Week of events celebrate orchestra season
BY KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent
In celebration of the beginning of Johnstown Symphony Orchestra’s 91st season, Made in Johnstown, the public is invited to attend the non-profit’s Season Opener Festival Week events.
Festival week commenced Oct. 15. Members of Somerset Auxiliary of the orchestra presented their popular Taste of the Laurel Highlands dinner at Green Gables Restaurant in Jennerstown. The dinner provided a culinary tour of the region, plus a silent auction to benefit JSO.
This Thursday, JSO will debut its Symphony Steps Out series, a brand new series that will allow the general public to meet people who represent the JSO — Jessica Satava, for example, the new executive director — at restaurants in town. Music director James Blachy said a Symphony Steps Out event is to be held in conjunction with each JSO subscription concert.
“This new series is a great example of our priorities as a symphony,” Blachly said. “It is the result of our new executive director’s energy and commitment to continue bringing the symphony to the city. This series is also a way to support local establishments.”
Symphony Steps Out: Slavic Celebration is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at The Phoenix Tavern, located at 200 Broad Street in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood. Blachly and Satava will be there, as will members of the orchestra. The menu at Phoenix Tavern is to include Slavic-inspired items. Live entertainment is to be provided by the Polish Heritage Choir and accordion player Bronco Toter (of The Rhinelanders). The Kolo of the St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church will be present and dressed in traditional costume. Attendees can also learn more about the JSO’s upcoming season opener.
“I’m thrilled to get to hear the music that we’ve arranged to be performed at The Phoenix, and I’m really excited about the food and about the company that we’ll be keeping that evening,” Blachly said. “Everyone who attends will have an enriched experience of the concert as a result.”
The season’s opening concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 inside the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center at 450 Schoolhouse Road in Johnstown. The concert will feature authentic choreography by Pittsburgh-based dance troupe the Tamburitzans.
“This concert is going to be full of energy, beautiful music and talented dancers,” Blachly said. “It will celebrate the music and culture of Eastern Europe. We will be filling the hall with costumes and arts and crafts from these vibrant cultures. The Tamburitzans are no stranger to Johnstown, but they’ve never performed with the symphony in this way.”
The concert will include performances of “Hungarian Dance No. 5” by Johannes Brahms, “Romanian Rhapsody No. 1” by George Enescu and “Symphony No. 8” by Antonín Dvořák.
The Tamburitzans were founded in the early 1930s when A. Lester Pierce met tamburitza musicians Matt L. Gouze, Frank Gouze and Anthony Antoncic. He negotiated work scholarships for each of them and founded what was known as St. Thomas Tamburitza Trio. In 1937, they traveled to Pittsburgh to perform, and soon made the city the ensemble’s headquarters.
The Tamburitzans partnered with Duquesne University and were renamed Duquesne University Tamburitzans in the 1940s. The ensemble expanded throughout the decades both in number and in terms of their repertoire. The singers, musicians and dancers in this ensemble have embarked on several international tours. All are full-time students working hard to ensure that the legacy continues.
Tickets for this one-night-only concert are on sale now and can be purchased online by visiting www.johnstownsymphony.org or www.upjarts.org. Tickets can also be purchased by calling the PPAC box office at 814-269-7200.
Following Saturday evening’s concert, the doors of PPAC will open again — and this time, for the purpose of holding auditions. For the first time ever, local performers will have the opportunity to audition to join the JSO onstage during their Feb. 8 concert, JSO Pops: Movies from Johnstown and Open Mic Night at the Symphony.
“This has never been done before — not in Johnstown and possibly nowhere else in the country,” Blachly said.
Open Mic Night at the Symphony open auditions are scheduled for noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 20, and are open to local singers, instrumentalists, dancers and bands. The deadline to apply is Oct. 17. Audition slots are limited. Those who are unable to attend the live auditions may submit a video audition. Acts will be chosen based on practicality of the act for performance with orchestra, skills/talent and audience involvement. The application form and further details are available online at www.johnstownsymphony.org.
Five local judges will decide which acts get to perform alongside the orchestra. Those judges are: Blachly; Michael Bodolosky, executive director of Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center and local musician; Mike Hruska, CEO of Problem Solutions and local musician; Beth Good, music teacher, theatre director and retired JSO pianist; and Laura Mosby, a radio host with Forever Media.
“After the community outpouring we experienced at The Music of Queen, we wanted to offer more chances to get everyone together again, and for our community to showcase their talent,” Satava said.
Blachly added, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a way for us to deepen our relationship with members of the community, and it gives local performers a chance to get to know the symphony up-close and in a personal way by performing with us. Those who are selected can invite their fans to the concert, and they’ll have the chance to enjoy the experience, too. I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing the talent that exists in Johnstown.”
Blachly said he and the JSO staff have been working on Season Opener Festival Week for over a year.
“The city and symphony have always been so intertwined, and with this Festival Week, we make the embrace that much stronger,” Blachly said. “This season is all about the art, culture, and industry of Johnstown. Consider this part one of an incredibly exciting season.”
The next concerts in JSO’s 2019-20 Made in Johnstown subscription season will be Made in Brahms-Town Nov. 9 and The Joy of Christmas! Dec. 14.
For more information about JSO, visit www.johnstownsymphony.org or call 814-535-6738.