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August Wilson Center - Front & Center » Pittsburgh arts - “Amplifying African American Voices”

Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh arts’

Keeping Phyllis Hyman’s Legacy Alive

Posted in General, Review on February 27th, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment
August Wilson Center fans, welcome another one of our new guest bloggers, Kieashia Edwell. An avid music and arts aficionado, Kieashia was very enthusiastic about reviewing the Center’s “Tribute to Phyllis Hyman,” held February 19-20 for 2 sold-out performances. The following is her very candid perspective of the evening. Please feel free to comment on how you viewed the evening. And check out the video clips of a couple of the awesome and LIVELY performances.

Walking into the August Wilson Center for the Tribute to Phyllis Hyman, I could not help but to notice that the place was alive! Everyone was dressed to the nines, the place was filled with so much energy-I knew then, this was going to be a show to remember. After scooting past a few people who had clearly had more than their fair share of wine and spirits, I made my way to the theatre, found my seat and got comfortable. An old soul myself, I’m familiar with such artists as Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Stylistics and The Temptations. So, I was ready to relax, hear the pianist (and musical director) Alton Merrell play that big black instrument, and groove to the rich sounds of the legendary Phyllis Hyman.

The house lights dimmed and there was a short intro by the emcee, KDKA’s Lynne Hayes-Freeland, who used words like amazing and

August Wilson Center's "Tribute to Phyllis Hyman"

August Wilson Center's "Tribute to Phyllis Hyman"

wonderful to describe what the packed house was about to see. The band took their place as the stage lit up in front of me. In walked Laila Bey, Tamara Faulkner, Teresa Hawthorne and Deborah Moncrief singing an inspiring rendition of Phyllis’ “Just 25 Miles To Anywhere.” They were dressed with the same flare, style and pizzazz of Ms. Hyman herself. At the end of the song, a photo of the late songstress was projected on a large screen to spark our memory, and the ladies exited. The musicians transitioned into perhaps the most familiar of Phyllis Hyman’s jams. “You Know How To Love Me” was performed by Laila Bey, who gave a good vocal performance, but left a little to be desired. Although she possessed a powerful vocal range and looked beautiful, she lacked stage presence–something Phyllis was known for possessing.  After quickly exiting the stage, Ms. Bey made way for Deborah Moncrief. The band then engaged the crowd with the slow and steady “No One Can Love You More.” Mrs. Moncrief belted out a spectacular version of the timeless ballad. With that soulful and strong performance, she made us all remember when we cried along with Phyllis as she pleaded with her love.

We were then taken back to 1978 by Tamara Faulkner and her lively version of “The Answer Is You.” The crowd ooh’d and aah’d as she swept herself across the stage. Her energy was contagious, and her vocal performance was brilliant. She connected well with the audience and even kicked off her shoes to replicate the famous performances Ms. Hyman was known to give. Tamara’s scatting and strong personality kept us enthralled in her presentation. It was then Teresa Hawthorne’s turn to show us her chops. Her version of “Betcha By Golly Wow” was somewhat nasal and frequently pitchy, but still entertaining. It was hard not to tap your foot to the well-known hit. More performances followed including a spectacular cover of “Living Inside Your Love,” “Be Careful” and “When You Get Right Down To It.” We were then treated to yet another moving presentation by Deborah Moncrief with “Living All Alone.” A cover of “Gonna Make Changes” by Tamara Faulkner closed out the first half of the show.

Upon returning from our little intermission, Deborah Moncrief took us back with a true Phyllis Hyman classic - “Old Friend.” It was another breathtaking performance by Mrs. Moncrief and subsequently earned her a well-deserved standing ovation. We then enjoyed Ms. Hawthorne’s third performance of the evening. Her rendition of “As You Are” wowed the audience and had few mistakes in pitch and tone. Laila Bey and Tamara Faulkner returned with their moving presentation of “Somewhere In My Lifetime,” and “Don’t Wanna Change The World” marking the later years of Ms. Hyman’s career. Perhaps the most memorable performance of the evening, Sonya Carter, of the three background singers, sang “I Refuse to Be Lonely” with such passion and strength that she earned a lasting standing ovation from the crowd. She did a near perfect job of capturing the raw emotion and meaning behind the song. I, for one, was amazed, and wondered how they could not use her as the lead for more of the concert’s pieces. The show concluded with the cast joining together for “In Search of My Heart.”

The August Wilson Center chose the perfect production to share with its members. The striking performances featured in this show had me tapping and humming all the way home. These remarkable singers truly captured the bold and sensuous qualities of Phyllis Hyman’s music. Overall, the night was filled with joy, laughter, and sheer wonder at the talent of the fabulous live band. I was enchanted by the booming bass and distinctive moan of the trombone. I think that Phyllis would have been pleased with the passion behind these voices, and the commitment to keeping her legacy alive.

–Kieashia Edwell

If you would like to be a volunteer guest blogger for the August Wilson Center and blog about your experience at the Center’s programs and events, contact the Center’s Manager of Communications & e-Marketing, Treshea N. Wade at 412.338.8734 or twade@AugustWilsonCenter.org

Great Connections

Posted in General, Guest Posts, Review on January 19th, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment
A big welcome to one of our new guest bloggers, Charlene Foggie Barnett, who we’ve featured in past articles for her participation in the August Wilson Center’s production of The Women of the Hill. Charlene, an enthusiastic and dedicated arts supporter, attended Alonzo King LINES Ballet when they performed in front of a packed house on both January 15 & 16. The following is her perspective of the evening.

I’m always fascinated about how situations are connected in the experiences of living. For the past decade, I’ve given my daughter–an 18-year-old dancer–a yearly wall calendar of ballet, modern or contemporary dancers. For the past several years, I’ve selected a calendar

Corey Scott-Gilbert

Corey Scott-Gilbert

whose monthly images are static shots, of the formidable dancers in the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Company. As we entered the August Wilson Center on Saturday evening, my daughter said to me, “you do know that this is the company whose calendars you’ve been giving me.”  I replied, “I hadn’t realized that, but I felt so compelled to see this show when I saw it advertised on the Center’s Web site.”

And it was a real treat. The performance opened with the piece Signs and Wonders, as an undulating cast of strong male dancers took the stage by force. The traditional African music appropriately accompanied the piece in intricate, pulsating rhythms. This was an impressive introduction to the company’s dynamic mentoring (by Alonzo King), coupled with superb technique.

Meredith Webster

Meredith Webster

The standouts for me were a very tall young man, whose limbs seemingly stretched across the expanse of the stage, and a shorter, stockier male dancer, who alternated between displays of strength and graceful prowess. As the enticing ladies in the company later joined them en pointe, each one demonstrated their elegantly woven fortitude. The women bore the ballet in twists and contortions that are not often

performed with such ease and grace. It looked effortless, and yet, I knew “effort” was a major point of the piece.  After a short intermission, the company performed “Refraction.” This piece, albeit very different from the first, was more melodic and swayed me into a comfortable trance, yet it’s complexities, such as the intricate daisy chain near the conclusion, persistently enticed the audience. Lighting played a unique part, and the music, by Jason Moran, was so enjoyable that I searched for it in iTunes. The relational stance between dancers, seemed to individually “pop,” while still being veiled by their unending cohesion, as a whole.

As anticipated, the event was spectacular, and my daughter and her friends enjoyed every minute of it. As usual, the audience included many of those connected to dance in Pittsburgh - Dance Council

Artist Director/Founder Alonzo King

Artist Director/Founder Alonzo King

members, teachers and dancers from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Creative And Performing Arts High School and Dance Alloy to name a few. But the theater was filled to capacity, with a variety of enthusiastic patrons of the arts. I sat in the very last row of the balcony, behind a large group of youngsters, ranging from ages 7 to 12, whose interest never wavered from what they observed on stage. That’s probably because, as I can attest (having been seated all over the theater), there is not a bad seat in the August Wilson Center house.

Immediately following the performance, several of the dancers treated audience members who chose to stay, with a question and answer “Artist Talk” session. Nature had been calling me, so I rushed off to the facilities, but those who attended told me it was a great opportunity to get to know more about Alonzo King’s vision and the company members. Afterward, as I chatted with friends in the lobby, the tallest male

Alonzo King and Laurel Keen

Alonzo King and Laurel Keen

dancer from LINES was leaving the theater. As fate would have it, a (young male) dancer friend of our family, who attends CAPA and PBT, was introduced to the LINES dancer and enjoyed a moment of encouraging conversation.

You’ve got to appreciate the August Wilson Center - not just for the great shows they bring to Pittsburgh, but for the hospitable manner in which these acts are presented. Also, at the end of a performance, I never feel pressured to abruptly leave, as I often do in other theatres, but rather enjoy browsing the well-stocked gift shop, and sharing a brief moment of conversation with friends. Thanks once again, AWC, for a lovely evening of entertainment and connection!

- August Wilson Center Patron, Charlene Foggie Barnett

OTHER COVERAGE:

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh City Paper
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (article 2)
CrossCurrents
CrossCurrents (article 2)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

EDITOR’S NOTE: Coming up next– February 6, 8 pmDaniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), a classically trained composer, performer, violinist and band-leader noted for blending funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music into an energetic and experiential sonic form.

Contract Resistance: Hip-Hop, Soul & More

Posted in Events, General on October 20th, 2009 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment

hiphopeblast2

It’s all going down this Friday — don’t miss out on how the August Wilson Center does hip-hop, soul and more!
The beats are tight and the grooves smooth as the August Wilson Center, the Shadow Lounge and Urban Kontent Brand present an evening of hip-hop and soul collective performances featuring hip-hop artists Formula412, J-San & The Analogue Sons, Chen-Lo, D.C.’s own W. Ellington Felton, Common Wealth Family, Kellee Maize, DJ Selecta will provide the house music and Yah Lioness & Gene Stovall will host the evening.

Free After Party* @ Shadow Lounge featuring J-San & the Analogue Sons and Man in the Street…Plus DJ Vex spinning in AVA til 2 am! Show your ticket stub at the door.

TICKETS: $15 —–> PURCHASE NOW

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL….

State of Hip-Hop Forum

Friday, October 23, 6 pm
Free

Explore the economic, social, political and musical influences of hip-hop, both in the United States and around the world, at this special “town hall” discussion featuring a panel of hip-hop artists, including Paradise Gray, Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis (aka Dr. Goddess), DJ Boogie, DJ Omar-Abdul and Jasiri X. Appropriate for high school students and adults.

DJing Workshop

Saturday, October 24, Noon to 2 pm
$10/person

Explore the world of DJing in this hands-on course, appropriate for teens and adults. Learn the technical and musical skills necessary to become a DJ, including mixing and blending, scratching and beatmaking. Herman Pearl, aka DJ Soy Sos will be instructing. For details, call 412.338.8737 or e-mail swilliamsdevereux@AugustWilsonCenter.org.

One-on-One with Lalah Hathaway

Posted in Events, General on September 10th, 2009 by Shaunda – 3 Comments

Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway


LISTEN NOW: One-on-One w/Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway is in the building.

Well, not literally, but she is in Pittsburgh and, from what I hear, is very excited about being the first performer in the August Wilson Center’s Inaugural Season. The energy level has been through the roof here in the Center’s offices…chatter is high on our Twitter, Facebook and MySpace pages–everyone is amp’d about Lalah.

Not that I needed a reason to, but Lalah Hathaway has been on heavy rotation on my iTunes. What is it about Lalah that makes people from various walks of life flock to her like bees to honey? When I told all of my musician and non-musician friends alike that the August Wilson Center was bringing Lalah into Pittsburgh, all of them had the same reaction–and it usually included screaming.

I asked one of my friends in particular, why she had such an appreciation for Lalah. Our conversation:

Me: Hey, I know you bought your ticket for Lalah, why do you like her?

Friend: WHY? WHY? I mean, there are so many answers to that. I mean, it’s not rocket science–she can SING!

Me: That’s it? That’s why you paid $45 to sit two inches from the stage to hear Lalah sing?

Friend: Lalah is set apart from the masses. Her music and sound are soulful, and everybody doesn’t have that. Most people sing just because they have talent. Lalah’s voice comes from a place of authentic soul.

My friend is correct. Lalah’s refreshing tone and vocal acrobatics are simply amazing, impeccably crisp and will leave you jaw-dropped for days. What’s bananas is that Lalah doesn’t even have to do a lot vocally to leave you memorized. I remember when her latest project Self Portrait first came out how my friends and I would listen to it intently, always turning up the volume at the end of every song because every Lalah fan knows that she tends to give us little vocal treats at the end of her songs. Man we wore that CD out. lol. Instrumentation — off the charts. Background singers (in her concerts) — will just have you shaking your head (do a Lalah search on YouTube to see what I mean). Her lyrics reach deep into your heart and connect with every issue in your life.

Lalah is authentic soul. Funny…..remind you of anybody else with the same last name?

PURCHASE TICKETS NOW

Keepin’ it real,

Treshea

P.S. If you all see a woman standing and waving at the concert like that old lady from It’s Showtime at the Apollo—that’s just my friend–she means no harm, she just loves Lalah. Can you blame her?

It’s Official…the August Wilson Center blogs!

Posted in General on September 6th, 2009 by Shaunda – 1 Comment

It’s almost time.

In less than two weeks, the August Wilson Center’s permanent home will officially open to the public. Up until now, the Center’s six seasons of programming has been spread across the Pittsburgh Cultural District’s fine spaces like french fries on a Primanti Brother’s sandwich–but no more.

The August Wilson Center for African American Culture will finally live, operate and exist in its own home at 980 Liberty Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. Guess what—you are all invited to see what we are all about!

Now, you can experience the Center in a multitude of ways: You can always physically visit the Center (of course we encourage that), but you can also visit us via our Web site, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter pages.

However….if that’s not enough….(insert drum roll)….the August Wilson Center blogs! This is awesomeness on so many different levels because in THIS realm you will learn about the Center from the voices of various people working behind the scenes to the voices of people performing in the Center’s theater to those installing exhibits in the Center’s gallery spaces and everything in between.

While I will be the primary blogger, a couple of my other friends, who happen to be my colleagues, have agreed to get down and bloggy with me by submitting regular posts. This is magically delicious because we all share the same main goal — Amplifying the Voices of African Americans — but see the world through different spectacles, have varied experiences resulting in contrasting personalities and writing styles. For example, in this realm I tend to be more informal/some would say comedic, and guilty of making up a word or two just because I can (I promised my boss no misspelled words though lol). Sarah on the other hand, a brilliant mind, is very analytical and studious and may use a word or two that will have you searching Dictionary.com every now and then. Maybe that’s why she is the Manager of Education at the Center. The point is: RELAX and enjoy–it’s all done in a great effort to help you stay connected to the Center.

We look forward to being able to rap with you openly in this space. Feel free to hang your coat up and kick off your shoes. Let’s talk intimately about the art, history and culture of people of African descent throughout the world and in Western Pennsylvania and the issues that affect us all.

Real talk. Authentic voices.

So get ready—ain’t no stoppin’ us now!

Keepin’ it real,

Treshea

Treshea Wade - AWC Blogger

Treshea Wade - AWC Blogger