Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hunks and Harmony Invade the Benedum

Hunks and Harmony Invade the Benedum

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

The Celtic Thunder Show, MYTHOLOGY, follows the incredible success of Voyage and presents the perfect blend of entertainment, ideology and Gaelic spirituality, providing a modern twist on the old Celtic storytelling tradition.Timeless Celtic classics like Danny Boy and The Rocky Road to Dublin are part of what makes MYTHOLOGY a must-see. Modern ballads Scarlet Ribbons and Now We Are Free give the production a contemporary flair. MYTHOLOGY also features a wide variety of instruments in the eight-piece Celtic Thunder Band. 

What an ecclectic mix of insturments.  For the bulk of the show you should know that you need an affinity or appreciation for classic Irish music, the fiddle and the reel. 
The very look of this group belies description.  It is much more than five "beautiful men"  who sing like the seraphim and cherubim with one hulking hunk of manhood, George Donaldson who not fills up his portion of the stage but presents a boulder in a rock solid landscape and he is a lightning bolt of an entertainer.

George Donaldson is a self-taught and accomplished musician. George's love of Celtic music stems from his childhood in Glasgow, where his main influence was his late father Bernard, who had a love and appreciation of all kinds of live music played from the heart. In the Mythology show his solos are gripping and touchingly romantic.  He delivers the classic "The Grand Affaire" like a Hollywood matinee star.  And his love song "Scarlet Ribbons" left no hearts untouched.  But the real crowd pleaser was the Proclaimer's hit song, "Life with You."  Everytime he made an endaring gesture or sweep of those massive construction worker arms, the crowd roared.

Baritone  Emmet Cahill,  performs the inspirational love song "Always There," the haunting Irish ballad "Isle of Inisfree" and a uniquely beautiful version of the all-time favorite "Danny Boy."

Ryan Kelly's "Carrickfergus," is superb.  "Carrickfergus" is an Irish folk song , named after the town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.  He also brings new dimension to "House of the Rising Sun" and "Danny Boy."

Surfer looking Keith Harkin with his longish blonde hair is another crowd favorite.  What a powerful performance of "Now We are Free" (the theme from Gladiator.) We were also touched by his performance of "Lauren & I," a ballad he composed about his niece.

Named Top World Music Artist twice by industry bible Billboard, Celtic Thunder’s six male soloists perform both solo and ensemble numbers. They are known for performing an eclectic mix of songs, ranging from traditional Irish fare to international hits such as "The Boys are Back in Town" and "Still Haven't Found", as well as original compositions.

Mythology was characterized by Celtic Thunder's use of dramatic effects via lighting and choreography as well as a stage set resembling an ancient stone pathway like those from Celtic lore, with real Irish Instruments.

An interesting side note is the multi-generational family attendance in the audience from granddaughters to great grandmothers.  Also surprising are their repertoire of covers from, Garth Brooks, Billy Joel and even The Police.

Celtic Thunder at Benedum on October 6 was amazing. What talent! But I am sure for most of the ladies, the hi-light of the evening was when all the Celtic Thunder singers came out in kilts. From Celtic standards to Danny Boy and House of the Rising Sun, the performance was pure masterpiece.

Joanne Quinn-Smith, Award winning internet radio broadcaster, blogger, author and internet radio and TV network editor and publisher. Joanne is the owner and CEO, Creative Energy Officer, of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, a successful Pittsburgh-based marketing company. She is a grandmother and great grandmother, an unlikely trendsetter for online journalism and broadcasting. Joanne is internationally known as the “Get Your Google On” Gal. But better known as Techno Granny™ to over one million accumulated online listeners worldwide. Joanne has created a revolutionary online NEW MEDIA platform in Internet broadcasting, blogging and other social media participation that represents the new second generation of World Wide Web interactions, known in technology circles as Web 2.0. JQS is the online publisher of, an online community magazine to disseminate the Positive News for Positive Pittsburghers. PPL Mag is Pittsburgh’s First Internet radio and TV network with syndicated channels and online radio and TV capabilities. 

Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida"

Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida"Pittsburgh Opera

Review by Angel Thomas-Williams

The opera that I attended on opening night was astonishing. The orchestra played relaxingly and mellifluously to the ear. The setting to Giuseppe Verdi’s version of “Aida” was located in Egypt. Aida played by Latonia Moore, was a gorgeous Ethiopian servant to Amneris from Egypt and also a princess. The tone of the opening act was quite calm.

Since I have never been to an opera, I did not know what to expect. The translation to the singing were presented high above the theater stage. In Act I, the people of Ethiopia threatened
Egypt by terrorizing their land. The high priest Ramfis tells the warrior Radames to go out and defend Egypt. Now, although Aida was a servant to the people of Egypt, the warrior Radames was also deeply in love with her. At the time Aida’s father Amonasro, was one of the people captured after Egypt declared war against the Ethiopians and were defeated.

In this act, there were marvelous animals that appeared on stage for the jubilee of victory. There were snakes, birds, horses, and greyhounds all featured. After hearing the "oohs" and "ahhs", you could tell the audience was thrilled. The animals were also exhilarating to the audience because I looked around, with the glow of the stage and saw several kids and knew they would benefit from seeing the parade. Not to mention the roar from the crowd when the prominent Pittsburgh Steeler Charlie Batch appeared as the 'champion of champions'.

Aida has to identify her father to beg for him to be freed. Ramfis agrees to let her father go only
Radames Triumphal
under the condition that their war leader, Radames, the person who Aida is in love with, courts his daughter. Aida and Radames are not pleased with this decision. When the marriage day comes, Aida and Radames meet and decide to run away together. When the Egyptian king Amneris finds out that not only is Amonasro an Ethiopian but he is also the king, he is enraged and sends his people out to hunt him down. With everyone on the loose, Aida’s father is caught and killed. Aida and Radames are put in a tomb to suffocate while sharing their love and final words to each other.

The costumes used in the Opera fit perfectly to the Egyptian times of warriors, kings, queens and slaves. I remember sitting there as the opera began and seeing 4 guards who at the time, I thought were statues but were not. So the make-up, lighting and poise of the cast were quintessential!

Now I don’t know if I was so amazed by the opera singing because of the divine voices or because I never heard opera before, which gave it some perks but the voice of the main characters were astounding. Amonasro played by Lester Lynch, had a very compelling, vigorous tone. Aida played by Latonia Moore had a melodious sweet sound.

The opera itself was very dramatic. Between the love triangle and having to imagine choosing between my father and the love of my life how Aida did in this melodrama made it very emotional. I actually found myself getting teary eyed towards the final ‘hours’ of Aida and Radames' life.

Angel Thomas-Williams is a pharmacy technician for Giant Eagle and a Business Student at CCAC.  She is also the mother of a precocious five year old Anaiyah who loves the symphony. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What a Show...What a Showman!

What a Show…What a Showman!

What can I say?  Brian Stokes Mitchell epitomizes all that is wonderful about Broadway music.  The ultimate showman, Mitchell electrified the stage at Heinz Hall, charmingly engaging with the audience in a round robin competition in the second act.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of guest conductor Ted Sperling, warmed up the audience with music from Carousel and Sweeney Todd.  An added treat, students from area colleges and universities, participants in the All-Star College Chorus, gave us two selections with the promise of more to come. The All-Star College Chorus is led by Robert Page and Christine Hestwood and includes students from California University of Pennsylvania, Community College of Allegheny County, Chatham University, Point Park University, Slippery Rock University, University of Pittsburgh, Washington & Jefferson College and Waynesburg University.

With music from Camelot, Porgy and Bess, Les Miserables, Ragtime among others, we were transported to the Great White Way, with familiar classics and a few new ones.  Mitchell and Sperling weaved in stories of their extensive relationship creating beautiful music together.  Add in pianist and friend Tedd Firth, and you get the benefit of three professionals who are so in tuned with each other that it almost felt like a performance around a living room piano rather than a concert hall.

I walked away from the performance with 3 favorites, 2 new ones and an old standard.  The “Waters in March” was a nice treat and made me smile with its uplifting message and Brazilian beat.  “New Word” is a touching and loving tribute to discovery of language between parent and child.  The glorious rendition of my personal anthem, the affirming “Impossible Dream”, thematic of continuing to strive no matter the obstacle, brought tears to my eyes.  The splendor of Heinz Hall, the soaring voices, and beautiful music of the orchestra all blended into a sumptuous experience.

The PNC Pops series with Brian Stokes Mitchell is at Heinz Hall through October 20, 2013.

Reviewed on behalf of Roving Pittsburgher by Joyce Kane.  Joyce Kane is the owner of Cybertary Pittsburgh, a Virtual Administrative support company, providing virtual office support, personal and executive assistance, creative design services and light bookkeeping.  Cybertary works with businesses and busy individuals to help them work 'on' their business rather than 'in' their business.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lords Ladies and Buccaneers at the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival

Lords Ladies and Buccaneers

by Robert Lardin

The Pittsburgh Renaissance Fair was held at the rustically beautiful Mount Hope Estate and Winery from August 3 to October 27.

My lords, Ladies a fun time is had by all, The Black Knight was vanquishing all contenders, with the Herald proclaiming all of his mighty deeds. There were Colleens and Lassies, galore to feast the eyes upon, all amply built. There were Lords a leaping with their finery and swords ready to protect all. We had our own Quasimodo sitting in the streets begging and charming the ladies. A scourge to the gentlemen!

We had both male and female Musketeers, walking around looking for drink and some fun. Belle Dancers and Jugglers, Irish wash women, Troubadours abound to entertain and delight all who see them. 

There were family friendly week-ends especially the

Pyrate Invasion Weekend
August 24-25, 2013

Pyrate School for Nipperkins – The yunguns, the would-be buccaneers had a chance to learn how to look like a pyrate, talk like a pyrate “Arrrgh!” and brandish swords like a pyrate.

The Four Corners Pyrate Treasure Hunt - A great pyrate treasure was said to have been buried in Mount Hope, and the Queen asked for the help of yunguns and family members alike in retrieving it. To find the  Treasure all would be Treasure Hunters  went to the Informistress Booth inside the Castle Gates, for a treasure map. After finding all the clues, they proceeded to the Chess
Boad at 5:30 of the clock to speak the secret password and open the treasure chest. Great family fun!

But there  was also a  chivalry and romance week-end from August 17-18, 2013

Dedicated to Romantics of all ages! Knights and Rogues, Ladies and Wenches, even Queen Elizabeth were in the mood to woo and be wooed. You might have found your love there on the shire. 

A Renewal of Love Ceremony - Everyone was welcome to reaffirm the loving commitment they have sworn to each other. This was quite a tear jerker in many cases.

Wooing Contest - Chivalry is far from dead, and the Queen had decreed there should be a competition of all things romantical to prove it. Knights tested themselves in feats of woo against the Shire's most famous lovers.  Some formerly thought “not so romantic” quite surprised their friends and significant others.

Men in Tights Competition - All gentles do know that there be no part of a man more appealing than his calves, and the Shire of Mount Hope found the best (or, at least the most eager) judges for this hilarious and competitive "showing." 

So next year take someone and hold them tight for a trip back through time, to the days of yore, where Kings and Queens ruled, where knights came to rescue the damsel. Where you can purchase a memory or two to take home that special day spent with the family or that special someone, for a few coppers to be transported away from today.

Robert W Lardin Jr. is a Templar/Reiki Master, He specializes  in Holistic, Metaphysical and Healing. He is  also a Certified Hypnotist. The name of his business is Neghibor Bob's Reiki.  He is also known as: The Kilted Man.  Can you guess why?

Robert Lardin
Templar/Reiki Master
Turtle Creek  PA 15145

Cell Phone (412)609-4929
Home Phone (412)646-1408

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gamers Dress Up and Interact with Symphony Fans at Legend of Zelda

by Roving Pittsburgher Reporter
Joseph Budd Smith III

On Tuesday October, 8th The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses returned to Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall with its SECOND QUEST! Conducted by Susie Benchasil Seiter, the symphony is a tour through 27 years of Zelda franchise history. 

Each part focused on a different game in the franchise and incorporates key musical elements from each of those games as well as HD footage of gameplay.  The games focused on were A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Windwaker. A pleasant mixture of sight and sound that touched every heart associated with the kingdom of Hyrule was enjoyed by both symphony fans and gamers.
Each of the four movements was introduced by the composer Chad Seiter, who would provide insight into the motivation behind each part.  Whether you are a savvy veteran of the 8 bit world or a fan of the newer HD titles released through the Wii U, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses SECOND QUEST had something for you.  This limited event ran just one night only and your next chance to catch the show is on Oct. 26th in Columbus, OH at the Ohio Theater.
The Wind Waker or baton of Wind in which the main character named ‘Link’ (for those of you who don’t know) used it to conduct in that game of the same name. Here it was made real as the Ms. Noone used it to conduct the movement dedicated to that particular version of the Legend of Zelda. So why is the symphony called "the Legend of Zelda" and not "the Legend of Link"?

Nintendo's Legend of Zelda is one of the most long-running and storied franchises in video game history.
For non Zelda fans that are symphony fans here is a brief overview from Wikipedia:
Creation of the World

The Goddesses create the world, from A Link to the Past
Hyrule was formed many ages ago through the works of the three Golden Goddesses: Din the Goddess of Power, Nayru the Goddess of Wisdom, and Farore the Goddess of Courage. Before spirits and life existed, these three goddesses descended upon the chaos that was Hyrule.[3][4] Din, with her strong flaming arms, cultivated the land, created the red earth, and was thus responsible for the creation of the geography of Hyrule.[5] Nayru poured her wisdom onto the earth and gave the spirit of law to the world, bringing order to a formerly chaotic realm.[6][7] Farore, with her rich soul, created all life forms that would uphold the law established by Nayru.[8]

The series centers on Link, the main playable character and the protagonist of the series. Link is often given the task of rescuing Princess Zelda and the most common setting of the series, Hyrule, from Ganondorf who is the primary antagonist of the series.

Susie Benchasil Seiter
So much for catching non gamers up to speed! This symphony as a result of the game series prominence in pop culture was just a bit different than the ordinary symphony venue with a choir and of course under thirty gamers in the audience hooting and hollering.  A younger than normal crowd of people from thirty down and many dressed in theme costumes from the games attended and rubbed shoulders with the regular symphony fans.  There was a consensus from regular symphony fans that the symphony could have stood on its own but the Zelda followers were there for the fun of the video, the visual effects and the followers of the Kingdom of Hyrule in the audience.

Joseph Budd Smith III is a Retention Specialist for American Income Life Insurance Company.  American Income Life provides life insurance and supplemental health benefits to working families in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland.  Budd is also an adult gaming enthusiast and a Shakespeare fan.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Like a Trip to Sicily, La Tavola Italiana Ristorante

Like a Trip to Sicily, La Tavola Italiana Ristorante

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

I first discovered La Tavola Italiana in 1999 when half of it was a pizza shop and Mama Giaramita was still alive.  What a place then. I owned a limousine business and it was a great place to get a late bite and take my limo clients when they wanted to eat. My clients were always delighted.   It is owned and completely run by an Italian family from Sicily.  My father’s parents were from Sicily and I was excited so we became fast friends.  They were the first Sicilian family that I had met in Pittsburgh.  It wasn’t hard for guests to become part of their family, Joe and Carmella would walk through the restaurant on brief breaks from creating amazing pizza and home cooked and “gourmet” Italian meals, to ask about your children and perhaps have a sip of your wine at your table, often bringing some of their own that guests had brought them.  There is still no liquor license and one of the charms is that the restaurant is BYOB.  Many nights after the restaurant closed several of us would sit around sometimes until 3 AM drinking wine, trying out one of Carmella’s new dishes and just “shooting the breeze.”

Carnella at one of her famous buffets
Well it is  fourteen years later, we are all older and don’t keep the late hours anymore and since PPLMag   So I am not as frequent a client although I consider the Giaramita family some of my most wonderful friends.  When my father passed away Carmella called me up and said "I want to send something for the family, stop by before you leave and pick it up."   She had made two large trays of chicken parmigiana filled with her signature marinara and lots of love. The La Monica family never forgot that and neither have many of her clients because Carmella, Joe, Jolina, Giovanna, Gabriella and Antonio are known for their love of their  guests and turning them into family. 
has expanded so rapidly, often I am dining in town before reviewing a show so that I can get parking without having to walk eighteen blocks.

The love is still there and it all goes into Carmella and Joe’s food, Joe running the much smaller pizza operation out of the back of the restaurant, always busy but there is no longer that little pizza store on the side of the restaurant where guests could come over and sit to talk to mama or solitary guests could have dinner with her because La Tavola needed the space but the friendly atmosphere that allows you to lean over from one table to the next and get to know your fellow diners is still there.

Happy customers add to any party!
I celebrated my birthday with my family there last Saturday.  My older son and his fiancĂ© asked where I wanted to go and I said, La Tavola.  I haven’t been there in so long. Well I must tell you, Carmella still makes the absolute best garlic laden marinara sauce in the city.  My sister in law risked a family argument by telling her husband, my brother that Carmella’s sauce was better than his.  The marguerita pizza and calamari   There is a tie between La Tavola and one other restaurant in the city for the best garlic bread.  The difference is that Joe still bakes his own bread and makes his own pizza dough.  And bar none for the healthy dieter and the gourmet they make the absolute best eggplant parmigiana possibly in the state.  No it is not deep fried with lots of carb coatings.  It is lightly breaded and pan seared in olive oil then covered with the freshest homemade marinara sauce and sprinkled lightly with buffalo mozzarella.  It is not drowned with sauce or encrusted with cheese but the taste is impeccable and it’s light enough to be heart healthy.
fritte is still fresh and amazing.

My sister in law said that the lamb chops were “finger licking” good.  My nephew Josh who is a pretty good Italian cook himself could not sing enough praise for the duck ravioli.  My son was amazed that the frutti de mara, (pasta with seafood) had not changed since we have been patronizing La Tavola.  My brother, Joe, the sauce maker, could not get past the appetizers so he had stuffed banana peppers and greens and beans and for a guy who is very opinionated about his own cooking had no complaints. My sons fiance loved the shrimp Alfredo and my five year old daughter just adored eating from everyone else's plates.

Giaramita family at a home party
We were all so stuffed but still ordered  the signature "dolce amore" dessert and passed it around.  It is made of their famous chocolate sponge cake with a dollop of some special chocolate cream which she refuses to reveal the recipe for and then draped with three kinds of berries in sauce and topped with freshly whipped cream.  Of course Carmella also features fresh tiramisu and home made canola.

One thing you must know is that oldest daughter Jolena works in the kitchen
Jolina, beautiful  chef
with her mom and has learned all of mom's recipes and added some amazing nouveau cuisine of her own which is featured in the specials.

So we ate to our hearts content in what could have been our grandmother’s Italian kitchen, visited with the staff who knew us by our first names, visited briefly with Carmella, Joe and their son Antonio on a busy Saturday night and drank a little wine with good conversation.  And for a moment were transported back to Sicilia at the La Tavola Italiana Ristorante without leaving Mount Washington.

La Tavola is located at 1 Boggs Ave and until someone builds another house across the street you can still   It is not Grandview Avenue but the view of smiling faces inside and the tasty and picturesque presentation of the cuisine is view and taste enough for the gourmand in you.
see a small view of the city.

For those of you who want to learn to cook at home, have a chef’s tasting or an event, Carmella has opened Carmella’s Kitchen which always has something  wonderful going on. 

Joanne Quinn-Smith, Award winning internet radio broadcaster, blogger, author and internet radio and TV network editor and publisher. Joanne is the owner and CEO, Creative Energy Officer, of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, a successful Pittsburgh-based marketing company. She is a grandmother and great grandmother, an unlikely trendsetter for online journalism and broadcasting. Joanne is internationally known as the “Get Your Google On” Gal. But better known as Techno Granny™ to over one million accumulated online listeners worldwide. Joanne has created a revolutionary online NEW MEDIA platform in Internet broadcasting, blogging and other social media participation that represents the new second generation of World Wide Web interactions, known in technology circles as Web 2.0. JQS is the online publisher of, an online community magazine to disseminate the Positive News for Positive Pittsburghers. PPL Mag is Pittsburgh’s First Internet radio and TV network with syndicated channels and online radio and TV capabilities. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

“Kiss and Cry,” A Tour de Force That Blends Film, Dance, Text, and Theatre.

Brava and Bravo To Michele Anne De Mey and Jaco van Dormael, for “Kiss and Cry,” A Tour de Force That Blends Film, Dance, Text, and Theatre.
By Hank Walshak

“Kiss and Cry,” played at the New Hazlett Theater, talked to my heart as only a work of theatrical genius could. The story is about an aging woman at the end of her life travelling back into her memory, sometimes dim, as she remembers the men she’s loved and who have gone from her life. The question that burns for her is: Where are they now?

As the piece opens, we see two hands, the fingers of which move the way we move our fingers in walking movements when we play with babies and toddlers. “Where is this going?” I whispered to my wife, Jeannette, seated beside me. Shortly after, I realized that “Kiss and Cry” defies categorization.

My surprise at seeing fingers acting the story soon changed into light-hearted acceptance as the story gained momentum. Through scene after scene, I found myself drawn ever more deeply into this world of fingers as actors.

The entire play is acted out by the moving hands and fingers of the crew on miniature sets with video cameras filming and projecting the action onto a giant screen. The precise movements of the fingers acting hypnotized me to see them not as fingers, but as personalities creating drama with the finesse of a ballet troupe.

The fingers achieve dance movements we see in real-life ballet, from plies to pirouettes, as they depict emotions of intense love, sensuality, and kindness.

The members of the crew work their hands in movements depicting changing scenes in almost darkness that never detract one’s attention from the giant screen. Their movements take place in silence as they move about ending one scene and seamlessly starting another. As they do, the narrator expresses the action that moves sometimes briskly, sometimes at a slow pace as the music builds a visceral tie to the unfolding story.

The choreography has them do their nanodances with the grace and poise you’d expect to see as professional dancers express stories through dance. The overall effect gives one a sense of the surreal as they move about on tiny sets.

The play has an existential, French taste, reminiscent of the black-and-white movies Francois Truffaut directed years ago, like “Les Quatre Cents Coups,” (The 400 Blows) that grabbed your heart and arteries and made you a part of the story. Kudos to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust for bringing this tour de force to Pittsburgh as part of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts 2013.

A blend of film, dance, text, and theatre,Kiss and Cry” is the brain child and heart child of Michele Anne De Mey and Jaco van Dormael. Both are well recognized in Europe for their artistic and theater talents. Michele holds the position of associate at Charleroi Danses, the Choreographic Centre of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. In his theatrical productions, Jaco has developed a poetic and ambitious world of his own with non-linear, narrative forms. Both are natives of Belgium.

What a tour de force, this “Kiss and Cry.” It’s safe to say that you’ve never before witnessed theater like this. The script and acting over turn the traditional way things are done. In this case, “Kiss and Cry” turns upside down and sideways the traditional way plays are conceived, produced, and appreciated.

Hank Walshak, Founder and President of Walshak Communications, Inc., helps experts to be read, be heard, be seen, and be known. He assists experts in creating and delivering expertise-related content to differentiate themselves as experts.