Friday, February 12, 2016

A Stunning Way to Celebrate Presidents' Day

    On Presidents Day at 7 p.m., February 15, Lynne Hayes Freeland will join the ranks of distinguished actors, statesmen and women and other dignitaries who have taken the podium to narrate Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait.”  The Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra will perform the concert at the Carnegie Music Hall in Carnegie, and will include several other works in the program.

    The Presidents Day programming will begin with a talk by Ulysses S. Grant
re-enactor Kenneth J. Serfass.  Serfass engaged audiences when he spoke as Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant last April during the Library & Music Hall’s annual Civil War Living History Day.  This year he will be speaking as President Grant.  His talk, “Presidential Recollections” focuses on some of the high points of Grant’s administration: setting reconstruction right, being an advocate for the Freedmen's Bureau and also taking the plight of the Indians into account, along with overseeing the completion of the transcontinental railroad. It is part the Library & Music Hall’s free Second Saturday Civil War Series, and take places in the Lincoln Gallery at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 13

    The ACFL&MH hopes that this year’s concert establishes its Lincoln Portrait concert as a regional Presidents Day tradition.  With a different orchestra and different narrator each year, the program will attract both new and returning audiences.  “It will always be a new experience,” says executive director, Maggie Forbes “to which fans of Copland and Lincoln will return.  “We are certainly thrilled that Lynne and the PYSO said yes to our 2016 invitations!”

    Last year Congressman Tim Murphy narrated the Copland piece, performed by the Allegheny Brass Band. Pittsburgh actor David Conrad narrated for Duquesne University’s Wind Symphony in 2010 when the ACFL&MH re-opened it meticulously restored Capt. Thomas Espy Post No. 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).

    The Library & Music Hall” Civil War holdings provide the perfect context for a signature Presidents Day event.  The Espy Post was custom-furnished by Civil War veterans to hold their meetings and house their relics.  Veterans met in the room from 1906 until the last members died in the late 1930s.  The room has been documented by scholars as the most intact GAR post in the country.  Once there were 7,000 from Portland, ME to Portland, OR.

    In February 2015, as part of its Civil War Sesquicentennial programming, the ACFL&MH opened a new permanent exhibit.  The Lincoln Gallery, a rare collection of 100 photographs of Abraham Lincoln from the earliest known 1847 daguerreotype to the only known photograph of the sixteenth President lying in state in 1865, is adjacent to the Espy Post.  In tandem, the Espy Post and Lincoln Gallery make the Library & Music Hall a significant Civil War destination.

     A native Pittsburgher, Ms. Hayes-Freeland began her broadcast career as the producer of the Roy Fox Show on KDKA-Radio. Since joining KDKA-TV2 in 1976, Lynne has held a variety of positions. She was a field producer for the station’s “Evening Magazine” program. In 1981, Lynne moved to the station’s programming department where she created “Weekend Magazine”, produced what was then known as the “Vibrations” program, and directed a variety of commercial efforts. In 1985, Lynne began a five-year stint as the producer of KDKA’s Annual Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund Telethon.  She is currently a general assignment reporter known for live, late-breaking reporting for KDKA-TV News. She is also producer/host of “The Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show,” a weekly half-hour show that concentrates on local African American issues.

    “Initially I felt honored to be asked to narrate “Lincoln Portrait.”  Now, as I prepare, I realize it is more of a privilege.  It is a challenge and a stretch, but I cannot wait to use Lincoln’s words, and convey his spirit, from own my viewpoint," said Ms. Hayes-Freeland.

    Craig Johnson, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra is equally enthusiastic.  “The Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra is honored to perform Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait in the historic Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall. It is a great privilege to work with Lynne Hayes-Freeland who will be reading of excerpts of Lincoln's great documents, including the Gettysburg Address.”

    The Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, was founded in 1945 and is one of the oldest youth orchestras in the country as well as one of the most accomplished. It is comprised of approximately 100 musicians who range in age from 12 to 20, and who became members through highly competitive auditions.  PYSO has performed internationally; their 2104 tour took them to Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and Salzburg.  The “Lincoln Portrait” concert is under the baton of PYSO’s new Music Director, Francesco Lecce-Chong.

    Copland’s composed “A Lincoln Portrait” in 1942, during the dark, frightening years of World War II. The haunting orchestral score incorporates some of Lincoln’s most stirring oratory, with the narrator reading over the music.   A very short list of “A Lincoln Portrait” narrators includes Gregory Peck, Katherine Hepburn, James Earl Jones, Paul Newman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Cronkite, Tom Hanks, Danny Glover and Neil Armstrong.

    “A Lincoln Portrait” and other works will be performed at 7:00 p.m. on Presidents Day, February 15.  Tickets are $15 in advance/$20 at the door; $5 for children 12 and under.  The performance will be followed by a dessert reception in the Lincoln Gallery, which will also be open from 2-7 p.m. prior to the performance. For tickets or information visit or call 412-276-3456, x.6.  Free shuttle service from the parking lot on E. Main Street is available.

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