About (last) Saturday night… – Jessica Schmidt

It’s taken me a few days to write about it, but Heinz Hall is still “buzzing” after last week’s “Tribute to African American Heroes” Concert- what a night.  It was truly an exciting concert, made that way for so many reasons- the range of repertoire (and the fantastic performance of that repertoire by the PSO, led by Resident Conductor Daniel Meyer), the opportunity to hear the World Premiere performance of “Pastime,” a wonderful group of audience members in the seats of Heinz Hall, and so many friends joining us on stage to perform or speak… (Thanks to Neil Barclay of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Sean Gibson from the Josh Gibson Foundation, Patricia Prattis Jennings and Harold Smoliar, Richard Danielpour, Nmon Ford, as well as the Covenant Church of Pittsburgh Choir for being among those friends).

I wish that more people could have the opportunity to experience the atmosphere backstage during performances such as the “Tribute to African American Heroes” Concert.  There is such a palpable excitement to be felt; so much action is taking place throughout the evening.  One moment, you’ll see a PSO staff member moving a speaker from his or her seat in the audience to backstage in preparation to address the audience.  The next, you’ll see soloist Nmon Ford walking from his dressing room to backstage right, ready to make an entrance.  Then, you might see a stagehand moving a piece of equipment needed for the next piece from backstage to onstage.   It is a process of carefully "orchestrated" entrances and exits, performances and bows. The flow of the concert- the order of the pieces, the wordage and timing of the conductor’s script, the onstage movement- is examined over and over by the PSO team until we all feel it is at its best and will provide the audience with the most effective connection to the performance, possible.

Even with all of this excitement backstage, the thing that truly thrilled all of us last Saturday night was the wonderful and diverse group of patrons that we saw in the seats of Heinz Hall.  Some of them are new to the PSO family, others have been with us for past performances. I had the pleasure of ducking away from backstage for a few moments to sit with the audience during a few pieces by Duke Ellington, and it was such a joy to watch the people around me have as much fun as our musicians on stage. This was the PSO’s first attempt at a “Tribute to African American Heroes” Concert, and we have made a commitment to offer a “Heroes” concert annually, which is a very exciting thing and one way that we hope to recognize the importance of honoring the past and present diverse Pittsburgh community, and welcome the entire community to a musical celebration in our Heinz Hall home.   

We want the audience who attended on Saturday to know that we loved having them with us for this special concert and that we want them to come back for future “Heroes” concerts.  However, even more importantly, they are invited to be a part of the PSO family and PSO performances on a continuous basis- not just for one concert in particular. 

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