Johnstown Symphony's season finale performance to feature classic, new pieces

·3 min read

May 4—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — A timeless classic paired with a new composition will cap off a season of music for the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra.

The symphony will present "Songs of Comfort: Brahms Requiem and Sounds of Johnstown" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus, Richland Township.

For the performance, the Johnstown Symphony Chorus, directed by Jeffrey L. Webb, is partnering with the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Chorale, directed by Craig Denison, and Pitt-Johnstown to perform the Brahms Requiem, considered by many to be the pinnacle of choral orchestral music.

Grammy-winning soprano Sarah Brailey will sing Samuel Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915," and internationally acclaimed baritone Tyler Duncan will join as soloist for the Brahms piece.

The JSO is welcoming back composer Tommy Dougherty for a second time in the commissioning of the new piece, "Sounds of Johnstown."

"The piece incorporates sounds recorded by audience members that represent everyday life in the region; you'll hear anything from a local church band to a Zamboni, in addition to the live orchestra interacting with these recordings," he said.

"This type of collaboration is a great model for how orchestras can support living composers and engage directly with their audience members in a meaningful way. I'm grateful for the experience and am very excited to see it all come together."

Dougherty won the 2021 JSO competition seeking a commission in recognition of the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11.

He created a poignant composition specific not only for the anniversary, but specific to the community that responded on that day in that field in Shanksville. The resulting piece of music was moving, personal and unique for the orchestra and the community.

"I am so very excited for our season-culminating performance," said James Blachly, music director of the JSO.

"Bringing a local composer to write music with sounds contributed by our own audience members is thrilling."

He said Barber's song is fitting on many levels for the season of "Hometown," and the Brahms Requiem combines two amazing choruses with the world-class talents of Brailey and Duncan.

"This will be a historic concert for our organization — an evening that represents the musical growth we have made together, and a concert that reminds us all of our shared humanity and care for each other in this beautiful community and region," Blachy said.

Erin Codey, executive director of the JSO, will introduce a sneak peek of the 2023-24 season before the performance.

"It has been an incredible year of truly magical performances that we hope to top next year," she said.

A pre-concert talk with Blachly will be held at 6:30 p.m. at which he will offer insights into the evening's musical selections.

JSO musicians will perform in the lobby prior to the concert from 6:45 to 7:15 p.m.

The concert is being underwritten in part by Ross Russo, Cornerstone Advisors Asset Management LLC and Milkie's Lawn & Landscape.

Ticket prices range from $38 to $58, with a limited number of tickets reserved for "Pick Your Price" purchasing.

They can be ordered by calling 814-535-6738 or online at www.