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Arts & Entertainment

Betters brings sweet sounds to museum

Dawn Law
| Monday, Feb. 21, 2005

If you can feel the music, then it is real.

During Harold Betters ' five decades in the music business, he has appeared on television, played from the Apollo to the Super Bowl and made numerous recordings that can be heard on jazz radio.

Betters has worked with Slide Hampton, David "Fathead" Newman and Al Hirt, to name a few.

Even Louis Armstrong liked his sound.

He has conducted jazz seminars and workshops at the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University and West Virginia University, and was recently inducted into the Pittsburgh Jazz Hall of Fame.

Betters turns 77 next month, and says it all started with parents Robert and Lela, who owned a jazz club in the Connellsville area, where he still lives with wife Marjorie .

Betters' six siblings played an instrument, and Harold's choice was the trombone.

"My idol is J.J. Johnson, but the guy that got me started was Tommy Dorsey. The trombone player was real sweet, and that's what I wanted to play."

After formal music training at Ithaca College and the Brooklyn Conservatory, Betters was drafted in 1950.

He played in the 308th Army Band for two years, and that's where Betters says he learned how to play music.

"You don't really get to know it until you get out in the streets. I can tell a guy that's knowledgeable about music, but he doesn't feel it. When you hear stuff like that, you should feel it, and know how to move."

The Harold Betters Quartet performed Thursday for the Westmoreland Jazz Society at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg.

Kevin Moore was on keyboard and Cecil Brooks II played the drums.

Chuck Ramsey , who has worked with Betters for 45 years, accompanied on vocals and bass.

Blowing snow was visible through the windows of McKenna Gallery when Betters put on a pair of sunglasses and took on the persona of the late Ray Charles for the tune, "Georgia On My Mind."

He interjected "Amen" into Ramsey's rich rendition of "Drown in My Own Tears."

The quartet toured with Charles, and the song was "one of Ray's favorite numbers," Betters said.

"To me, I don't think it's taught. I think it's born. You got that down, baby• It's inward. That's jazz."

The quartet inspired a standing ovation, something that happens once or twice a season, society organizers said.

"To me, jazz is a style," Betters said. "The nicest compliment I get from people is when they hear my music and they say, 'It's Harold Betters.'"

Seen at the society: Kathy Johnson and her 92-year old aunt, Louise Bolling , who drove all the way from Akron, Ohio; Joe and Pat Erdelsky, Linda Kubas; John Myers; Lou and Joan DeRose; Cliff and Evelyn Felmlee; Dr. Juan and Laura Mari ; the Rev. George Johnson and Faith ; Harvey and Susan Eger ; Jack and Jean Snodgrass ; Stu Horner; Irving Bloom; Jim Boswell; Nina Lewis; and quartet manager Dick Fisher with Carole.

Redstone Highlands celebrates silver

Redstone Highlands celebrated its 25th anniversary Friday with simultaneous worship services at its communities in Greensburg, Murrysville and North Huntingdon.

Services were conducted by the Rev. Douglas Holben , the Rev. Kevin Carey and the Rev. Chuck MacPherson.

During the service, a maroon flag with the anniversary logo and the words, "Care, Service and Dedication," was revealed.

One will fly under the American flag at each campus.

A prayer, written by residents Mark Lanfried, Judy Barry, Barb Melvin and Richard Morgan , was read at each service.

Lanfried, Barry and Melvin also served on the celebration committee.

The prayer asked for help reaching out to those in the "evening of life" that were lonely, grieving for a loved one, or suffering from an illness.

Ned Booher read at the Greensburg service.

"Show us how to help lift the burdens of these whose wounds are so deep," he said. "It may be that in such ways as this that we, the residents, will share in the fulfilling of Redstone Highlands' mission, now and in the years ahead..."

This year, Redstone Highlands' Benevolent Care Fund will pay out $1.5 million to assist residents in need.

"We've never had anybody leave because of inability to pay," said John Dickson , CEO and president. "A lot of organizations can't claim that."

Dickson served on the celebration committee.

Don Carroll , a committee member, the First Presbyterian Church of Murrysville Choir and Rebecca Pascarella contributed vocal performances.

Other committee members were Linda Dickson, Nancy Hershelman, Frank King, Pat Kowatch, Candy Kubinec, Vicki Loucks, Robert Schweikert, Lisa Szalanczy, Bob Van Atta, Brenda Doerzbacher, Jane Earnest, Eliza Markle and Paul Matthews.

Seen at the Greensburg service: the Rev. Martin Ankrum, Beatrice Van Atta, Hazel Booher, Doris Nevin, Ruth Nevin, Dorothy Yard, Barbara Ferrier, Betty Rodgers, Jean George, Michael Brandonio, Adam Fennell, Tom Emmons and Marsha Morozowich.

Artist enjoys pushing his range

Gregg Puchalski says he doesn't want to be pigeonholed.

The 56-year old native of Lackawanna, N.Y., currently resides in Regent Square and works as a scenic artist in films, television and theater.

His resume includes "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," "The Natural," "Inspector Gadget," "The Mothman Prophecies" and "Antwone Fisher."

He also plays electronic music on keyboard under the name "Powder French."

Puchalski graduated from the University of Buffalo, and started out as billboard painter, working first in Atlanta, then Buffalo N.Y. and Pittsburgh.

In 1987, he painted a 48-foot wide tribute to Andy Warhol that was displayed throughout the Pittsburgh area.

About five years later, he worked on a sports mural located on the side of 24-story office building in downtown Pittsburgh.

"After all these years of working in different places and using different techniques," Puchalski said. "I'm just now getting around to doing my own stuff."

Puchalski's 15-work exhibition, "New Paintings," is on display through March 12, at DV8 Espresso Bar and Gallery, on Pennsylvania Avenue in Greensburg.

His favorite style, surrealism, is demonstrated in the nightmarish dancing black birds in "Ceaseless Motion."

Wife Casey Brown said the images were inspired by some dead birds Puchalski found while working on a billboard.

Other include a stark landscape entitled "Iceland," and an abstract series called "Icarus," that uses feathers for texture.

"He does have a real range," said MaryBeth Munroe , of Crafton, a guest at an opening reception Saturday. "He does realism like you wouldn't believe."

The average size of the work is 2'x2'.

One of Puchalski's favorite artists is James Rosenquist, known for his larger-than-billboard size canvases.

"I wish I had room to do those," Puchalski said. "It's just the feel of doing something that big."

Seen at the opening: DV8 owners Mark and T errie Barill, Ed Snyder, Carol Dorazio, Paul Bucciarelli, Ralph Pivirotto, Darien D'Alfonso, Eddie Drogowski and Pat Brown .

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