Johnstown Concert Series

Johnstown Concert Series will kick off its new season with pianist Henry Wong Doe (top row, left) at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28, 2019, at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Johnstown. Other performers in the series lineup are (top row, second from left) Phoebe Robertson, Mia Venezia, Altoona Brass Collective, Chatham University Choir, PSO Chamber Players Piano Trio and Three Rivers Saxophone Quartet.

The Johnstown Concert Series is gearing up to offer the community a new season of music.

Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays at First Presbyterian Church, 309 Lincoln St., downtown Johnstown.

Heather Brice, a series board member, said the selection committee puts together an audience survey each year to see what musical genres are of interest and then works to bring in the most popular styles while keeping the program diverse.

“We know that people like jazz, choral music, string concerts and occasionally an organ concert,” she said.

“We also get recommendations from area musicians and even musicians from the Pittsburgh area who have Johnstown ties.”

• The 2019-2020 season will open Sept. 28 with pianist Henry Wong Doe.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Wong Doe has garnered top prizes, including two Audience Favorite awards in the Rubinstein, Busoni and Sydney International Piano Competitions.

He studied at the University of Auckland and Indiana University Bloomington before earning a doctor of musical arts degree from The Juilliard School. 

Wong Doe is professor of piano and keyboard area chairman at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

“He was recommended by local pianist Laura Williamson, who heard him and said we must get him for the series at some point. This is the first time we’ve been able to fit him in,” Brice said. “He’s played all over the world and comes so highly recommended. His bio is fantastic.”

• The Oct. 26 concert, featuring the flute harp duo of Phoebe Robertson and Mia Venezia, continues the tradition of partnering with the Pittsburgh Concert Society to present classical musicians who have won the society’s audition competition.

Robertson has performed in concert halls across North America and Europe.

A native of Canada, she has been awarded many of her country’s most prestigious distinctions for young musicians.

Venezia is a first-year graduate harp performance student at Northwestern University, and earned an undergraduate degree at Carnegie Mellon University.

Born and raised near Philadelphia, Venezia has performed with several symphony orchestras and is a member of the Tartan Trio, which played for the Johnstown Concert Series in October 2017.

“We started featuring the winners some years ago,” said Bill Brice, a series board member. “Their performances are outstanding. We are pleased that we can help these young artists get a little concert somewhere and help them build their resumes.”

• Altoona Brass Collective will perform Nov. 23.

The group was formed in 2007 by musicians in the central Pennsylvania area who share a love of brass instruments, quality music and live performance. 

All of the repertoire has been written specifically for the ensemble.

Members of the group have received training at the music schools of Clarion, Duquesne, Penn State, Slippery Rock and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

They serve as educators in the Altoona, Bedford, Bellwood, Bishop-Guilfoyle, Dubois, Hollidaysburg and Portage school districts and at Holy Trinity School. 

“For the November concert, we like to get something that ties in with the holiday season, and what ties in better than brass,” Bill Brice said. “They were recommended to us by area musicians.”

• The March 21 concert will feature the Chatham University Choir.

The choir is an audition vocal ensemble made up of undergraduate and graduate women at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

Members have performed with Marvin Hamlisch and the Pittsburgh Symphony Pop’s All-Star College Chorus at Heinz Hall.

They have traveled locally, as well as to locations such as New York City, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. 

“Each season we try to have at least one choral group and we find that March is a good time for that because most of these choral groups are associated with universities and they’ve had a semester to get together and work out their program,” Bill Brice said. “We usually have our largest audience with the choral groups.” 

• On April 18, the PSO Chamber Players Piano Trio will perform.

Established in 1997, PSO Chamber Players is a group of Pittsburgh Symphony musicians, performing in mixed ensembles of three to nine artists.

The concert will feature Jennifer Orchard on violin, Mikhail Istomin on cello and Eugene Sirotkine on piano.

“We heard them years ago. When they were the Pittsburgh Piano Trio, they blew us away,” said Heather Brice. “They are world class.”

• The concert series will conclude May 16 with the Three Rivers Saxophone Quartet.

The quartet was formed in May 1973 to explore the wealth of literature written for quartets. At that time, the members were students at Duquesne University, but they have kept the group together over the years.

The repertoire has expanded to include music from the Renaissance and classical offerings to ragtime and jazz, as well as original compositions written especially for the group, which includes Warren Yeckel, baritone saxophone; Mike Jacob, alto saxophone; Steve Ehrin, tenor saxophone; and Marino Galluzzo, soprano saxophone.

“This should be fun, and it’s such an unusual instrumentation of just all saxophones,” Bill Brice said.

“The quality of the sound they get and the varied style of music they play will be a real hit with our audience.”

Following each performance, audience members will have the opportunity to meet and speak with the musicians.

“People really love it. The performers play right down front in the sanctuary and they are close to the audience,” Heather Brice said. “It’s a very intimate sort of experience for everybody there and the acoustics are just wonderful.”

Bill Brice said the Johnstown Concert Series strives to play a part in enriching the cultural life of Johnstown so people don’t have to travel to other cities to hear good music.

“Several of these musicians are world known and it’s remarkable that we can bring talent like this to Johnstown for the price we’re able to charge people,” he said. “To get this quality right in our town is unbelievable.”

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

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