Friday, April 29, 2016

Pittsburgh Opera's "The Rake's Progress" Opens Saturday for a Four Performance Run

Anne Trulove (Layla Claire) shares a tender moment with her beau Tom Rakewell (Alek Shrader) Photo Credit: David Bachman Photography

Pittsburgh Opera concludes its 77th season with the Pittsburgh premiere of the David Hockney production of Stravinsky’s THE RAKE’S PROGRESS. Performances are on April 30 and May 3,  6, and 8 at the Benedum Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The plot follows Tom Rakewell, who squanders his large inheritance on women, drinking and gambling.

Tom’s journey from fortunate heir, to gambler, to inmate at Bedlam is based on a famous series of engravings by William Hogarth from 1732.

The opera itself is by Igor Stravinsky, who was inspired by Hogarth’s engravings. It premiered in 1951. The libretto was written by poets W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Pittsburgh Opera is performing the David Hockney production, with jaw-dropping sets, props, wigs and costumes designed by “the most influential British artist of all time”. Hockney mimics the feel of  Hogarth’s original engravings, using black cross hatching and the three colors printers used in Hogarth’s time: red, blue and green.

The performances are essentially a living David Hockney art installation set to Stravinsky’s beautiful neo-classical music.
• Sung in the original English with projected English titles

THE RAKE’S PROGRESS features a superlative cast, including:
Alek Shrader as Tom Rakewell Photo Credit: David Bachman Photography

 Alek Shrader (Tom Rakewell), a past winner of the Metropolitan Opera National
Council Auditions who has had a meteoric rise in the opera world. Alek has
performed around the globe to great acclaim, and is making his Pittsburgh Opera
 Layla Claire (the virtuous Anne Trulove), who has received rave reviews by The
New York Times and others for her performance in this role at the Metropolitan
Opera. Her most recent Pittsburgh Opera appearance was in 2013, singing the role
of Pamina in The Magic Flute.
 David Pittsinger, who sings the role of the sinister Nick Shadow, makes his 13th
appearance at Pittsburgh Opera, but first since 2008. Mr. Pittsinger is renowned for
his Helen Hayes Award-nominated performance as Emile de Becque in Rodgers &
Hammerstein’s South Pacific at the Kennedy Center. He famously performed in
both The Met’s Hamlet and on Broadway in South Pacific on the same day.
On stage April 30, May 3, 6 and 8, THE RAKE’S PROGRESS is a powerful way to end the
opera season. Tickets start at just $12. For reservations, phone 412-456-666 or visit website

Layla Claire as Anne Trulove Photo Credit David Bachman Photography

Three facts about THE RAKE’S PROGRESS
1. An amazing assemblage of 20th century cultural titans had their hands in this opera:
 Music by Igor Stravinsky- “one of music’s truly epochal innovators”
 Libretto (screenplay) by Chester Kallman and W. H. Auden, “arguably the 20th
century’s greatest poet”
 Sets and costumes designed by David Hockney, “the most influential British
artist of all time”
2. You might expect the owner of the largest David Hockney collection in the greater
Pittsburgh area to be one of the regions’ many fine museums, or perhaps a wealthy
private collector. It’s not. Pittsburgh Opera is the fortunate owner of Mr. Hockney’s
THE RAKE’S PROGRESS production, which features hundreds of meticulously
designed period costumes, amazing wigs, sets and props.
3. David Hockney was a contemporary of Andy Warhol in the Pop Art movement. Andy
interviewed David for Andy Warhol’s T.V in 1981. The Andy Warhol Museum is
generously loaning Pittsburgh Opera that interview footage, which will be played in
the Benedum Center lobby prior to each performance of THE RAKE’S PROGRESS.

  • Anne Trulove (Layla Claire) and Nick Shadow (David Pittsinger) compete for Tom Rakewell’s (Alek Shrader) heart and soul Photo Credit: David Bachman Photography

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Medea Vodka - Great Taste with a High Tech Stratagem

Whether you like your vodka straight up or mixed as in Martini, Dubonnet Cocktail, Bloody Mary or Cape Codder, Medea Vodka has the versatility to satisfy both taste preferences.. This award-winning, 80-proof spirit may come with a classical Greek name but it’s made with artesian water in Scheidam, Holland, well-known for its distilleries and malthouses, including that of the maker of Ketel One.
Before opening the bottle for a first ever taste, I fooled around with the bottle’s high tech component - a programmable LED label that comes with six accessible messages that light up with scrolling letters over its blue label - much like the news messages on the buildings at Times Square.
For those computer geeks who like to be more interactive, there’s another option to get your message across - download the Medea Vodka app from the Apple App Store (IOS) or Google Play (Android) and program your own personalized message (up to 225 letters each).
The lit-up programmable label (the word’s first) is a definite eye-catcher, and the bottle’s Wow! factor is a  good conversation starter at parties or when displayed on a bar or counter. Use the programmed messages such as Happy Birthday and Happy New Year or create your own to let the world know what’s on your mind.
Medea won a double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for marketing, and its innovative programmable element certainly helped get its some deserved attention.
But what about taste?  My preference was to try it straight up after spending some time in the freezer. (It’s been said that Medea’s LED component can withstand several days of ultra-cold temperatures without losing its ability to generate its messages).
Impressed by its smooth, clean and crisp sensation in the mouth followed by a slight burn, I found the vodka has a pleasant but fleeting sweetness that slides across a slate-like foundation with slight touches of vanilla, clove, citrus and pepper.
Keep in mind, however, Medea is neutral enough to serve as mixer in your favorite cocktail. As to cost, in Pennsylvania, Medea Vodka sells for $33.89 for a 750 ml bottle.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Pick of the Week - Bach Choir to Perform "Smoke and Steel" at Historic Carrie Furnace

To close its 81st concert season, the Bach Choir presents a newly commissioned choral work entitled Smoke and Steel. Written by CMU composer and Pittsburgh native Nancy Galbraith, and based on a striking poem by Carl Sandburg, the piece celebrates the history of steel manufacturing in Pittsburgh.

These performances will be presented at the Carrie Furnace historic site in Braddock, P\a.
Written for chorus, orchestra and bass-baritone soloist, Smoke and Steel explores the rigors of working in the mills and also paints a vivid history of the process and the trials of the job.

Renowned bass-baritone Kevin Glavin is the featured soloist and he, like the composer, is a local product with deep roots in the steel industry via his father and grandfather. The performances will also feature a terrific graphic montage of early-industrial Pittsburgh drawings and paintings from the collection of local historian Bruce Wolf.

About this production of Smoke and Steel, Maestro Thomas Douglas says:
“It has taken over two years to bring this project to fruition and we are very excited. The opportunity to celebrate the steel workers who built this city has been a dream of mine for some time. Collaborating with my friend and colleague Nancy Galbraith has been a delight, and her choice of the brilliant Carl Sandburg poem really speaks to the ethic and effort of those who came before. Their muscle, brains and blood make it possible for those of us who now work in Pittsburgh to enjoy the fruits of their labor.”

When asked about her involvement in the project composer Nancy Galbraith said,
“When Thomas approached me about composing a work for the Bach Choir I was intrigued, but wanted to learn more. Now, having spent some months unearthing stories and information about the industry in which my own grandfather toiled, I am pleased with the product that honors and commemorates the workers and their families. The opportunity to see the work presented at the Carrie Furnace site is a wonderful tribute to the many who built this city, and, indeed, much of our nation.”

 Join the Bach Choir for the world premiere performances of this exciting entry to the Choral music canon, and enjoy it in the perfect venue – Carrie Furnace in Braddock – where history was made then, and will be again at the end of April.

Performances at Carrie Furnace historic site, Carrie Furnace Blvd, Swissvale, PA 15120 - Saturday, April 30th @ 4:00pm and Sunday, May 1st @ 4:00pm.
Concert information:
Who: The Bach Choir of Pittsburgh
Thomas W. Douglas, Artistic Director
What: Smoke and Steel – world premiere
Nancy Galbraith, Composer
When: Saturday, April 30, 2016 @ 4:00 pm
Sunday, May 1, 2016 @ 4:00 pm
Where: Carrie Furnace historic site
Carrie Furnace Boulevard
Swissvale, PA 15120
Tickets are available in advance at Showclix or at 1-888-718-4253
And at the door on the day of performance.
Prices range from $9.95-$30.00
More info at

Sunday, April 24, 2016

C Street Brass to Help Carnegie Carnegie Celebrate 115th Anniversary

C Street Brass

Not all of us reach, let alone truly celebrate advanced old age birthdays. Even fewer do so looking lovelier, being exponentially more vibrant and in the best physical shape of our lives.

But that’s exactly how the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie feels on the cusp of its 115th birthday!  The Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall officially opened its doors on May 1, 1901.  It is celebrating the occasion with a band that combines world class musicianship with world class showmanship

  Peoples Natural Gas Presents C Street Brass takes place Saturday, April 30th at 7:30 p.m.  C Street Brass, which began as a small music project amongst five friends, proved at the ACFL&MH’s annual benefit concert last October that they know how to command a stage, delight an audience and work magic with their horns.

“I had no idea that five horns could sound that gorgeous or that five horn players could be so much fun!” recalls ACFL&MH Executive Director Maggie Forbes.

C Street connects lovers of the arts from all walks of life around a unique and innovative concert experience.  The group prides itself on being equally as comfortable in the sound world of baroque music as it is in dubstep (electronic dance music). Through constant performance focused on discovery and growth C Street Brass continues to expand the limits of what is possible with five brass instruments.

Members of the quintet are Kyle Anderson on trumpet; Hakeem Bilal on bass trombone; Gabriel Colby on trombone; Joe Hughes on French horn; and Scott Nadelson on trumpet.

Peoples Natural Gas Presents: C Street Brass features baroque, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein and Billy Joel to name a few.  It’s a program guaranteed to bring the audience to its feet! C Street tickets $20 in advance, $25 at the door, $15 for students. Their concert will be followed by a cash bar reception in the Studio.  Mt. Pleasant based Helltown Brewing is bringing the beer.**********300 Beechwood Avenue Carnegie, PA 15106-2699 (412) 276-3456Fax: (412) 276-9472

Carnegie Borough legally incorporated on March 1, 1894.  Seven years later, Andrew Carnegie’s legacy gift to the town that took his named opened its doors. The now defunct Carnegie Union ran a front page story (complete with capitalization idiosyncrasies) on April 26, 1901. The Library will be open to the public on May 1st at 9 a.m. Residents of Carnegie over fourteen years of age may secure application blanks at the following places: Thompson’s drug store, corner Washington avenue and Main Street; Hardy’s drug store, corner Fourth avenue and Chartiers street Valley Pharmacy, corner Fourth avenue and Third street, and “Item” and UNION offices. 

Children’s application blanks will be given out by the teachers, or may be obtained at the Library after April 28th.Fill out your application blank IN INK, bring or send it to the Library after April 28th, or mail it now, addressing it (on the bank side) to the Librarian, and affixing a 1cent stamp on the upper right-hand corner....The Librarian expects to have 3000 or more volumes ready for public use by opening day.

There were no trees on the Library’s grounds in 1901. Charles Wright, the ACFL’s first Library Director earned $1,400 per year.  Lola Davis, the Children’s Librarian salary was $500.  After he left his position, Mr. Wright married Miss Davis.  The world was a very different place, but Mr. Carnegie’s extraordinary gift to Carnegie Borough and its citizenry endures.

The Andrew Carnegie Free Library is one of only five libraries in the world that Andrew Carnegie endowed. The other endowed libraries are in Dunfermline, Scotland (Carnegie’s home town), Braddock (the first Carnegie Library in America), Homestead and Duquesne (torn down in the 1960s). 

Carnegie operated steel mills in these three Mon Valley communities. Carnegie went on to fund 2,500 libraries around the world.  But everywhere else, he funded buildings.  He gave Pittsburgh its grand building in Oakland in 1895 with the understanding that the City run the library: hence public library.

Income from Mr. Carnegie’s initial $100,000 endowment gift proved insufficient almost immediately.  Decades of poverty and water damage ravaged the grand facility.  Despite its extraordinary legacy and always beautiful bone structure, some people believed the building should be demolished.  Fortunately, many more believed fervently to the contrary. But survival was a struggle.  Thirty years ago the Library & Music Hall had $136 in its checking account after payroll.  Then the Chartiers Valley Partnership (CVP), a group spearheaded by a couple of Carnegie High School Class of 1951 graduates, launched an ambitious capital campaign in late 2003 with a $500,000 challenge grant. 

The stipulation from the anonymous donor was that the community must contribute a dollar for dollar match to secure the grant.  They had ten months to do so.  In mid-September, the campaign was just $45,000 short when disaster struck.  On September 17, 2004 flooding caused by Hurricane Ivan devastated Carnegie.  But almost mythically, in the two weeks between the flood and the September 30 deadline, the community contributed $60,000 to meet and exceed its goal.  The ACFL&MH had its first $1 million.
The campaign has gone on to raise more than $8 million. The building is structurally sound, weatherproof and accessible. The acoustically superb Music Hall is graced with comfortable new seats and a light-filled lobby. The ACFL&MH’s national treasure of a Civil War room was meticulously restored in 2010. The Library was air conditioned in 2011.  Later that year the waterlogged gym was converted into “urban hipster,” multi-purpose programming space. 

On Presidents Day 2015 the ACFL&MH opened its Lincoln Gallery.  Last October, board, staff and community came together to celebrate the interior restoration of the Library. 

Carnegie Borough has the loveliest library in Allegheny County! The ACFL&MH is not finished.  The full restoration of the Music Hall and major improvements t othe grounds, parking and exterior lighting remain.

But on April 30, the ACFL&MH celebrates with C Street Brass!#######Free shuttle service from Carnegie’s Main Street Parking lots. (Parking is free, permit parking restrictions are waived evenings and weekends.) For e tickets and more detailed information visit or call 412-276-3456.Listen Locally: The 115th Anniversary Season is also made possible through the generosity the A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust of The Pittsburgh Foundation

Dogwood - One of the Joys of Spring - Ready to Bloom at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Dogwood - One of the Joys of Spring
As of Friday, April 22, the dogwoods at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden were “beginning to show brightness of color and ready to bloom” according to chief executive officer, Christie Koebley.

With the hint of dogwood blossoms in the very near future, Koeblev said the botanic garden is still “very pretty at the moment with a profusion of daffodils and tulips.”

The garden is open:
Wednesday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday & Tuesday CLOSED


Members: Always free
Adults: $9.00
Seniors 62+: $8.00
Student with ID: $8.00
Children 3-18: $6.00
Children under 3: Free
American Horticultural Society Members: Free                    
$1 off for Allegheny County residents
$1 off for active military
The last ticket sale is 90 minutes before close.
For more information phone 412-444-4464 or visit

Three miles of groomed trails with a one-mile ADA-accessible trail. Off-road strollers and leashed dogs are welcome.
Exploration Stations to delight families are along the Forest Stories Trail.
A serene Asian lotus pond brought back to life after decades of pollution.
The Dogwood Trail winds through the Margaret Lawrence Simon meadow filled with wildflowers and charming birdhouses, a rustic gazebo and places to sit and enjoy nature.
Historic farmstead featuring a 1784 log cabin, heritage apple orchard, heirloom sheep and chickens.

Dogwood Festival
At the moment, the Pittsburgh Botanic garden is gearing up for its annual Dogwood Festival, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 8. The celebration begins with a Mother’s Day brunch at 9 a.m. in the beautifully restored 1870s barn. The fun continues with tours of  the Dogwood Meadow, live music and children’s nature-theme arts and crafts.

Other’s Day brunch requires preregistration and includes admission to the garden. To register, go to The cost is $35 for adults, $15 for children, free to children under 3.

Highlights of the Festival include:
9 a.m. Children’s discovery cart – a mobile learning center that allows students of all ages to engane in an informal education activity.
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Face painting
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Brunch
Noon and 1 and 2 p.m. Tour of the Botanic Garden
1 p.m Decorate your own Dogwood Flower Cookie
1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Live music by the Penn Quartet
2 to 4 p.m. Children’s Crafts 

Alert: Baldwin Road will be closed from March 17, 2016 until further notice
From Downtown via Interstate 376 West
Take Exit 62 marked Campbell Run Road
Turn left onto Campbell’s Run Road.
Take an immediate left onto Boyce Road. Follow Boyce up the hill (don’t return to the highway).
At the first intersection go straight – Boyce Road becomes McMichael Road.
In 0.2 mile there is a fork. Bear right staying on Cowan Road (Road sign is hard to see).
Follow Cowan Road 1.1 miles to stop sign at “T”.
Turn right onto Baldwin Road.
Follow Baldwin Road 0.7 miles, and make a right onto Pinkerton Run Road.
The Bayer Welcome Center is up ½ mile on the left.  Parking lot entrance is on right.

From North via Interstate 79 South
Take Exit 59B, following signs to I-376 West/ Airport.
Take Exit 62 marked Campbell Run Road.
Then pick up the suggested directions above for travel from Downtown.

From Pittsburgh Airport via Interstate 376 East
Take Exit 61 toward Ridge Road.
Turn right onto Ridge Road.
Go past the entrance to Settler’s Cabin Park/Wave Pool.  Ridge Rd. becomes a two-lane one-way road.  Continue on Ridge Rd. bearing right near the end of the one-way section and continue to the stop sign.
Turn right onto McMichael Road
In 0.2 mile bear right onto Cowan Road (McMichael goes sharply to left; Cowan Road sign is hard to see).
Follow Cowan Road 1.1 miles to stop sign.
At the “T” turn right onto Baldwin Road.
Follow Baldwin Road 0.7 miles, and make a right onto Pinkerton Run Road.
The Bayer Welcome Center is up ½ mile on the left.  Parking lot entrance is on right.

From Weirton, WV via US-22 East
Travel past the Hankey Farms exit to Interstate 376E; merge right toward Downtown Pittsburgh.
Take Exit 61 toward Ridge Road.
Turn right onto Ridge Road.
Then pick up the suggested directions above for travel from the Airport.

From Washington, PA via Interstate 79 North
Take Exit 57 Carnegie.
Keep left at the fork and follow signs for Oakdale.
Turn left onto W. Main Street.
Continue 4.1 miles along Noblestown Road/ State Route 3048.
Turn right onto Pinkerton Run Road.
The Bayer Welcome Center is up 1/2 mile on the left.  Parking lot entrance is on right.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Incredible Chuchito Valdes to Perform at Cabaret Theater Downtown Pittsburgh

Chuchito Valdes

On April 10th, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust welcomes Cuban jazz legend, Chuchito Valdes and his trio to the Cabaret Theater, 655 Penn Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh. Don’t miss this one. I got to see Chuchito perform at the Cancun Jazz Festival a few years back and was blown away by his performance.

The Havana-born piano extraordinaire, Valdes, comes from one of Cuba’s most distinguished musical families. His fiery performance style is sure to delight and get the audience dancing in the aisles of the Cabaret Theater.

Here’s a bit of his bio, taken off his website:
 Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, pianist, composer and arranger Jesus “Chuchito” Valdes, is the third-generation manifestation of a Cuban jazz piano dynasty that includes his father, Chucho Valdes and grandfather, Bebo Valdes.

The oldest of five siblings, Valdes was a child prodigy, attending and graduating from La Escuela de Musica Ignacio Cervantes. He had his first professional gig at the age of 16, working with Cuban singer and trumpeter Bobby Carcasses, and also accompanied singers Pello El Afrokan and Anibel  Lopes for a time.

In the md 80’s Valdes was a member of the Cuban jazz combo Sonido Contemporaneo, and by the late 90’s he had taken his father’s spot in the renowned Irakere band when the elder Valdes opted to go solo.

Eventually Chuchito followed suit, leading his own band and touring behind his fiery brand of Afro-Cuban Jazz. He released a debut album, Encantado, in 2002 on Town Crier Records, following it with La Timba in 2002 and Herencia in 2004, both on J&N Records, and Keys of Latin Jazz in 2007, which was nominated for a Latin Grammy from Sony BMG International.  Then followed with Cuban Dreams in 2009 which was also nominated for a Latin Grammy, the same year he also released the Prince of Latin Jazz.  In 2010, released Viva El Sonido Cubano New York is Now which was nominated for a Grammy.

In 2012, he was also nominated for Chuchito Valdes Live in Chicago and also for Chuchito Valdes Piano Charango.  In 2013, he released Grand Piano Live Piano, which was nominated for a Latin Grammy and in the same year, he also released Carnaval en Piano Charango which was also nominated for a Latin Grammy.  In 2014 he released Reflections and in 2015 he released Horizontes.
He has also performed at festivals, clubs and concerts throughout the world: from Cuba and the Caribbean to North America, South America, and Europe. Chuchito is recognized as a master of Cuban music including Son, Danzon, Cuban Timba and Guaguanco. 

Chuchito Valdes currently resides in Cancun Mexico, and he is a frequent performer in the United States and Canada.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust JazzLive series celebrates National Jazz

Appreciation Month with Chuchito Valdes. Tickets are $30.75. To make a reservation phone 412-456-6666 or visit website

Friday, April 22, 2016

Pick of the Week - Cirque de la Symphonie at Heinz Hall

Cirque de la Symphonie, the sixth concert of the 2015-16 PNC Pops Season, is bringing stunning visual displays to the classical concert experience at Heinz Hall on April 29-May 1.

The program is a unique form of three-dimensional entertainment, combining classical masterpieces with unbelievable human body performances. Aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers and strongmen will all be part of the show, on and above the stage.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of guest conductor Jack Everly, will join the cirque performers in a beautiful entertainment spectacle. The program will feature a variety of musical styles including orchestral, cinematic, ballet, waltz and tango from an abundance of classic and contemporary composers such as Shostakovich, Williams, Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Respighi and Strauss, among others.

Opening with the lively “Festive Overture,” the program will dazzle with selections from Carmen, Carousel and Swan Lake, while cirque artists bring the stage to life.

The concert begins at 8 p.m. on Friday, 2:30 and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets, ranging in price from $24 to $99, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900 or visiting

About the Artists
JACK EVERLY is the principal pops conductor of the Indianapolis and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras, Naples Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra (Ottawa). He has conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall and appears regularly with the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom Music Center. Everly will conduct more than 90 performances in more than 20 North American cities this season.

As music director of the National Memorial Day Concert and A Capitol Fourth on PBS, Everly proudly leads the National Symphony Orchestra in these patriotic celebrations on the National Mall. These concerts attract hundreds of thousands attendees on the lawn and the broadcasts reach millions of viewers and are some of the very highest rated programming on PBS television.

Everly is the also music director of Duke Energy Yuletide Celebration, now a 30-year tradition. He led the ISO in its first Pops recording, Yuletide Celebration, Volume One, that included three of his own orchestrations. Some of his other recordings include In The Presence featuring the Czech Philharmonic and Daniel Rodriguez, Sandi Patty’s Broadway Stories, the soundtrack to Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Everything's Coming Up Roses: The Complete Overtures Of Jule Styne.

Originally appointed by Mikhail Baryshnikov, Everly was conductor of the American Ballet Theatre for 14 years, where he served as music director. In addition to his ABT tenure, he teamed with Marvin Hamlisch on Broadway shows that Hamlisch scored. He conducted Carol Channing hundreds of times in Hello, Dolly! in two separate Broadway productions.
In 1998, Everly created the Symphonic Pops Consortium, serving as music director. The Consortium, based in Indianapolis, produces new theatrical pops programs, including the most recent Classic FM: Decades of Radio Hits. In the past 17 years, more than 275 performances of SPC programs have taken place across the United States and Canada.

Everly, a graduate of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, is a recipient of the 2015 Indiana Historical Society Living Legends Award and holds an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Franklin College in his home state of Indiana. He is a proud resident of the Indianapolis community for more than 14 years and when not on the podium you can find Everly at home with his family, which includes Max the wonder dog.

CIRQUE DE LA SYMPHONIE is an exciting production designed to bring the magic of cirque to the music hall. It is an elegant adaptation of some of the most amazing cirque acts performed on a stage, shared with the full symphony orchestra and showcasing many of the best artists in the world. The audience is thrilled and bedazzled by aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers and strongmen. These accomplished veterans include world record holders, gold-medal winners of international competitions, Olympians and some of the most original talent ever seen. Each performance is perfectly choreographed to classical masterpieces, raising cirque artistry to a fine arts level.

Adding a stunning visual element to the concert experience, these aerialists and acrobats provide a three-dimensional entertainment extravaganza. Orchestras play with enhanced enthusiasm, while patrons marvel at the jaw-dropping spectacle of aerialists flying overhead and astonishing acrobatic feats. Fusing the power and majesty of the live orchestra with the best of cirque artistry, Cirque de la Symphonie is the only cirque company in the world that performs exclusively with symphony orchestras. Over one hundred orchestras worldwide have featured Cirque de la Symphonie in sold-out venues, adding energy and excitement to the concert experience.

Friday, April 29 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 30 at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday, May 1 at 2:30 p.m.

Heinz Hall
PNC POPS: Cirque de la Symphonie
JACK EVERLY, conductor

Dmitri Shostakovich                              Festive Overture, Opus 96

Aram Khachaturian                                Suite No. 1 from Gayane
III. Ayesha's Awakening and Dance

Le Pero, Alfredo & Gardel, Carlos          Por Una Cabeza
(Robert Wendel)                                              

John Williams                                       "Devil's Dance" from The Witches of Eastwick

Georges Bizet                                       "Les Toréadors" from Suite No. 1 from Carmen

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky                                     Waltz from The Sleeping Beauty, Opus 66a

Emmanuel Chabrier                               España

Camille Saint-Saëns                               "Bacchanale" from Samson and Delilah


Zequinha de Abreu                                Tico-Tico No Fubá
(Carmen Dragon)                                               

Richard Rodgers                                    "The Carousel Waltz" from Carousel

John Williams                                       "Flight to Neverland" from Hook

Ottorino Respighi                                   Can-Can from La Boutique fantasque

Stephen Sondheim                                    "Comedy Tonight" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky                         Waltz from Swan Lake

Richard Strauss                                      Also sprach Zarathustra, Opus 30 /
Ottorino Respighi                                  I pini di Roma [The Pines of Rome]
II. Pines near a Catacomb
IV. The Pines of the Appian Way

Dmitri Kabalevsky                                 "Galop" from The Comedians, Opus 26

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pittsburgh Gallery Crawl - Art. Theatre. Film. Music. Free!

    The Pittsburgh Cultural district downtown has exploded with  new restaurants, theater, dance, comedy and other art happenings. Quarterly, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust showcases what’s new in Pittsburgh’s art scene during a gallery crawl. With over 20 Crawl stops, participants will find something to grab their attention.
    What’s even better is that admission is FREE to all locations on the Gallery Crawl.
    Additionally, from April 21 to April 23 after sundown at 8th and Penn Avenue. participants can become a part of the #MyLegacyShadow project. Just come by the tent in the parking lot across from 806 Penn Avenue, show your shadow, leave your legacy, add your portrait to the mix and learn more about Michael Chow, his work and his legacy, currently on display as part of his Voice for My Father exhibition through May 8.
    For more information and to download a crawl brochure, go to

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tennis Anyone? City Theatre Serves up "The Last Match"

JD Taylor as Sergei and Danny Binstock as Tim in "The Last Match" Photo Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover
There’s an interesting symmetry and balance in playwright Anna Ziegler’s "The Last Match," now getting a staging at the City Theatre on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
A four character play, "Match" features two men and two women caught up in the excitement and fierce competition of the semi-finals in the U.S. Open. The script takes us right into the heat of the match, an evenly divided series of initial sets in which both players share the wins.
The playwright also plays with time and location, taking us out of the moment with flashbacks and various location changes where the tennis headliners interact with their significant others. Both scenarios get almost equal symmetrical play, which drives the plot along its 90-minute, intermissionless com-dram arc.
Tim ( Danny Binstock), a 33-year old six time Open winner, is pitted against Russian-born Sergei (JD Taylor), an up-and-coming potential star who’s yet to win a significant match but feels that now is his time.
Both men have their own singular set of issues. Tim  hasn’t won anything big the current tennis season and is feeling the tug of an aging body, even though he’s at a time of life that most of the audience the evening I attended would probably give their eye teeth to return to, myself included.
He’s also caught up in a marital relationship that’s been unable to produce progeny, a failure that plagues and torments his wife Mallory (Daina Michelle Griffith), herself a former tennis player who’s now forced to coach due to a knee injury.
Born into the upper middle class, Tim didn’t suffer  the economic disadvantages experienced by Sergei, who was born in an obscure village on the Caspian (if I heard right) and later orphaned. What both have in common is their devotion to their sport and their drive to win to the point of obsession. Both are also passionately urged on by their female partners who cheer and goad them to triumph from the stands.
Back stories take us into the past where the players rehash some of the important events of their lives, retelling their hardships, woes, disappointments, triumphs and joys. Tim has spent his life constantly trying to improve his sport, which left him little time for anything else. With retirement now a bit closer than he’d like, he mulls over the thought of a lackluster life off the tennis circuit.
As a pro tennis playing husband, Binstock evokes a caring, affectionate  relationship with Mallory, and is sensitive to her worries about being childless. On the other hand, he manages his jock persona as deftly as his purported wicked serve and smashing backhand.
A young firecracker, Taylor as Sergei is intoxicatingly amusing, an antic personality who instinctively knows when to turn it down in the scenes that move from the athletic competition to interaction with his wife, Galina (Robin Abramson)..
Sporting audibly authentic Russian accents a la dialect coach, Don Wadsworth, both Taylor and Abramson are fiery spirits, and its fun to watch them play cat and mouse with one another, toying romantically as much as Sergei and Tim play out their mental games on the court.
Abramson is especially colorful and theatrically charismatic as Sergei’s domineering Slavic paramour, a vamp who comes across as cold as a Russian winter but also with a hinting whisper of a warmer spring breeze just over the horizon.
As a counterpoint to the tough-skinned, Galina, Griffith shows a more low key personality, but one capable of firing up when the talk moves to topics like winning at tennis or family.
Part of the comic drama’s allure is the exploration of the psychology in play during the match that transcends the mere physicality and athletic prowess of the dueling tennis stars. They try, in some cases successfully, to rattle one another, challenging one another with psychological salvos in between volleys and serves.
    Scenic designer, Narelle Sissons, keeps things minimalist with nothing more to intimate the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where the U.S. Open is played, than a couple of white chairs and an occasional table, nice fits for the intimate Hamburg Studio stage.
    While I do get enthralled by an elaborate set, fully detailed, I equally enjoy a visual blank canvas that seems to serve as a catalyst to my usually lethargic imagination. While we don’t get racquets and balls or even a net in the City Theatre production, we do get some excellent, in-sync sound effects from Joe Pino that are so effective in replicating the snap of a ball off the racquet you almost want to duck out of the way.
    To keep score as to who’s winning each game along with who’s leading in the match, lighting designer, Ann G. Wrightson projects a helpful, blown-up, score card at the back of the stage.
Even if you know very little about tennis, you should enjoy this finely tuned production directed with snap and panache by Tracy Bridgen. As a primer to the sport, the theater’s administrative staff includes a write up in the program that outlines some of the rules and history of the game.
    The production's fine acting, exemplary writing, and solid direction and technical support are still not enough to propel the play into the A class of dramatic experiences. But as every high school freshman knows, a B is still better than average.
"The Last Match is at the City Theatre on Pittsburgh’s South Side through May 15. For tickets, phone 412-431-2489

Saturday, April 16, 2016


     On the heels of a highly successful multi-city tour and run on Broadway, the world’s best-selling touring magic show, THE ILLUSIONISTS – LIVE FROM BROADWAY™ will visit Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh on April 19 through April 24 during a 25 city U.S. tour.
    The New York Times raved the show is, “A High-Tech Magic Extravaganza.” THE ILLUSIONISTS – LIVE FROM BROADWAY™ is a season special part of the 2015-2016 PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series, presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Symphony, and Broadway Across America.
   Full of hilarious magic tricks, death-defying stunts and acts of breathtaking wonder, THE ILLUSIONISTS has shattered box office records worldwide and thrilled audiences of all ages with a mind-blowing spectacular showcasing the jaw-dropping talents of seven of the most incredible illusionists on earth. This blockbuster theatrical show has dazzled sold-out audiences worldwide.
    Creative Producer Simon Painter said, “We can’t wait to bring this electrifying show to Pittsburgh for a truly entertaining experience for the whole family. THE ILLUSIONISTS is the most non-stop and powerful mix of outrageous and astonishing acts ever to be seen on the live stage.” For more information visit
     In Pittsburgh, performances of THE ILLUSIONISTS at Heinz Hall will be Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tickets ($26-$72) are available for purchase by calling (412) 392-4900, visiting the Heinz Hall Box Office, (600 Penn Avenue) or online at
    For more information about the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series, please call 412-456-6666 or visit  For more information about subscriptions to the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series, please call (412) 456-1390 or email:  Groups of 10 or more may call (412) 471-6930, email or visit
About The Performers
The seven stars, each a master in their own field, are as follows.
The Manipulator, Yu Ho-Jin
    Considered a rising superstar in the world of magic; Yu Ho-Jin was recently named the 2014 “Magician of the Year,” by Academy of Magical Arts and was the first Asian to win the Grand Prix at the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques, also known as the “Olympics of Magic.”

The Anti-Conjuror, Dan Sperry
Described as Marilyn Manson meets David Copperfield, Dan combines the art of magic with the macabre and is one of the top-10 most Googled people, thanks to a legendary “America’s Got Talent” appearance.
The Trickster, Jeff Hobson
Jeff Hobson is the epitome of glamour and showmanship. Don’t be fooled by his innocent appearance; Jeff has audiences laughing long after the curtain goes down.
The Escapologist, Andrew Basso
Italy’s star escape artist, Andrew considers Houdini his hero and is fast becoming one of the world’s most popular illusionists. He is the only person in the world to perform Houdini’s famous Water Torture Cell with absolutely no covers.
The Inventor, Kevin James
Kevin James known for innovative illusions, is an inventor, comedian and collector of the strange and unusual. Kevin is one of the most prolific inventors of magic in the world and has created some of the most celebrated illusions of the last century.
The Weapon Master, Ben Blaque
Ben Blaque has established himself as America’s foremost master of the crossbow after appearing four times on America’s Got Talent. He performs incredibly dangerous acts of dexterity using highly powerful crossbows to shoot various objects supported by his assistant.

The Deceptionist, James More
James More’s modern approach to magic, involving fast-paced, high-risk illusion, combined with his good looks and charisma, have been witnessed by millions of people around the world. No camera tricks or special edits – what you see is what you get. He takes the art of illusion to new heights, with a performance that promises to keep you on the edge of your seat.
For more information visit
Stay connected with the magic and follow the official Instagram, Facebook and YouTube (@TheIllusionistsLive) and Twitter (@Illusionists7); #TheIllusionists.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

10th annual Civil War Living History Day! atthe Carnegie in Carnegie

The Early Mays
        The Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hallin Carnegie  offers a rich roster of programming for its 10th Annual Civil War Living History Day: this SATURDAY, APRIL 16.   In addition to ongoing tours of the Espy Post; Lincoln Gallery; Re-enactors' Drills & Camp Life; Sutlers Crafters, Antiques and Vendors;,Civil War Used Book Sale and Refreshments, special programming includes:
Kevin Knapp as Thaddeus S.C. Love, Chief Aeronaut, Army of the Potomac --    11:00 a.m.
Chartiers Cemetery Tours (122 Civil War veterans interred there) - 11:00 a.m.    and 1:00 p.m.
Victorian Tea  - 1:00 p.m. (sold out)
Dr. Andrew Waskie, Philadelphia GAR Museum - 2:30 p.m.
Co. A, 9th Pennsylvania Reserves Skirmish -  4:00 PM
Wrap up the day (5:00 p.m.) with a special capstone Concert!
Peoples Natural Gas Presents:
The Early Mays
WYEP’s 2014 Artist of the Year group, The Early Mays’ music rhythmic, evocative, dark and wistful.  Their Appalachian-inspired fold songs are built on deep country sensibilities, masterful ballad singing and
a sweet old-time sound that is perfect in the Music Hall.

Tickets at the old-time price of $5.00!

Free shuttle service from the parking lot on West Main Street (Citizen's lot  for this event only). Civil War programming is made possible through the generosity of the Massey Charitable Trust.

"Le Corsair" - Pirate Saga Done Ballet-Style

 Christopher Budzynski with wife and fellow principal dancer, Alexandra Kochis
    Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s season finale “Le Corsaire” with the PBT Orchestra has all the essentials of a pirate saga: kidnapping, mutiny and shipwreck, all told through a torrent of bravura dancing. The Russian classic closes PBT’s 2015-2016 Season April 15-17, at the Benedum Center.

    It’s the 19th-century tale of the pirate, Conrad, and his quest to liberate Medora, the woman that both he and the powerful Pasha, Seyd, love. Through mutiny, abductions and rescue missions, this underlying love story moors the plot line. Above all, “Le Corsaire” entertains with an unrestrained display of virtuosic dancing, which especially spotlights the company’s male dancers.

    The production is large and exotic – more than 70 performers will fill the colorful seaside bazaars and lush gardens of a place near Turkey. The choreography is a dancer’s dream – grand Russian ballet with plenty of opportunities for technical fireworks. Famous scenes include the corps of ballerinas in the dreamlike “Jardin Animé” and the pyrotechnics of the famous pas de trois between Medora, Conrad and Ali, where the ballerina mesmerizes with pinpoint turns and the male wows with huge leaps.

    “This production is a huge Russian classic and it’s also great fun. It’s an honor to work with Anna-Marie Holmes, who has staged ballets all over the world, and has expertly refined the scope of this work and filled it out with even bigger dancing than before,” said PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr. “It brings out the sharpest technical talents in our dancers as well as their dramatic flair. And, it gives our male dancers, especially, a chance to take the spotlight and unleash the strength of their dancing.”

    Loosely based on Lord Byron’s epic poem “Le Corsaire” (1814), the ballet premiered in 1856 at the Paris Opera with original choreography by Joseph Mazilier. In 1899, Marius Petipa re-choreographed it for the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, and it’s this version that has inspired PBT’s and other adaptations. The production features choreography after Marius Petipa and Konstantin Sergeyev, staging by Anna-Marie Holmes and a score composed by Adolphe Adam and enriched by excerpts from numerous composers, including Cesare Pugni, Prince Oldenberg, Leo Delibes and Riccardo Drigo.

    Tickets start at $28, and are available at, 412-456-6666 or the Box Office at Theater Square. Groups of 10 or more can save up to 50 percent on tickets by emailing or calling 412-454-9101.

Performance Times
Friday, April 15, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 16, at 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m.

PBT Connects Discussion Series
Free to all performance patrons

Afterthoughts: Friday, April 15, at 10:30 p.m.; Benedum Center
Join Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr and Anna-Marie Holmes, guest stager for Le Corsaire, for a post-performance discussion.

*Insights: Saturday, April 16, at 7 p.m.; Benedum Center
Join Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr and Maestro Charles Barker, PBT Music Director and Principal Conductor, for a performance preview.

Talks with Terry: Sunday, April 17, at 1 p.m.; Benedum Center
Watch company dancers take their onstage warm-up class, and talk with Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr about the production.

Audio-Described Performance: Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m.; Benedum Center
Sign out a headset to listen to live narration of the ballet (designed for visually impaired patrons). Headsets available at Guest Services Center with photo ID.

*RSVPs suggested. Please email or call 412-454-9109.

About PBT’s 2016-2017 Season
PBT returns to the main-stage in October with a redesigned production of “Giselle” (Oct. 28-30) and a series that continues with “The Nutcracker” (Dec. 2-27), “Alice in Wonderland” (Feb. 10-19), PBT and Dance Theatre of Harlem (March 17-26) and the North American premiere of Derek Deane’s “Romeo and Juliet” (April 21-23). Subscription packages start at $81 and are available at or by calling 412-454-9107. Single ticket sales open Aug. 22

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Western Pennsylvania National Parks Celebrate National Park Week 2016 Entrance Fees Waived April 16 - 24

Allegheny Portage Railroad Photo Credit: National Park Service
    Celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary and “Find Your Park” at the five Western Pennsylvania National Park Service Sites during National Park Week, April 16 through 24.  The five Western Pennsylvania National Park Service sites: Flight 93 National Memorial, Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Friendship Hill NHS, Johnstown Flood National Memorial and Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS invite local residents and visitors to the area to take advantage of this special opportunity while entrance fees are waived to visit the five Park sites and enjoy Spring in Western PA.
     During this fee free week, visitors will be able to take a hike on 31 miles of trails and view hundreds of artifacts that document the history of our nation on display in the five Visitor Centers.  Children will enjoy completing the free National Park Service Centennial Junior Ranger booklet and receiving a Centennial Junior Ranger Badge. Also New this year Eastern National has developed a Centennial Stamp for each Park Service site, so visitors will want to have their passport book stamped when touring the park Visitor Centers.
     “Find Your Park” is the theme for this year’s National Park Week. Western PA Parks Superintendent Stephen M. Clark encourages local residents and those traveling through the region to visit the five National Park Service sites located in Western PA. “For the National Park Service Centennial, we are celebrating National Park Week by giving everyone free admission all week!  National Park Week is an annual celebration of NPS parks and programs in communities nationwide.  We encourage everyone to find their own connection with in the vast network of public lands and places that protect and preserve our natural and cultural heritage.”

Flight 93 National Memorial Photo Credit: National Park Service

     During National Park Week entrance fees will be waived at Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Johnstown Flood National Memorial and Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site. Friendship Hill NHS and Flight 93 National Memorial have no entrance fee. Park visitors are encouraged to help spread the word by sharing your National Park Week experiences through social media by using hashtags #findyourpark and #nationalparks.
     National Park Week is a great opportunity to explore the countless ways there are to #FindYourPark. Launched in March 2015, Find Your Park/Encuentra Tu Parque is a public awareness and education movement to inspire people from all backgrounds to connect with, celebrate, and support America’s national parks and community-based programs. Celebrating the National Park Service Centennial and setting the stage for the Service's next 100 years, #FindYourPark invites people to discover and share their own unique connections to our nation's natural landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history.
Friendship Hill Photo Credit: National Park Service
        National Park week is America’s largest celebration of national heritage. It is about making great connections, exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, enjoying affordable vacation, and enhancing America’s best idea-the National Parks! Each of the 41- national park units across the country will also be celebrating National Park Week. Visit to learn more about National Park Week, the National Park Service Centennial and other events taking place throughout the year.

     To learn more about the Western PA National Parks: Visit the parks websites at Western PA Parks, like us on our Facebook pages, email or call MaryEllen Snyder at 724-329-8131 for information on special events planned in 2016 in the five National Parks in Western Pennsylvania.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Long-time Principal Dancer to Take Final Bow in October / 'Le Corsaire' Marks Penultimate Performance for Budzynski

     Christopher Budzynski with wife and fellow principal dancer, Alexandra Kochis

   After 10 seasons with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Principal dancer Christopher Budzynski has announced that he will retire following the company’s October 28-30, production of Giselle.   
    Next weekend at the Benedum Center, he’ll dan     Christopher Budzynski with wife and fellow principal dancer, Alexandra Kochis
    Beloved among fans for his powerful technique, elegant presence and insightful character studies, Budzynski joined PBT in 2006 as a soloist with his wife Alexandra Kochis, now a fellow principal dancer. Before joining PBT, Budzynski danced for 12 seasons with Boston Ballet, where he met his wife, making his main-stage debut at age 19 as the lead Russian dancer in “The Nutcracker.” From Swan Lake’s Prince Siegfried to the lead in Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations,” his first season in Pittsburgh brought him opportunities to shine in several starring roles, which impressed audiences and earned him a promotion to principal the following fall.  
    Since then, his principal roles have spanned ballet’s great story ballets: Prince Siegfried in "Swan Lake," Prince Desire in “The Sleeping Beauty,” Albrecht in “Giselle,” Solor in “La Bayadѐre,” the title role of “Romeo and Juliet,” Basilio in “Don Quixote.”
    His contemporary credits include  works by many of ballet’s modern masters, including Jiří Kylián’s “Sarabande” and “Petite Mort;” Paul Taylor's “Company B;” Twyla Tharp's “Known by Heart ("Junk") Duet” and “In the Upper Room;” William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated;” Mark Morris’ “Maelstrom,” “Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes” and “Up and Down;” and Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Four Seasons” and “Corybantic Ecstasies. ”
    “The maturity and nuance that he shows in his work is something special,” said Terrence S. Orr, PBT artistic director. “He truly understands the art of storytelling and brings a wisdom and diligence to his work that enriches what we’re doing in the studio. He will be greatly missed, both among our company and our long-time audience members.”
    Originally from Erwinna, Pennsylvania, Budzynski began training at a young age with his mother at Budzynski Studios located near Philadelphia. He later studied at the North Carolina School for the Arts, The School of American Ballet in New York City and Hungarian National Ballet School in Budapest. He joined Boston Ballet in 1995, and was promoted to first soloist in 1999.
    For Budzynski, the opportunity to dance leading roles in the Russian classic “Le Corsaire” and the romantic masterpiece “Giselle” will crown a more than 20-year ballet career.
    "It has been a wonderful journey dancing here at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. There are many moments and people that I will hold close to my heart,” Budzynski said. “I am excited to begin making my transition towards working within the organization in other facets at this burgeoning point in its growth."