The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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September 8, 2013

Johnstown Concert Series books variety of entertainers

JOHNSTOWN — A familiar concert series has changed names, but not the quality of its music.

The newly minted Johnstown Concert Series will build on the tradition of the Chamber Music Series of Greater Johnstown.

“The name change was a deliberate decision,” said Laura Williamson, a new board member.

“We want to better reflect the variety of programming we have. Originally, we wanted to bring chamber music to the community, but now our music is more varied to attract a larger audience. We have a mix of classical, jazz and choral. That’s the diversity of our programming.”

A relative newcomer to the area who previously lived in larger cities, Williamson said she has been blown away by the quality of music making by performers in the series.

Johnstown Concert Series will present its 2013-2014 season at First Presbyterian Church, 309 Lincoln St., downtown Johnstown.

The series is offered through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

All concerts will be presented at 7:30 p.m.

The season will open Sept. 28 with the Remarkable Reeds of Renaissance City Winds.

The trio will feature R. James Whipple on bassoon, Renate Sakins on oboe and Jack Howell on clarinet.

This concert will be performed by members of one of Pennsylvania’s foremost chamber ensembles, founded in 1975.

Originally a woodwind quintet, the ensemble expanded into the Renaissance City Winds in 1988.

“They’re one of the touring groups of Renaissance City Winds and designed for smaller spaces,” Williamson said.

Concert pianist Jacob Ertl, known for his fiery and nuanced interpretations, will perform Oct. 12.

He was chosen by the board because he was recently appointed assistant professor of piano at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Ertl has performed across the United States as well as in Europe, Israel, Canada and Mexico and has received critical acclaim for his passion and poise on the stage.

He gave numerous recitals in Milwaukee, Wis., as the artist-in-residence for the PianoArts organization and because of this background with young audiences, he will do a master class with Johnstown piano students from 1 to 3 p.m. at the church before his concert.

Any piano students interested in attending can contact Williamson at 410-6144.

“He’s obviously a fine pianist,” said Williamson, who has a Ph.D. in piano performance and teaches piano.

“Samples of his performances on his website were excellent. He likes to talk to the audience about the music he’s playing.”

Organist Ann Labounsky, known in the United States and Europe as a virtuoso performer and improviser at the organ, will perform Nov. 23.

She is professor of music and chair of organ and sacred music at Duquesne University and dean of the Pittsburgh Chapter American Guild of Organists.

“It will be fabulous to hear her with the church’s acoustics,” Williamson said.

The choral ensemble Essence of Joy from Penn State will perform Feb. 28.

The group is a department of music choral ensemble performing sacred and secular music from African and African-American traditions.

It is under the direction of Anthony T. Leach.

This will be the only concert that is held on Friday instead of Saturday.

“It has to do with their touring commitments,” Williamson said.

Tradition will continue April 12 when the Pittsburgh Concert Society Winners perform.

They are Sage Po, harpist, and Sean Kennard, pianist.

Po is continuing her studies at Carnegie Mellon University, and Kennard has earned his master of music from The Juilliard School.

The season will close May 24 with Billy Test and Friends.

His music shows strong influences of classical music while displaying roots in the history of jazz.  

Test is interested in performing both genres and finding out how the two can coexist.  

“I haven’t heard him, but other board members have and say he is stunning,” Williamson said.

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