Pittsburgh Festival of New Music details

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Over the summer, I wrote about the Pittsburgh Festival of New Music. Well, details of the festival have been announced, and it looks like an awesome few days of new-music-making. Check out details of the festival below, from the press release: 

Festival of New Music to transform Pittsburgh's soundscape May 22-25

Alia Musica Pittsburgh presents The Pittsburgh Festival of New Music, four days of public events spanning a wide range of contemporary chamber music, May 22-25. Framed by two unique musical events happening in unconventional venues throughout the city, the Festival includes performances by Pittsburgh's most active new music organizations, artists of national and international renown, and guests hailing from Chicago, New York, Michigan, and Houston.

May 22: Perfect Lives by Robert Ashley
Miniature operas staged in everyday locations

On March 22, New York collective Varispeed presents its acclaimed arrangement of Robert Ashley's seminal work Perfect Lives, a daylong crawling concert installed in sites throughout the city. As performers and audience members journey from location to location — a park, a bank, a church, a backyard — participants imagine a folksy, Midwestern town where the bank tellers know the captain of the football team, and everyone drinks together at the end of the night.

Originally conceived as a 7-episode TV opera, Perfect Lives debuted on the BBC in 1986. The piece weaves together overlapping subplots: an unspoken crime, an elopement, and the mischief of two itinerant musicians. Ashley, the composer of what Fanfare has called "nothing less than the first American opera," died in NYC in 2014. "He would have been 84 at the end of the month," says David Ruder of Varispeed. "He was a great guy and we miss him already. Doing Perfect Lives in Pittsburgh is going to have an additional level of catharsis & meaning."

May 24: Rzewski plays Rzewski
The composer/pianist performs a rare program of his own works
New Hazlett Theater, 7:30pm

American maverick composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski has made his home in Brussels since the 1970s. Now 76, his appearances in the US are less and less frequent. Compared by turns to legendary pianist Glenn Gould and blacklisted folk singer Pete Seeger, Rzewski's works are often anarchic, sometimes satirical, and always powerfully virtuosic.

Rzewski's first-ever performance in Pittsburgh is long overdue, as he has Pittsburgh ties -- his two sons, Daniel and Alexis, live here. "When I was talking to him during his last visit," says Federico Garcia-De Castro, director of Alia Musica, "and mentioned our plans for the Festival, he realized, right then and there, that he actually had never played in Pittsburgh before. I knew that I had to take the chance." See this not-to-be-missed performance at the New Hazlett Theater on Saturday, May 24, 2014, at 7:30pm.

May 25: Inuksuit by John Luther Adams
Drums, gongs, and glockenspiels transform Lake Elizabeth Park, 2pm

Scores of musicians converge on Lake Elizabeth Park in Pittsburgh's North Side to perform Inuksuit, by John Luther Adams, 2012 receipient of the Heinz Award. Inuksuit is meant to be played by 99 musicians dispersed in a large outdoor area, using an incredible array of instruments including conch shells, air raid sirens, gongs, bells, shakers, drums, cymbals, and glockenspiels.

Inuksuit is the ultimate environmental piece, designed to heighten our awareness of the sights and sounds that surround us every day and to energize our experience of our own environment. The work, "a sonic and scenic glory almost beyond description" according to critic Alex Ross, has been performed around the world — in Melbourne, Toronto, Chicago, Berkeley, Lisbon, the Hague, and Belo Horizonte, Brazil — and was recognized among the most memorable performances of 2011 in New York City by The New Yorker, Time Out New York, and New York Magazine.

May 24: The Pittsburgh Soundpike
The pay-as-you-exit event that encourages discovery
New Hazlett Theater, 2pm

Pittsburgh's lively new music scene has a dedicated place in the Festival, as the most active local organizations join forces in a marathon concert dubbed The Pittsburgh Soundpike. Groups include Trillium Ensemble, the Black Orchid String Trio, Directions Duo, the Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra (ELCO), and features a performance of Steve Reich's monumental Different Trains by the Freya String Quartet. "We wanted to create an ideal setting for audience cross-over and mutual discovery," says Garcia-De Castro about the novel marathon concept where listeners pay for their tickets as they exit the performance, and the price depends inversely on the length of their stay—the more groups they hear, the less they will pay.

Additional Programs
Alia Musica Pittsburgh and the Bugallo-Williams Duo

Also at the New Hazlett, the festival presents the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo (Thursday, May 22). Consisting of Pitt professor Amy Williams and Argentinean pianist Helena Bugallo, the duo made a place for themselves as the foremost interpreters of Conlon Nancarrow's music, and have recently turned to the piano-duo music of Gyorgy Kurtág. Their Festival performance also includes music by Williams herself, Garcia-De Castro, and more.

On Friday, May 23, Alia Musica Pittsburgh performs Luciano Berio's famous cycle of Folk Songs in its entirety, with New York-based soprano Jamie Jordan. The ensemble, entering its eighth year of performances, also presents music by University of Pittsburgh professor Eric Moe, CMU and Pitt graduate Matthew Heap, and Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas.

Major support for the Festival comes from The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation. Other partners include the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts, the Sprout Fund, and Music on the Edge. Outdoor events are produced in partnership with the Office of Public Art, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, and James Simon's Sculpture Studio. The City Paper is media sponsor of the Pittsburgh Festival of New Music.

Thursday May 22, Perfect Lives (Varispeed), episodes at 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm, 9pm, 11pm. Starting at Market Square, venues across the city. Free.

Thursday May 22, 7:30pm: Bugallo-Williams piano duo. New Hazlett Theater. $10. Music by Kurtág, Williams, Garcia-De Castro, and more.

Friday May 23, 7:30pm: Alia Musica Pittsburgh. New Hazlett Theater. $15. Music by Berio, Heap, Moe, and Haas. Featuring Jamie Jordan, soprano, and Houston's Duo Scordatura.

Saturday May 24, 2pm: Pittsburgh Soundpike featuring Steve Reich's Different Trains (Freya String Quartet), plus performances by Trillium Ensemble, Black Orchid String Trio, Directions Duo, ELCO, Alia Musica, and members from the CMU Contemporary Ensemble.

Saturday May 24, 7:30pm: Rzweski plays Rzewski. New Hazlett Theater. $15.

Sunday May 25, 2pm: Inuksuit by John Luther Adams. Lake Elizabeth Park. Free.

Sunday May 27, 5pm: Guests' Concert: Duo Scordatura (Houston), Clocks in Motion (Michigan). New Hazlett Theater. Free.

Bugallo-Williams: $15
Alia Musica Pittsburgh: $15
Rzewski plays Rzewski: $15
Pittsburgh Soundpike: $5-$15
Two-event pass: $20
Full festival pass: $40

Tickets will be available online starting April 10th.

412 361 0194

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Filling in at the last minute

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Happy Opening Day! In baseball, there are often last-minute shuffles to the lineup, and athletes need to step up their game in replacing stars. It's true of classical music, too; one of the genre's most enduring traditions is late substitutions. When Bruno Walter withdrew from a New York Philharmonic concert, he helped launch a young Leonard Bernstein's conducting career. When tenor Vladimir Kuzmenko fell ill during a Pittsburgh Opera performance of "Aida" in 2008, music director Antony Walker sang the role of Radames instead, even while he was still conducting. (Mr. Kuzmenko lip-synched from the stage.) 

This past weekend continued that illustrious tradition. Tenor Eric Barry took on a few extra performances of "La Boheme," another Pittsburgh Opera production. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra music director Manfred Honeck filled in at the last minute for an ailing Gustavo Dudamel to lead the New York Philharmonic in works by Claude Vivier and Bruckner. His performance received a rave review from New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini. Props to all, and happy opening day!

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Empty Netter Assists - 03-31-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-Dave Molinari's recap from last night's game. "No penalty [was called]. I think that hit happens 10 times a game." - Brooks Orpik on his hit which injured Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews.

-The Chicago Sun-Times' recap. “He plays hard, and it’s never easy to play against him. Sometimes the calls are on the edge, but I know him as a fair guy, and that’s how I remember him. Obviously, some calls are tougher than the others, and sometimes he’s on the borderline.” - Blackhawks forward and former Penguin Marian Hossa on Orpik.

-The Chicago Tribune's recap. Toews' injury is not believed to be serious.

-The Associated Press' recap. "I thought this was one of our most physical games of the year. We saw it from the beginning of the game until the end." - Dan Bylsma.


-Orpik's hit on Toews:

-Referee Ian Walsh wasn't buying anything Sidney Crosby was selling:

-Bylsma has a chat with his team:

-Dan Bylsma speaks:

-Sidney Crosby speaks:

-Orpik speaks:

-Marc-Andre Fleury speaks:

-Eric Hartzell made 20 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 5-1 win against the Elmira Jackals.

-Today would've been the 76th birthday of former Penguins forward Bill Hicke. Acquired prior to the 1971-72 season from the California Golden Seals in exchange for cash, Hicke's Penguins' career amounted to 12 games and two goals that season. In November of 1971, he was traded to the Red Wings in exchange for for cash. He passed away, July 18, 2005.

-Happy 49th birthday to the best goaltender in Penguins history (for the time being):

-After the Jump: Ted Nolan gets a job.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Some like it cool, veggies to plant now

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog arugulab 0331This arugula is so hardy, it lived over the winter. It will thrive in spring weather. Photos by Doug Oster

In the '70's my mother would march us out to the garden on Memorial Day to get the garden weeded, turned over and planted. On Labor Day everything came out.

Today, I garden differently. Peas, arugula, lettuce, beets, carrots, spinach, radishes and more can be planted right now. They love cool weather.

In fact, the arugula above survived the winter. If a plant can take 10 below, it will thrive in spring temperatures.

The trick is to make sure the garden soil is ready to be turned. If it sticks to the shovel, it's too wet. In that case, just buy a bag of compost at a garden center and spread it over the bed. Seeds can be planted directly in the compost.

Peas are traditionally planted on St. Patrick's Day, mine went in even earlier, March 11. That day it was 64 degrees. I soak mine for 24 hours before planting to improve germination. I knew it would get really cold again, so I covered the small bed with a plastic skylight. A sheet of clear plastic would work too. That might help them sprout now too.

The peas are a couple inches tall already and should be able to be picked in late April or early May depending on the weather.

blog peas 0331Starting early also lets you brag! I'm telling everyone who will listen my peas are already a couple inches high!

It's not just seeds which can be planted now either. I used the same compost technique on March 11th to put in small transplants of lettuce, arugula, spinach and cilantro. The next day it dipped to eight degrees. By protecting plants with skylights, plastic and floating row covers, they all survived and now are taking off. A floating row cover is a spun bound translucent fabric available at nurseries which acts as a greenhouse in the garden. It's so light, the plants themselves can hold the fabric up. It's cheap and reusable, one of the best tools for the spring garden.

Nurseries carry seeds and plants this time of the year. It's fun to see what each one has to offer.

Get something in the vegetable garden now, you'll be harvesting before many gardeners even start planting.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Free rose pruning/care seminar with the experts from the Pittsburgh Rose Society

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog roses societyThese roses were blooming in England outside the Tower of London. Photo by Doug Oster

There's no one better to teach you about caring for roses than the rosarians from the Pittsburgh Rose Society. The rose garden at Renziehausen Park is one of the finest collections of roses in the country.

The Pittsburgh Rose Society will be holding its spring pruning demonstration at the Renziehausen Park Arboretum in McKeesport on Saturday, April 4th and 12th at 1 P.M.  Rosarians will be in the garden to conduct hands-on pruning demonstrations as well as answer questions about planting, fertilizing, and pest control.  You must bring your own pruning tools, gloves, and knee pads to learn and participate.  The event will go on rain or shine.  This demonstration is free and open  to the public.  For more information visit

Here's a video I did about this amazing garden.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.