Good heads for music
While being "on a record label" isn't everything for a band anymore, it's still a pretty big boost, particularly if it's lucky enough to find a label that actually puts the music above all else.
Jeff Betten liked the new album "Black Mark" by Pittsburgh's Host Skull so much that he took over its record label, Carnegie-based Wild Kindness Records, to make sure it got properly promoted.
Host Skull is a constantly shape-shifting musical entity driven by Pittsburgh's Dave Bernabo (Assembly, Vale & Year), who's equally adept at crafting melodic indie-pop and more experimental sounds, and Santa Fe-based musician/songwriter/engineer Will Dyar.
Sometimes, Host Skull appears as a jazz-improv trio; other times, it's more like a five-piece rock band, and unconventional instrumentation -- like the viola, and pitched crystal "singing bowls" -- keeps the surprises coming. For their live shows, Host Skull frequently collaborates with video artists, sculptors and dancers.
The album release party is at 8 p.m. Nov. 9 at Modern Formations Gallery in Garfield, with Mariage Blanc and The Caribbean. Admission is $7. Details: 412-362-0274
-- Michael Machosky
Music with a view
Innovation doesn't stop at music programming for Ion Sound, the new chamber-music ensemble in residence at the University of Pittsburgh. It will open its season Nov. 10 with "Eyes on Sound," a performance that will feature live painting.
Artist Joseph Dermody will create a work while the ensemble performs music by contemporary composers Gilda Lyons and Michael Nyman and mid-20th-century composers Karol Szymanowski and Serge Prokofiev.
Dermody is also a classical music teacher at Concordia College in Bronxville, N.Y.
The members of Ion Sound, which was founded in 2006, are flutist Peggy Yoo, clarinetist Kathleen Costello, violinist Laura Motchalov, cellist Elisa Kohanski, and pianists Robert Frankenberry and Jack Kurutz.
The concert starts at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Bellefield Hall, University of Pittsburgh, Oakland. Admission is $15; $10 for students and seniors.
Details: 412-422-8042 or www.ionsound.org
-- Mark Kanny
Find the rhythm of the season
Flutist Ellen DePasquale will make her debut with the Trillium Ensemble in the trio's "Autumn Rhythms" concert Nov. 9 at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, Oakland.
The music will feature works by Maria Grenfell, Jennifer Higdon, Carnegie Mellon University graduate Paul Schoenfield and a flute solo by Toru Takemitsu.
The concert also will include "Whimsy No. 1," a medley of familiar songs that composer Matthew Heap calls "a childhood quilt."
Besides DePasquale, the trio includes pianist Katie Palumbo and clarinetist Rachael Stutzman.
Music begins at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $10; $5 for children. Details: 412-302-8233 or firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Bob Karlovits
Turning it over to the top brass
James Gourlay will step aside as conductor of River City Brass in the current series of concerts, which he calls "perfect for a military person."
The concerts will be directed by Col. Thomas Palmatier, director since 2011 of the U.S. Army Band, known as "Pershing's Own." The series, "All American Heroes," begins Nov. 7 and is a collection of patriotic songs to mark Veterans' Day and celebrate Thanksgiving.
The concert will feature such classics as John Phillip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "The Thunderer," along with a premiere of Paul Lovatt Cooper's "Song for the Skies."
Palmatier says Gourlay performed as a tuba soloist -- as he will in these concerts -- with the Army band in January when he asked Palmatier if he would like to conduct.
"It is a great band," Palmatier says. "It is people who get together from some other jobs and produce great concerts. It is what music is all about."
Concerts are Nov. 7 at Beulah Presbyterian Church, Churchill; Nov. 8 at Carson Middle School, McCandless; Nov. 9 at The Palace Theatre, Greensburg; Nov. 11 at Upper St. Clair High School; Nov. 14 at Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland. All begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $19 to $41. Details: 412-434-7222 of www.rivercitybrass.org
-- Bob Karlovits
Back in time and memory
An improv show aimed at fans of classic '80 and '90s sitcoms takes audience members back in time and down memory lane.
"Midseason Replacement," an improvised sitcom, will perform its one-year anniversary show at 9 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Steel City Improv Theater, Shadyside.
"Midseason" starts each show by asking an audience member to provide a childhood memory and their name. Using that for inspiration, the cast creates a unique show complete with a theme song, sound effects and more, all done in the same vein as shows such as "Step by Step," "Full House" and "Family Matters."
The team will soon head to Rochester, N.Y., for the Fall Back Comedy Festival. The current cast includes producer Mike Peditto, Dave Forman, Matt Lanning, Andrea Laurion, Brad McNary, Tamara Siegert, Alex Rudzki and Chris Wright.
"Midseason Replacement" performs at 9 p.m. every second Saturday of the month at Steel City Improv Theater, 5950 Ellsworth Ave. Tickets are $5 at the door, cash only.
-- Rachel Weaver
Many faces of the African disapora
Sembene - The Film & Arts Festival opens its 5th season of award- winning films that address the African diaspora.
The festival, which is named after Ousmane Sembene, the father of African cinema, runs from Nov. 8 through 29 in the auditorium of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh - Homewood, 7101 Hamilton Ave.
This weekend's films include "Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary - - A Journey with Mumia Abu Jamal," about the activist convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, on Nov. 8; and Sembene's dark comedy, "Mandabi," on Nov. 9.
The screenings all are 6:15 p.m., with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.
Other films include the Pittsburgh premieres of "Ornette -- Made In America," about jazz musician Ornette Coleman, Nov. 15; and "But Then, She's Betty Carter," a documentary about the jazz vocalist, Nov. 22. The festival closes with "Urban Encounters: What to Do If You Get Stopped By the Police," on Nov. 29, followed by a discussion led by Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant of the Pittsburgh Police.
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