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McKeesport symphony to host spring concert

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 1:31 a.m.

It will be an afternoon of jazz and blues on Sunday at McKeesport Area High School.

The Orchestra of the Alleghenies — formerly known as the McKeesport Symphony Orchestra — is bringing in some of the area's best jazz musicians for its annual spring show, which this year has the theme “America She Sings the Blues.”

The show begins at 2:30 p.m. in the auditorium and will feature jazz vocalist Jessica Lee and keyboardist Rick Purcell.

Lee and Purcell have performed together as a duo on many occasions. For this show, in addition to performing with the symphony, the pair will be joined by a jazz combo featuring guitarist Mark Strickland, bassist Brian Stahurski and jazz legend Roger Humphries on drums.

“It's timeless music,” vocalist Lee said of the blues and jazz standards that comprise this year's show. Songs that were made famous by Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Gladys Knight are among those Lee will be performing.

Lee said there will be some music from the album she recently cut with Strickland, “Silver Days Charcoal Nights.”

Purcell said it has been a lot of work arranging for a symphony the music he and Lee have done together as a duo.

“This is the first time we've done it in a larger setting,” Purcell said. “It's a lot of fun.”

Purcell said his connection to the local orchestra is through its conductor Bruce Laufer, whom he knows through the Latshaw Pops Orchestra.

Orchestra of the Alleghenies manager Julie McGough said the show will celebrate America through its music. She noted all of the compositions are American save for one: Steinway Young Artist winner Hannah Che will be performing the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2. As is a tradition with the spring show, high school musicians will be sitting in with their adult counterparts during the performance.

McGough said the idea behind the All-American theme and focus on student musicianship is showing McKeesport that the orchestra still is committed to the city.

Even though the name of the orchestra has changed, McGough said, “We are part of the community. We are still in McKeesport and committed to McKeesport.”

Tickets are $8-$18 online at www.mckeesportsymphony.org. They can be reserved in advance at 412-664-2854 and purchased at the door for $10-$20.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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