SESSION, Sonoma Grille, 847 Penn Avenue | Roger Humphries at 10:30pm
HOWL AT THE MOON - 125 7th Street | FREE ADMISSION with your PJLIF map after 9pm
JAMES STREET GASTROPUB & SPEAKEASY - The Boilermaker Jazz Band, Ball Room, 422 Foreland Street, Northside |  Swing Lesson at 7pm and Show at 8pm | Cost is $5
RIVERS CASINO - Levels Lounge, 777 Casino Drive Pittsburgh PA 15212 | Antoinette with No Ordinary Soul at 10pm


Showcase Noir marks its 12th year for this African American Designer Market that includes pottery, paintings, jewelry, fiber works, and sculptures available for sale by some of the world’s finest artists.
New this year, the Festival will introduce elite craft beer tasting courtesy of our official beer sponsor, North Coast Brewing Company, as well as a special ticketed event with Raise Your Spirits, LLC, the gateway to the enjoyment of fine craft spirits.

The special pop-up vinyl record store, Trust Vinyl, will return to downtown’s Cultural District, offering visitors the opportunity to purchase vinyl in this old-fashioned record store, which will be located at 820 Liberty Ave. on Friday and Saturday from 12-9 p.m. and Sunday from 12-7 p.m. Regional vendors include Jerry’s Records, J.Malls, Bob Shekerko, Jimmy Blackford, Dennis Mccarthy, Tim Harris, Paul Tescher and Gus Payne.

The outdoor Night Market presented by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will feature some of Pittsburgh’s most creative independent vendors of food, music, art, jewelry, clothing, crafts, and more. The Night Market, located at 8th Street and Penn Avenue, with be open June 19 from 5:30pm-11 pm and June 20-21 from 2pm-9pm.

Average White Band

Monday, June 15, 2015

Poughkeepsie - Who’d a Thunk?

Locust Grove - Samuel Morse's Home in Poughkeepsie, NY Credit: Bill Rockwell
Foodie that I am, a visit to the Culinary Institute of America had been on my list of must-do things for quite a while. When the opportunity arose, I jumped in a rental car and headed to Hyde Park, home to not only the CIA but several Roosevelt sites as well.
Before signing on to a guided tour of the buildings and grounds of the stellar institute that turns out many of nation’s finest chefs and enjoying a leisurely meal at its high end Caterina de Medici restaurant, I plunked myself into the Holiday Inn Express in Poughkeepsie, just down river from Hyde Park, the river being the majestic Hudson.
In between visits to the CIA, Springwood (FDR’s life-long home), Val-Kill (Eleanor’s nearby retreat) and Top Cottage (FDR’s own hilltop retreat where he hosted King George VI during the Second World War), I managed to explore the delights of Poughkeepsie. Who’d a thunk there’d be such interesting ones?
A fun first start, Walkway over the Hudson, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, started out as a railroad bridge circa 1888. After opening to the public in October 2009, the bridge has hosted some 700,000 people annually to enjoy its magnificent views some 212 feet above the river.
Windy on the day of my visit, the bridge was perfect for exercise and people watching. On my hike to the halfway point (the entire length of the bridge is 1.28 miles), I saw hikers, joggers, bicyclists, dog walkers and an occasional skater - a colorful panoply of ages, dress codes, sexes, personalities, even handicapped people riding motorized scooters and wheelchairs
Walkway over the Hudson Credit: Bill Rockwell
While parking lots are located on both ends of the bridge, a 21-story elevator completed last year transports people from Upper Landing Park on Water Street to an access point on the bridge. Which ever way you choose to get there, be sure to bring along a camera for some spectacular shots of the river valley.
Poughkeepsie is also home to Vassar College, a 1,000 acre campus maintained as an arboretum. Among its 100 buildings, the college boasts an outdoor amphitheater, a 1904 Norman style Chapel (its 15 stained glass windows are created from six drawings by John La Farge, four by Robert L. Dodge and five by Louis Comfort Tiffany), an observatory, a 500-seat recital hall, three theaters and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, designed by Cesar Pelli.
The art center collection began with a gift from Matthew Vassar of 3,800 works, including an important group of Hudson River School paintings and English watercolors. The current collection has grown to over 18,000 works from antiquity through the present day.
Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints and works by major European and American 20th century artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Joan Miro, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol.

Avery Hall Performance Center at Vassar College

Because it was such a beautiful day when I visited, I didn’t spend as much time as I’d have liked in the art gallery because I wanted to explore the grounds and gardens. Planted in 1916 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the Shakespeare Garden is designed to resemble the Renaissance gardens of the Bard’s era and includes many plants named in his plays and poetry.
Further on, raised wooden walkways wind their way through a plant and ecological reserve through which a small stream flows, watering a lush and dense landscape of trees, bushes and interesting plants.
I found another Poughkeepsie gem almost directly across the street and down a block from my hotel. I don’t know what impressed me most about Locust Grove, the 40-room Italianate mansion of artist and inventor of the telegraph and the Morse code, Samuel Morse, or its wonderful flower and vegetable gardens. Morse had the financial wherewithal to build the magnificent and expansive 1851 manse on 200 acres of property on a high bluff overlooking the Hudson.
The house features 15,000 pieces of original furnishings, paintings and decorative art works of the Young-Innes families who lived in the house after Morse. The estate opened to the public in 1975 and offers daily tours from April through December and Monday through Friday the rest of the year.
While the flower gardens are a treat for the eye and senses, the enclosed Heritage Vegetable Garden s a learning tool for anyone wanting to put in edible plants for home consumption. Not only do the gardens hold just about every edible vegetable known to grow in New York’s temperate northern climate, they are also healthy and  thriving specimens that are obviously carefully cultivated and nurtured.
A 20-mile drive upriver from Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck is a charming, tree-lined town with a Dutch heritage and a penchant for the arts. I arrived at a magical moment when the sun had just gone down and the street light came up glimmering over the string of quaint boutiques and restaurants that lined the main thoroughfare.
The Beekman Arms Inn was especially inviting in a pleasant, old fashioned way. Dating back to the 18th century, the two story inn bills itself as America’s oldest continuously operating hotel.
For a town of its size, Rhinebeck has an abundance of eateries, and I settled in for dinner at Gigi’s Trattoria, 6422 Montgomery Street, where the culinary style is best described as Hudson Valley Mediterranean.
Interior of Gigi Trattoria Credit: Bill Rockwell

The kitchen features locally-sourced foods as much as possible to prepare its home made pastas, super-thin, flat bread pizzas called skizza topped with tasty ingredients, savory appetizers, an array of inventive entrees and desserts such as chocolate hazelnut cake, tiramisu and gelato.
For more information on Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County, phone 800-445-3131 or www.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pick of the Week - Write to Witness

 Join Amnesty International Pittsburgh for a FREE event celebrating the value that writers, journalists, poets, and bloggers bring to humankind by bearing witness to the truth. Hear the courageous stories of these individuals and learn what you can do to defend the right to witness.
    Information will be available about the work that Amnesty International does on a global scale. Letters, petitions, speakers, refreshments, and MORE. 
Featured Writers include:
r/b mertz: creative writing teacher and social justice poet will read from a selection of her poems
 Joy Katz: Pittsburgh artist and writer, whose current project includes One Large, will read from a selection of her poems
Sarah Shotland: Co-founder and Program Coordinator of Words Without Walls, which brings creative writing classes to jails, prisons and treatment facilities in Pittsburgh will read from a piece she wrote about working in jails and prisons
    Amnesty International volunteers will read selections by Liu Xiaobo (China) Tariq Ramadan (UK) and Oksana Chelysheva (Russia) - all former or current writers at risk/in danger
Remarks by Tony Norman, award-winning Post-Gazette columnist
Yaghoub Yadali, Iran
Israel Centeno, Venezuela
    Amnesty International in the Alphabet City Tent is an "Open Stage" event.  Every two weeks during "Summer on Sampsonia," City of Asylum opens the tent to writers, artists, thinkers and community groups to program cultural events.  For more information, call Karen Simpson at 412-323-0278.

Monday, June 8, 2015

PSO Closes Season with World Premiere, Pianist Yefim Bronfman and Mahler's ‘Titan’

PSO Principal Oboist Cindy DeAlmeida opens the concdrt program with the world premiere of Alan Fletcher’s Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra
    Even with so much going on this week in town, youstill  might want to take in one of the final three Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra  concerts of the current season. It promises to be a great one with the world premiere of Alan Fletcher’s Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra,  featuring Pittsburgh Symphony Principal Oboe Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida. The piece, commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony, begins by taking inspiration from a traditional Irish tune that DeAlmeida’s father often sang to her during her childhood and finishes with a whirlwind finale with the full orchestra showcasing its breathtaking musicality.
    Also on the program, Grammy award-winning pianist and long-time favorite of Pittsburgh audiences, Yefim Bronfman brilliantly performs Franz Liszt’s demanding Piano Concerto No. 2. Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 brings the curtain down on the season with a story of struggle that ends with a blaze of glory.
    Each BNY Mellon Grand Classics concert is part of the Explore & Engage program, which includes pre-concert talks, exhibits, display boards and interactive activities that illuminate the music, composers and the time in which they were created. A pre-concert talk, open to all ticket holders, led by Resident Conductor Lawrence Loh with composer Alan Fletcher as his guest will occur on stage one hour before each concert.
    The concert will have music director, Manfred Honeck on the podium leading the orchestra. Born in Austria, Honeck received his musical training at the Academy of Music in Vienna. Many years of experience as a member of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and at the helm of the Vienna Jeunesse Orchestra have given his conducting a distinctive stamp. He began his career as assistant to Claudio Abbado in Vienna.
    Subsequently, he was engaged by the Zurich Opera House, where he was bestowed the prestigious European Conductor’s Award in 1993. Other early stations of his career include Leipzig, where he was one of three main conductors of the MDR Symphony Orchestra and Oslo, where he assumed the post of music director at the Norwegian National Opera on short notice for a year and was engaged as principal guest conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra for several years
     From 2000 to 2006, he was music director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm and, from 2008 to 2011, principal guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he has resumed for another three years at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season.

Yefim Bronfman is widely regarded as one of the most talented virtuoso pianists performing today. His commanding technique and exceptional lyrical gifts have won him consistent critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences worldwide, whether for his solo recitals, his prestigious orchestral engagements or his rapidly growing catalogue of recordings.
    Widely praised for his solo, chamber and orchestral recordings, he was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for his Deutsche Grammophon recording of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s piano concerto with Salonen conducting and with whom he won a Grammy Award in 1997 for his recording of the three Bartók Piano Concerti and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
    His performance of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto with Andris Nelsons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from the 2011 Lucerne Festival is now available on DVD and his performance of Rachmaninoff’s third concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle was released on DVD by the EuroArts label. His most recent CD releases are Magnus Lindberg's Piano Concerto No. 2 commissioned for him and performed by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Alan Gilbert on the Da Capo label, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 with Mariss Jansons and the Bayerischer Rundfunk, a recital disc, Perspectives, complementing Bronfman’s designation as a Carnegie Hall Perspectives artist for the 2007-2008 season, and recordings of all the Beethoven piano concerti as well as the Triple Concerto together with violinist Gil Shaham, cellist Truls Mørk, and the Tönhalle Orchestra Zürich under David Zinman for the Arte Nova/BMG label.
    Born in Tashkent in the Soviet Union on April 10, 1958, Bronfman immigrated to Israel with his family in 1973, where he studied with pianist Arie Vardi, head of the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University. In the United States, he studied at The Juilliard School, Marlboro and the Curtis Institute, and with Rudolf Firkusny, Leon Fleisher and Rudolf Serkin. Bronfman became an American citizen in July 1989.

Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida has enjoyed playing as principal oboe of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since 1991. For two years prior, she was associate principal oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra
    DeAlmeida has been honored with the commissioning of three oboe concerti for her by the Pittsburgh Symphony. The first one, commissioned by Lorin Maazel, was composed by Leonardo Balada and premiered in 1993 with Lorin Maazel conducting. The following season she recorded it with Maazel and the symphony for New World records.
    The second Pittsburgh commission for DeAlmeida was written by Lucas Richman. She premiered it in 2006 with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. In 2008, she performed it again with the Knoxville Symphony, Lucas Richman conducting. In 2015, she recorded this concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Lucas Richman conducting, for Albany Records. A third commissioned concerto, composed by Alan Fletcher, will premiered with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck in this weekend’s series of three concert.
    Teaching has always been a rewarding part of DeAlmeida’s artistic  life. She has been associate teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Music since 2012, and a faculty member there since 1991. She has held teaching positions at Temple University in Philadelphia and Trenton State College in New Jersey, and has also been invited to teach at the National Orchestral Institute at the University of Maryland as well as the New World Symphony.
    She is frequently asked to teach masterclasses at universities in the United States and abroad. In 2003, DeAlmeida was featured on national television on the CBS “Early Show” in a story relating to the oboe and its remarkable health benefits for asthma sufferers, which led to her work as an ambassador for the American Respiratory Alliance in Pittsburgh.
    DeAlmeida volunteers at the classical radio station WQED in their fundraising pledge drives. She participates in the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Education and Community Engagement department playing and speaking to young people in various venues throughout the Pittsburgh area.  DeAlmeida received the Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Michigan, studying with Arno Mariotti, and the Master of Music degree from Temple University, as a student of Richard Woodhams. She proudly plays on F. Loree oboes of Paris, France
    The final three concerts of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 13 and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 14. The concerts are held at Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh. For tickets, phone 412-392-4900 or visit

Saturday, June 6, 2015

"Buyer and Cellar" - A Feyful Comedy

Tom Lenk in :"Buyer and Cellar" Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Public Theater

If reincarnation really does exist, I’d say that actor, Tom Lenk, had to be a hummingbird in his previous life. In "Buyer and Cellar," now at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, he flits around the stage of the O’Reilly like some high-octane- powered coffee addict. Even the broad stage of the theater seems too confining for his kinetic antics for he even moves off-stage into the audience during the intermission-less show, several times as far as the lower balcony.
Lenk plays Alex, a struggling actor, just fired from his job as a character portrayer at Disneyland and looking for work. Fate gives him a referral to a job many guys of the gay persuasion would die for- tending the 1800s faux shopping mall Barbra Streisand created in the basement of her palatial compound in Malibu
Playwright Jonathan Tolins got the inspiration for the work from Streisand’s 2010 book "My Passion for Design" in which she describes her mini-mall full of things she’s collected and amassed over years of determined shopping. It’s Alex’s job to keep things dusted, in order and available to its sole customer - Babs herself. A detail-addicted perfectionist, she knows that any mall worth its salt needs a salesclerk to satisfy her demand for realism and Alex fits the bill. (For added verismo, she’s even installed a popcorn machine and a yogurt dispenser - What flava would ya like?).
Tom Lenk in "Buyer and Cellar"
In this 100-minute, nonstop test of endurance that gives the Pittsburgh Marathon a run for its money, Lenk plays not only Alex but also his boyfriend, Barr (both on the fey side of the masculine-feminine spectrum), Streisand’s amanuensis, her husband, James Brolin, even the superstar herself. Lenk delivers his dialogue at a fast clip and transitions between characters at the blink of an eye. Add to this gallimaufry, Lenk’s celerity of movement and you might think everything is one big blur.  But you’d be wrong.
With directorial help from Don Stephenson, Lenk’s every word is comprehensible and in character, although, when it comes to the songstress diva, he explains early on he’s not out to impersonate Streisand but merely convey a mental impression of her.
As Alex spends lonely hours mired in the fantasy mall with shops for dolls, antiques, curios - the bric-a-brac of a lifetime of conspicuous consumption, he manages to fill in the time imaginatively. His big moment comes when Streisand enters the shop, strikes up a fellowship that grows over time (she comes almost daily to chit chat) then morphs into an unlikely intimacy between the wealthy starlet and the impecunious actor.
Besides his entertaining humor and wit, the playwright packs lots of Streisand lore, film references and name dropping  into the script and even exposes what he sees is some of the superstar’s vulnerabilities and peccadilloes. There’s so much to the script, in fact, that I imagine it must be the size of a Manhattan phone book in the days before cell phones.
But the play is more than just Streisand and Alex. For added interest, Tolins also shows how Alex’s relationship with Barry is affected, reshaped and transformed by his envious association with the film and pop music superstar. Near the end, there’s even a mood changing, emotionally moving scene that adds a bit of poignancy to the question of what is really important in life’s solitary saga.
With so much going on at a quick time romp, you hardly notice scenic designer, Michael Schweikardt’s minimalist, white-splashed  set with only a few props to support Lenk’s Herculean effort.
Tom Lenk in "Buyer and Cellar" Photo Credit Pittsburgh Public Theater

One thing though. I left the theater wondering what brand of coffee the actor drank. I could use a mug or two of his invigorating brew, especially on those dark, dreary mornings of winter.
"Buyer and Cellar" is at the Pittsburgh Public Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh through June 28. Phone 412-316-1600 or visit

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Extolling the Greatness of Wine - Some Handy Quotes for the Skeptics

    For those who already appreciate the refined qualities of wine, no additional reinforcement is needed to deepen your affection for the  marvels that can be done with the fruit of the vine. But for novices and skeptics on the cusp of fandom, here's some praise from greater minds than mine I'd like to share sent today from Wine Awesomeness, more than a wine club that's self-described as a monthly journey curated for adventurous souls.

1) “It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend; one’s present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason.” – Traditional Latin Saying
2) “Either give me more wine or leave me alone.” – Maulana Jalal al-Din Rumi
3) “One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters… but with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.” – Charles Baudelaire
4) “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” – Benjamin Franklin
5) “Wine makes all things possible.” – George RR Martin
7) “The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.” – Benjamin Franklin
8) “I drink when I have occasion, and sometimes when I have no occasion.” – Miguel Cervantes
9) “The juice of the grape is the liquid quintessence of concentrated sunbeams.” – Thomas Love Peacock
10) “Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” – Ernest Hemingway