All posts by

The Vinyl Review: ‘Magical Mystery Tour’

One of the better albums in my collection is a roughed-up copy of “Magical Mystery Tour.”

I have mentioned it before in AMPED. I think I found it about a year ago in a used record store and only now pulled it out for a second listen.
The Beatles, while not my favorite band, deserve more regular play.

Listening to the music and paging through the mini-book included in the album jacket takes the listener/viewer to another place and time. Strange pictures add to the unique music coming from under the needle.

The jacket adds to the experience, much like one of Alice Cooper’s artistic albums.

I plan to get on the tour bus more frequently.

(A British word seldom heard in songs by American bands, but used at least once by the Beatles: knicker.)


Jazz band, choir among performers scheduled at Grand Halle

Submitted photo
Members of Johnstown Christian School’s Handbell Choir, pictured above, are to soon perform at The Grand Halle.

Our Town Correspondent

This month’s Tuesday Noon Recital Series at First Lutheran Church features performances by a jazz band, a handbell choir, a St. Vincent College student and the founder of the series itself.

“We’re somewhat amazed and certainly grateful to come up with such good lineups,” said George Fattman, chairman of the Tuesday Noon Recital Task Force. “The April group has a couple dozen talented young people, plus a well-regarded veteran, Kim Rauch.”

The series commences April 4 with a performance by Greater Johnstown High School’s jazz band. The band is to perform selections from its upcoming concert, “A Night at the Movies!” This show is under the direction of Eric Pfeil.

“We had the jazz band a couple years ago, and people loved the enthusiasm of the young musicians,” Fattman said. “Their current director, Eric Pfeil, scheduled this a year ago.

“They rarely play in a venue outside the school district, so they regard this as something special. I don’t know who likes the program more, them or us.”

On April 11, another group of high school students will have the unique opportunity to perform inside the church. Johnstown Christian School’s Handbell Choir, under the direction of Kristen Lloyd, is to present a recital alongside the school’s high school choir. A vocal quartet and flutist also are also to share their talents.

“We’ve been hoping for some time to bring in youngsters from the Johnstown Christian School,” Fattman said.

“We’ve had several recommendations to bring the bell choir. Now we are getting the bell choir plus a vocal quartet plus a flutist. Their director, Kristen Lloyd, is such a devoted teacher and musician.”

And Rauch is set to entertain audiences April 18, when he plays the church’s 3,000-pipe Skinner organ.

“Kim knows the instrument well because he used to be the minister of music at First Lutheran,” Fattman said.

Rauch is also the founder of the Tuesday Noon Recital Series, and serves as program director at The Grand Halle, a church-turned-performance-venue in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood. Previously, Rauch taught music at Richland School District and University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Rauch is also responsible for founding the children’s chorus of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra (Inclined to Sing) and has served as organist and choir director at numerous churches within the area.

“I don’t know what Kim is playing, but he’s playing something exuberant and joyous, fitting for the week after Easter,” Fattman said. “Kim is so enthusiastic. This program will reflect that.”

Music composed by Handel and Andrew Lloyd Weber, among others, is to be performed by St. Vincent College senior Kayla Uveges on April 24.

Uveges, a biology major who is minoring in sacred music, is a member of St. Vincent College’s Camerata and Camerata Scholars choirs. She’s to be accompanied that afternoon by Harriett Miller, a longtime piano teacher and performer.

“People love Kayla and have been following her success as a singer since she was a little girl in our congregation,” Fattman said, “and everybody wants Harriett Miller as an accompanist. There will be plenty of nostalgia — but a lot of talent.”

First Lutheran Church’s Tuesday Noon Recital Series, which has been taking place for more than 25 years, is designed to give people a laid-back opportunity to enjoy music during the lunch hour.

“These programs are such a nice break in the middle of the day, and culturally important to downtown Johnstown,” Fattman said. “The programs are excellent, but they’re also short. People can grab a light lunch in just a few more minutes, or they can remain and talk with the artists and others who attend.”

A free luncheon follows each performance. The luncheons are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m.

“Good as the music is, it really helps to have lunch, which also is good,” Fattman said. “People ask for recipes or take-out.”

First Lutheran Church is located at 415 Vine St. in downtown Johnstown. For more information about the series, visit online.

The Tuesday Noon Recital Series, which takes place in April, July and October, is underwritten by the Carolyn Walker Music Fund, contributions made by those who attend and by the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts through a grant administered by Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance. Other support comes from individual contributions.

Fattman works in conjunction with other members of the congregation, as well as consultants Rosemary Pawlowski, Jean Reavel and the Rev. Dr. Wilbert Boerstler, to bring the series to fruition every year. Greer Koeller serves as chair of the kitchen crew and is a member of the task force.

Together, they host a dozen recitals per year and serve around 1,300 lunches — all on a $4,000 budget.

“This takes organization and the input of about 30 volunteers,” Fattman said, “but people respond to success. They like to perform, they like to attend and they like to help.

“I remember the comment of a popular local artist, who said after his program, ‘Everybody should be doing this!’”

The Wall: Events for the week of March 29

Who: Paprika Rose
What: Vintage-style event
Where: Paprika Rose, located along Diamond Boulevard in Westmont
When: April 4 from 4 to 7 p.m.
Additional details: This event gives shoppers an opportunity to meet featured artists, see new items and purchase antiques, gifts and artisan goods. For more information, call the shop owner, Agnes, at 503-806-5400.

Who: Ron McIntosh
What: “Year-Round Maintenance for Your Property” seminar
Where: Sandyvale Memorial Gardens and Conservancy Greenhouse, located at 80 Hickory St. in Johnstown’s Hornerstown neighborhood
When: April 1 from 10 a.m. to noon
Additional details: Ron McIntosh, a local horticulturalist and the owner of “Green Grower Grown Organic Produce,” is offering this seminar. Those who attend can learn the secrets to year-round maintenance for lawn and property, and how to have the nicest landscape on the block. Free refreshments will be served. To register, visit or call 814-266-7891 and a registration form will be mailed to you. Class size is limited to 30 seats per session.

Who: Richland High School Performing Arts Center
What: Jim Donovan and Sun King Warriors in concert, featuring guest accompaniment by Richland High School student musicians
Where: Richland Performing Arts Center, located at 1 Academic Drive in Richland Township
When: March 31 beginning at 7 p.m.
Additional details: Former Rusted Root founding member and multi-platinum recording artist Jim Donovan and his band, Sun King Warriors, are teaming up with Richland High School student musicians for this show. Released early 2016, Donovan’s debut album, “Sun King Warriors” gained critical national acclaim and wide non-commercial and AAA radio play. Sun King Warriors can be best described as a mix of Americana rock, with a strong dose of tribal style drumming. Doors for the performance are set to open at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit or

Who: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (SAMA) at Johnstown
What: “The Art of Healing: Reflections 2017” exhibit
Where: SAMA—Johnstown, located inside the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus
When: Now through June 2
Additional details: SAMA—Johnstown’s latest exhibition features approximately 80 works created by patients during SAMA’s Museum/Healthcare Partnership Program residencies at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. The works in The Art of Healing Exhibition, now in its sixth year, were created during residencies with SAMA directory artists Deb Bunnell and Susan Novak. The museum’s hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The museum is a handicapped-accessible facility and is open to the public free of charge. For more information, please call the Museum or visit www.sama-art.og.

Who: Johnstown Senior Center
What: Fifth annual basket party
Where: Johnstown Senior Center, located at 550 Main St. in downtown Johnstown
When: April 1 beginning at noon
Additional details: Baskets are to be chanced off beginning at 3 p.m. This event is open to the public. The price for admission covers a light lunch and 25 basket tickets. Baskets are to be on display for presale March 27 through April 1. All proceeds benefit Johnstown Senior Center.

Jamieson, an award-winning author, to headline book festival

Our Town Correspondent

The ninth annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown is set to take place at Bottle Works—Arts on Third Avenue on April 1 and April 2 this year. 
The purpose of the Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown is to provide children with a free, engaging literary experience that promotes the joy of reading. It is also designed to give parents the tools they need to encourage a lifelong love of reading in their children.

The theme for this year’s festival is “Read, Rock and Roll.”

New York Times best-selling author and Newberry Honor Award winner Victoria Jamieson is headlining the festival. Jamieson’s graphic novel, “Roller Girl,” focuses on friendship, survival, determination and girl power.

“Jamieson’s graphic novel is great for young girls because it’s about empowerment and navigating those confusing pre-teen/teen years,” said Ingrid Kloss, The Learning Lamp’s director of development. “Plus, it’s really funny. This year, we knew we had to continue recruiting top caliber authors to headline the festival, and Jamieson does not disappoint.”

In addition to offering presentations and signing books throughout the weekend, Jamieson is to deliver the keynote address during the festival’s “Saturday Night Author Talk.” 

The talk, scheduled to take place from 6 to 8 p.m., is designed to give both published and aspiring authors/illustrators of children’s literature valuable information and tips for finding success within the publishing industry.

“This talk helps to flesh out what people don’t know, and offers the chance to ask questions in a supportive environment,” Kloss said.

Tickets for the “Saturday Night Author Talk” must be purchased in advance through; no tickets will be available at the door. Sales through will remain open up to two hours before the talk begins.

To complement Jamieson’s book, “Roller Girl,” the Johnstown Roller Derby Club and Pittsburgh Roller Derby Junior League will be offering demos during both days of the festival.

“A lot of people simply don’t know what roller derby is, so it will be helpful to meet actual derby skaters,” Kloss said.

Author Micha Archer and author/illustrator Stacy Innerst are also participating in this year’s festival.

Archer’s book, “Daniel Finds a Poem,” was chosen as this year’s Pennsylvania “One Book, Every Young Child” program’s selection. “One Book, Every Young Child” highlights the importance of early literacy development, the advantages of reading early and often, and the impact of engaging children in conversations and activities as they relate to the books they read. Archer works with oil, watercolors, pen and ink and collage.

Innerst, meanwhile, has illustrated numerous children’s books, including books about Levi Strauss, Abraham Lincoln and the Beatles. His work has received awards and recognition from American Illustration, the New York Society of Illustrators, Society of Illustrators Traveling Exhibition, Print Magazine Design Annual, a Gold Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and an Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Entertainer Mike Zaffruto and storyteller Melinda Falgoust are also participating.

Zaffruto’s “Rock n’ Roll Pet Show” introduces children to an imaginary pet store that comes to life with music, magic, puppets and more. Falgoust’s storytelling skills have been recognized by NY Book Festival Annual Competition, Oshima International Hand-Made Picture Book Competition and Writers Unlimited Annual Literary Competition.

“We’re happy to feature some talented women as part of this year’s festival, as the past two have been male-dominated,” Kloss said. “We got a lot of feedback from young girls wanting female authors.”

During the festival, parents and children can purchase new and used books as part of the book sale. In addition, every child who attends the festival will be invited to select a free, brand-new book of their choice courtesy of First Book.

“First Book is a great organization that enables us to get books for the price of shipping only,” Kloss said. “This means that every kid gets a book, regardless of whether mom or dad or grandma are able to buy one for them. And it’s a new book, so it’s just for that child, which is important.”

Children who are interested in writing and/or illustrating will have the opportunity to participate in workshops once again this year. Due to last year’s positive response, new workshops — including a poetry and a graphic novel workshop — have been added.

“We were overwhelmed to get 30 kids at last year’s writing workshop, and realized the audience for these workshops is here and ready,” Kloss said. “Many showed up with their dedicated personal writing journals and special pens or pencils and were clearly engaged. We heard back that a lot of them wished it had lasted longer.”

Also new this year will be an appearance by Joey Reisberg, this year’s national student poet for the northeast region.

“Through luck of the festival being in April, which is also National Poetry Month, we are able to feature Reisberg,” Kloss said. “He’s a high school student poet who is spending the month of April travelling and sharing his poetry and facilitating workshops for younger students as service to the country. The program is operated through Scholastic in New York.”

Locals selling food are to park their food trucks along Third Avenue. This year’s vendors include HK Hot Dogs, TNT Concessions and Flair of Country Catering. More vendors may be announced.

Children and teens can also plan to participate in a bookmark contest. Winners in each age group receive a basket full of age-appropriate books.

Live entertainment, storytellers, and themed arts and crafts opportunities round out this year’s two-day event.

Kloss and her fellow The Learning Lamp staff members are hoping that this year’s festival is as well-received as last year’s.

“Last year, the festival was a huge hit with the community, spotlighting the importance of reading to over 3,470 children and their families,” Kloss said.

The ninth annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown is supported in part by a $10,000 grant from National Endowment for the Arts as part of their “Challenge America” grant program.

“The NEA funding is huge, and I like to talk about it because people read about these crazy, maybe controversial, projects funded by the NEA, which are also important because art is a conversation about the world,” Kloss said. “But also realize that the NEA supports things in our community like the book festival. 

“We also get funding from the state arts agency via (Pennsylvania) Rural Arts Alliance. We’re also grateful to the Grable Foundation in Pittsburgh, and to our many corporate and individual donors of both funding and in-kind contributions.”

Kloss added that the festival’s success is also due in part to the many volunteers who donate their time and talents.

This year’s festival will take place Saturday and Sunday only, with no Friday evening events scheduled this year. Saturday’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday’s hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bottle Works—Arts on Third Avenue is located at 411 and 413 Third Ave. in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood.

For more information about the 9th Annual Children’s Book Festival of Johnstown, call a Learning Lamp staff member at 814-262-0732 or visit and/or online.

Kloss said she hopes everyone enjoys this year’s festival, as well as the books they take home with them.

“Reading connects you to the world, to new ideas,” she said.


‘Like an Arrow’
12 songs, 48 minutes
Legged Records (2016)

This is a band that’d sound equally at home opening for ZZ Top as it would opening for Eric Church — and has, in fact, already done both.

On last year’s “Like an Arrow,” Blackberry Smoke lays out a down-home Southern swing and, occasionally, hard-rock stomp. Charlie Starr’s voice is comparable to that of the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson, and the group’s singing dual-guitar leads and walking piano lines evoke ghosts of the original Skynyrd lineup.

Highlights of this album include “Waiting for the Thunder,” a righteous rocker, and low-key “The Good Life.” Also worth noting that “Free On the Wing,” a collaboration with the legendary Gregg Allman, makes for a sweet closer.

The group’s music and merch can be found at


UPJ students to perform ‘Hamlet’ spin-off

Our Town Correspondent

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown’s theater department will present Lee Blessing’s “Fortinbras” April 5 through April 8 inside the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center.

The play, which was voted by Time magazine as one of 1991’s 10 best plays, tells the story of Fortinbras, who enters during the last scene of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” orders the bodies to be taken away and quickly devises a plan to ascend to the throne of Denmark. Fortinbras designates Horatio as his public relations person, which doesn’t thrill Horatio.

Meanwhile, ghosts have invaded Poland — and not just any ghosts. Ophelia and Gertrude are among many seductive ghosts who ultimately make Fortinbras question what distinguishes a good ruler from a great ruler.

“Fortinbras is a naive prince who just wants to be a popular and beloved ruler,” said John Teacher, Pitt-Johnstown’s director of theater arts. “Unfortunately, that encourages him to make some less than ideal choices while — quite literally — having to deal with the ghosts of his predecessors.

“While not a hard-hitting political piece, I think ‘both sides of the aisle’ can have a bipartisan laugh at the trials and tribulations of leadership versus popularity while watching young Forinbras negotiate his new kingdom. Additionally, those with a fondness for Shakespeare can enjoy a laugh at this speculative look at what happens to Hamlet and his family, friends and enemies after they die.”

The “Fortinbras” cast features Michael Cadden as Fortinbras, Mark Bambino as Horatio, Bradley Keller as Osric, Victoria Kwok as Captain, Erin Cain as Marcellus, Ben Berkebile as Bernardo, Carolyn Zeis as Polish Maiden No. 1, Kelsey Chabal as Polish Maiden No. 2, Grant Kristo as Hamlet, Paul Douglas Newman as Polonius, Erin Whyte as Ophelia, Devin Parfitt as Claudius, Emma Adams as Gertrude and Samuel Jackson Miller as Laertes.

Teacher said the script for “Fortinbras” appealed to him because he felt the students would have a lot of fun with it.

“In addition to picking a play that satisfied the academic goals of our department, I felt I needed something to help pick up the spirits of students, something fun that students would laugh at, and laugh while working on,” Teacher said. “This play is a great little comic romp that fills that bill while being a very intelligent and well-crafted piece of theater.”

In addition to the aforementioned cast, many other Pitt-Johnstown students make up the crew, designers and production/stage management team, bringing the total of students involved in “Fortinbras” to 47 altogether.

“Everything on that stage is a result of student effort,” Teacher said. “For this production, 100 percent of the costuming will have been made in our costume shop (including armor) by students under the guidance of me and our costumer, Judy Bingler. Sophomore Temperance Moore designed all of the female costumes as part of her degree study focusing on costume design.”

All four performances of “Fortinbras” are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can only be purchased at the door or in advance by visiting the arts center box office during regular business hours.

Teacher rated the play “PG-13” due to crude humor and implied sexuality. He encouraged community members to come and see for themselves what makes Pitt-Johnstown’s theater department special.

“The continuation of the arts for years to come starts right here with the efforts of these students,” Teacher said. “In addition to rewarding their hard work and time devoted, supporting them and all of the academic arts here (music, dance) is also a declaration that one wants to see and attend these activities into the future.

“It is, in many ways, a validation of the arts as a whole.”

Museum offering history program for preschoolers

Our Town Correspondent

Staff members at Ligonier Valley Historical Society are planning to host its Little Explorers preschool program suitable for 3- to 5-year-olds whose parents want to give them an age-appropriate introduction to local history.

Little Explorers is scheduled to take place Thursday mornings from 9:30 to 11 a.m. April 6 through April 27.

Malori Stevenson, program coordinator and innkeeper at Compass Inn Museum, and Cathy Cummings, Compass Inn Museum’s business office coordinator, are working together to lead the sessions.

“The preschoolers quickly get used to interacting with history,” Stevenson said. “They see it as play and not something to be intimidated by.”

The sessions are to include storytime, a movement activity, a craft and other activities that will encourage learning and exploration within the walls of Compass Inn Museum. All of these activities and opportunities will be designed to teach preschoolers what life was like back in the 19th century.

“Kids learn best through play while engaged and having fun, and that is what Little Explorers offers,” said Cummings, who has enjoyed teaching preschoolers for more than 20 years.

Advance registration is not required, but is strongly encouraged. There is a nominal fee for preschoolers to attend Little Explorers, and sibling discounts are being offered.

For more information, contact Stevenson by calling 724-238-4983 or emailing

“This is a great introduction to history for little ones,” Stevenson said. “It’s a fantastic way to expose the kids to history in a preschooler-friendly environment.”


If aroma and flavor were everything, this one could be an award winner.

Shock Top Ginger Wheat blends a citrus and — of course — ginger scent into a tangerine-colored brew topped with precious little foam. The taste includes both of the aforementioned and a fair amount of spice and honey. It’s sweet, but not sickishly.

All this is fine and good. But it falls way short on mouthfeel.

A better brew in this genre would expand for a more satisfying finish. The effort is good here — it’s just a little too watered-down for a lot of wheat beer drinkers.


The Vinyl Review: Bob Marley

Winter Storm Stella hit the region like a sickness.

Common symptoms of Stellitis: The blues, anxiety, grouchiness and depression. There is no medical cure.

There is, however, musical treatment. I pulled my copy of “Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits” and threw it under the needle. The music instantly put me in Jamaica, at least for a little while, as the snow fell outside.

Music has the ability to impact more than just the auditory sense. Some people see different colors in response to certain sounds.

We only use a small percentage of our brains. I bet musical stimulation is one key to unlocking a deeper experience.

Mozart seemed pretty smart.

Even at 10 percent, the rest of us can get the most out of our vinyl collections to get us through the tough times, including annoying late-season storms.

No prescription needed.

(For instant relief from the winter blues: “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.)


Sinatra impersonator to headline arts center gala

Submitted photo
Bo Wagner, an impersonator of Frank Sinatra, is soon to perform in Westmont.

Our Town Correspondent

Community Arts Center of Cambria County is set to host an inaugural fundraising event April 1 at Sunnehanna Country Club in Westmont.
“Ocean’s 11” is a one-night-only, Las Vegas-themed gala that will feature a buffet dinner, a professional Frank Sinatra impersonator and casino games.

“I really like offering two events per year that are very special and unique,” said Angela Godin, executive director of the arts center. “So many different groups and organizations have done the gaming or casino night events and this year, I really wanted us to put a new, fresh spin on an event that people have really enjoyed.”

“Ocean’s 11” is set to begin at 4:30 p.m. Guests are to have an opportunity to enjoy a cash bar, play slots and participate in table games, such as roulette and craps, until 6:30 p.m.

“Participants can buy as many chips or as much ‘fun money’ as they want, and the tickets they receive from their winnings on the slots or table games can then be placed in baskets that will be raffled off at the end of the night,” Godin said.

Dinner, catered by Sunnehanna Country Club, will begin at 6:30 p.m. The buffet menu features: watercress soup, chicken with acini de pepe, garden salad with assorted dressings, Caesar salad, beef brisket, pulled pork, roasted red potatoes, green beans with matchstick carrots, penne pasta with marinara and alfredo sauces, meatballs, shrimp scampi primavera and assorted desserts.

“The Sunnehanna staff really came up with such a unique buffet that has so much variety,” Godin said. “It reflects exactly the type of buffet you’d find in Las Vegas.”

Sinatra impersonator Bo Wagner is to take the stage around 7 p.m.

Wagner, who has been singing and performing since the late 1960s, served as the lead singer of the international recording group The Four Coins beginning in the late ‘70s. The Four Coins performed at major casinos in Las Vegas and Reno, as well as at resorts in Lake Tahoe, and Wagner even had the opportunity to perform in front of Sinatra himself.

“I’ve seen Bo perform numerous times, and he truly sounds like Frank Sinatra,” Godin said. “He continues to perform multiple times a month in Las Vegas, and word has it that he might even be relocating soon, so we’re excited to bring him to Sunnehanna before he leaves the area.”

At 8 p.m., the evening’s basket winners are to be announced.

Tickets for “Oceans 11” are on sale and can be purchased by calling 814-255-6515. The deadline to purchase tickets is March 29.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Community Arts Center of Cambria County.

Godin said she’s looking forward to the event and hopes it will be a success.

“I think this event will cater to so many people,” she said.

“Some people will really enjoy the gambling portion of the evening. Some people are true Rat Pack fans and will enjoy every minute of Bo Wagner’s performance. This event is going to hit two really different demographics in one exciting evening.”


‘The Clarity’
9:51 (single)
Southern Lord Recordings (2017)

Unless you were heavy into the stoner-doom scene of the early ‘90s, Sleep means nothing to you musically.

This obscure three-piece act enjoyed a brief cultish fandom at the time for playing slower than just about anyone for longer than just about anyone. “Jerusalem,” released in 1999, includes six eponymous tracks with an average length of eight minutes each — essentially a single 52-minute composition.

So at a hair longer than nine minutes, consider “The Clarity” the band’s experiment with brevity. The band’s droning, Sabbath-meets-Chains, grind-it-out style ages remarkably well: You could have found this song on an old bootlegged tape cassette under your ripped flannels and never blinked.

No metal collection is truly complete without some Sleep in the catalog. See what the buzz is about by sampling on Spotify and then, you know, buy it on vinyl and stuff.