Katherine Soroka – Shall We Gather By the River

Katherine SorokaMezzo-soprano
Robert FrankenberryTenor
Monique MeadViolin
Walter MoralesPiano

Join us to Celebrate ARCA’s birthday!

Join the fun and celebrate ARCA’s 16th birthday – an anniversary concert postponed from last year – featuring a classical cabaret and popular mix of art songs, opera, jazz standards and musical theatre from Bizet and Rossini to Bernstein and Sondheim, performed by KATHERINE  “Kathy” SOROKA on Sunday, November 6, 2022 at 2 PM in Lincoln Halla reprise of her inaugural ARCA concert in 2006. Enjoy birthday cake and a champagne toast at intermission celebrating all the artists, donors, volunteers and audience members who have contributed over the years to make ARCA the cultural jewel of the region. 

Hailed for her “masterful” and “heartfelt vocalism”, she is known for connecting with audiences as a singer-actress. As an accomplished pianist and seasoned actress and comedian, she creates characters and song interpretations that are brimming with life, pathos and humor. Her world premiere of David Stock’s Songs of Solomon with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble was acclaimed for “finding both lush lines and dramatic intensity… commanding the stage”. (TribLive) Kathy will be joined by tenor Robert Frankenberry, violinist Monique Mead and pianist Walter Morales in classical works by Rossini, Bizet, Strauss, Meyerbeer, and Menotti to the more popular fare of Bernstein, Gershwin, Sondheim and Les Miserables. 

The eclectic celebratory program will include many of the genres that ARCA audiences have enjoyed through the years, including art songs, chamber music, piano solos, opera arias, musical theatre and popular song  and a hauntingly beautiful work by Purcell remembering ARCA’s founders and all those who have generously supported it over the years.  Pianist Walter Morales will perform two piano solos including a special tribute to ARCA’s President and founder, Dr. Arthur Steffee.

Yes… this is an “ARCA family” celebration and gala birthday party, with the audience invited to enjoy a glass of champagne (or other bubbly) at intermission (provided by an anonymous donor) AND birthday cake and coffee served at the back of Lincoln Hall at its conclusion!

ARCA is grateful to Kears and Karen Pollock for their generous sponsorship of this concert.

Tickets may be purchased online here. Tickets are Adults $20, Students $5.  Call to Reserve at 724-659-3153 and pay by cash or check at the door.

Katherine Soroka performs Mahler “Songs of the Wayfarer” w/Edgewood Symphony & Music Director Walter Morales

Known to ARCA audiences as Board member Katherine “Kathy” Soroka handing out programs or taking photos at concerts, she has had a double career both onstage and backstage in the performing arts and is known for her moving and vivid performances as a singer-actress.

Robert Frankenberry & Katherine Soroka

Celebrated each as soloists, Katherine and Friends will share with the Lincoln Hall audience the joy they have had making music together on some of the leading concert series in Pittsburgh.

Katherine has performed with Walter Morales as soloist with the Edgewood Symphony, for whom he serves as Music Director, singing Mahler, Bernstein and David Stock.  Robert Frankenberry and Katherine have performed together in many Aria412 concerts and a Mozart celebration for Chatham University.  All three artists – Katherine, Robert and Walter – performed in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera and Richard Strauss’ Elektra with the Chatham Concert Opera.

Pianist Walter Morales, Katherine Soroka & Robert Frankenberry in Chatham Concert Opera’s Elektra

Internationally acclaimed violinist Monique Mead joins the ensemble in chamber music, performing Massenet’s Élégie and the achingly beautiful violin obligato in Richard Strauss’ Beim Schlafengehen, as well as the first Gershwin Prelude arranged by Jascha Heifetz.  While this is her first “live” ARCA appearance in Lincoln Hall, in the 2021 season Monique created the brilliant educational video Spark Your Creativity featuring her two children and the “Trio con Brio”.  The video was commissioned by ARCA to be presented in its Educational ArtReach program during the COVID restricted Spring 2021 semester in the Allegheny-Clarion Valley Schools.


ARIVE EARLY & EXPLORE FOXBURG!

Plan to Make a Day of it in beautiful Foxburg!  

Stop by the Red Brick Gallery and Gift Shop to shop for that special gift from the first floor offerings of talented Cooperative Artists from the region and view the special exhibit in the upstairs gallery.

Enjoy a walk along the Allegheny River trail or rent bicycles with Foxburg Tours in the morning or early afternoon!  Have lunch at the Allegheny Grille with seating overlooking the Allegheny River, or for more casual fare, at Foxburg Pizza with salads, sandwiches and pizza.  Save time to enjoy wine tasting at Foxburg Wine Cellars and savor a gourmet coffee and hand made chocolate at Divani Chocolatier and Barrista.  Or spend the night in Foxburg in the lovely Foxburg Inn or up the river at Emlenton’s bed and breakfast,  The Barnard House.

denniskeyesphotography.com

 

Katherine Soroka

Familiar to ARCA audiences for her presence at the back of Lincoln Hall taking photos as a Board member in her capacity as manager of programing, website, social media and marketing – or coordinating educational concerts in the Allegheny Clarion Valley Schools, Katherine “Kathy” Soroka has had a double career both onstage and backstage in the performing arts.

Hailed as “masterful” with “heartfelt vocalism” (Pittsburgh Post Gazette), Mezzo-soprano Katherine Soroka in her world premiere performance of David Stock’s Songs of Solomon with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble was acclaimed for “finding both lush lines and dramatic intensity… commanding the stage”. (TribLive) As an accomplished pianist, seasoned actress and gifted comedian, she creates characters that are brimming with life, pathos and humor. Reaching and touching audiences with the richness of the composer’s musical, poetic and dramatic intent is her inspiration.

A winner of the Pittsburgh Concert Society Auditions, Katherine is an avid art song interpreter and recitalist.  For the Frick Museum in Pittsburgh she curated and performed a “Music for Exhibitions concert” with Chatham Baroque in conjunction with “From Michelangelo to Annibale Carraci, A Century of Italian Drawings From the Prado”. Performances for the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival with Aron Zelkowicz include chamber music performances for both their Ladino and Songs of the Season Festivals.

Katherine Soroka with pianist Nathan Carterette in Walker Recital Hall, Mercyhurst University

Katherine has performed recitals in numerous New York City venues including Merkin and Cami concert halls and on the Trinity Church and Saint Stephens Church concert series, at Allegheny College with pianist Alec Chien, and in recitals collaborating with pianist Nathan Carterette in Pittsburgh on the First Friday Series at The Church of the Redeemer, the Chatham University concert series, for Tuesday Musical Club and in Walker Recital Hall at Mercyhurst University in Erie.

With pianist Pauline Rovkah in Copland’s Old American Songs & Schubert at Chatham’s Eden Hall

She also performed with pianist Pauline Rovkah and members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in a Chatham University chamber music concert outdoors at Eden Hall.

Anne-Marit Bergstrom writes post-recital autograph

Growing up in North Dakota, Katherine was blessed to study piano with Alma Mehus Studness (who prior to marrying and returning to ND, toured Europe and performed the Tchaikovsky piano concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic at age 19) and to study voice with her daughter, operatic soprano (and painter) Anne-Marit (Studness) Bergstrom.  Their inspiration, encouragement and mentorship are the source of her life in music and the performing arts and her dedication as a voice teacher today.  Over the years, she has performed recitals frequently for the Chautauqua concert series in her home town – Devils Lake.

No stranger to ARCA audiences, Katherine performed its inaugural classical concert in November 2006 and over the years sang in Mozart and Beethoven festival concerts, including a 2010 performance with the Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Players and Natasha Snitkovsky, and a 2013 solo recital “Songs of the Spirt” collaborating with members of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Beethoven concert with Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Players & Natasha Snitkovsky

In recent years, Katherine made cameo appearances with pianist David Allen Wehr in a Schubert program and with the Alexander String Quartet in a tribute to the late Patricia Ann Steffee (long time ARCA Board member and Treasurer) in Richard Strauss’ Beim Schlafengehen from his Four Last Songs.

With Dr. Arthur Steffee & Alexander String Quartet after Strauss performance in memory of Patricia Steffee 2019

A proponent of contemporary music since her early study with Jan DeGaetani, Katherine performed Betty Oliviero’s Juego de Siempre in New York City with Joel Sachs and the internationally acclaimed new music ensemble, Continuum.

Solomon Songs with Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble

In addition to performing the world premiere performance of David Stock’s Solomon Songs with pianist Nanette Kaplan Solomon for the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, she has sung world premieres of David Stock’s Rumi Sings of Love at Duquesne University and Judith Shatin’s Grave Music at Aspen Music Festival, as well as works by Chinery Ung and Noah Zahler, among others, at The Kitchen, The Julliard School, The Greenwich House, Columbia University and City University of New York. Recent performances in Pittsburgh include David Stock’s Three Yiddish Songs with a quartet comprised of members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for the If Music Be The Food concert series.

Katherine Soroka sings David Stock’s “Three Yiddish Songs” w/PSO musicians-“If Music Be the Food” series

Performances with orchestra include singing Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Music Director Lucas Richman and narrating concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Tiny Tots and Schooltime educational concerts under the batons of conductors Daniel Meyer and Lawrence Loh.

With Music Director Walter Morales, with whom she collaborates in this concert, Katherine performed Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony and David Stock’s Three Yiddish Songs with the Edgewood Symphony. She also sang Copland’s Old American Songs with the Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra at the Carnegie Library Music Hall.

Katherine Soroka sings Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony w/Edgewood Symphony & Walter Morales, Music Director

Recent operatic roles included Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera and Klytaemnestra in Elektra with Chatham Concert Opera – appearing in both with tenor Robert Frankenberry and pianist/conductor Walter Morales who join her in this recital; Dinah in Trouble in Tahiti with Aria412; and Baba in The Medium at Mercyhurst University directed by Louisa Jonason

In her early career in New York City, Katherine performed the roles of Dido in Dido and Aeneas at Columbia University, Romeo in I Capuleti et i Montecchi  with the Opera Ensemble of New York, and Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro with the Brooklyn Opera Company before assuming a senior executive position at the New York Philharmonic, and leaving behind operatic performing to continue singing recitals and contemporary music in New York City.

Musical theatre roles include Jenny in Company at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, the Witch in Into the Woods with the Barrow Civic Theatre, and Vera in Pal Joey at the Colonial TheatreShe also has appeared in soap operas in daytime television, film and national television commercials. Katherine has performed cabaret shows and club acts in New York City including “A Summer Romance” and “Hats Off to Working Women” at Panache and Don’t Tell Mama and classical cabaret concerts in Pittsburgh for the McKeesport Symphony.

She also has appeared with Pittsburgh’s celebrated new cabaret opera and musical theatre company – Aria412 – since its inception, performing opera arias, art songs, jazz favorites and comedic songs in its many-themed programs at the Indigo Hotel, Chatham University and via online streamed concerts during COVID.

With Aria412-the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, My Husband Makes Movies from Nine & What a Movie from Trouble in Tahiti

Her first career was “backstage” managing concerts and directing programs in some of the country’s major arts organizations.

Katherine served in the senior management of the New York Philharmonic; as Executive Director of the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, WY and the Children’s Festival Chorus in Pittsburgh; and on the faculty and administration of Manhattan School of Music developing the nationally acclaimed  Orchestral Performance Masters Degree Program and founding the innovative MUSIC IN ACTION: An Educational and Community ArtReach Program.

A magna cum laude graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University, Katherine studied voice in New York City with private teachers and performers, Jennie Tourel, Olga Ryss, Doris Jung, Elaine Bonazzi, Ed Dixon, Paul Gavert, Dr. Michael Warren and Louisa Jonason. Studying, performing and serving as a vocal accompanist for five summers at Aspen Music Festival, she also sang at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria and toured Italy with the North Carolina School of the Arts.

With Grace Smrcka at Mercyhurst

Soroka vocal studio in Pittsburgh

Acting study in NYC included work at the Herbert Berghof Studio, the Actor’s Institute and five years of scene study with renowned Actors Studio member and coach Marilyn Fried. She also coached with Broadway actor and film choreographer and producer John DeLuca with whom she both appeared in Pal Joey and was directed in Company. Currently Katherine is a voice instructor and vocal accompanist on the faculty of Mercyhurst University. She also maintains a private voice studio in Pittsburgh and Foxburg and teaches cyber lessons to students across the country.

Married to former Pittsburgh Symphony Principal Percussionist John Soroka, Katherine is a Board member of Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts in Foxburg, PA where they now reside with their Hungarian Viszla, Plato.

Robert Frankenberry

Robert Frankenberry leads a multifaceted career as a vocalist, pianist, educator, actor, and conductor. As music director for Pittsburgh Festival Opera, he has collaborated on critically-praised new productions of a wide-range of works, including “reimaginings”of works by Offenbach (The Tales of Hoffmann – Retold) and Bizet (Carmen: the Gypsy) and site-specific productions of Orpheus & Eurydice by both Gluck and Ricky Ian Gordon (presented as Euridice and Orpheus), Daron Hagen’s Shining Brow-Fallingwater version, and Montemezzi’s L’Incantesimo (The Love Spell).

Robert has led the premieres of the Night Caps – also contributing as a composer – and Night Caps International projects, Roger Zahab’s Happy Hour, Gilda Lyons’ A New Kind of Fallout, and Dwayne Fulton’s A Gathering of Sons.  He currently serves as Director of the Pittsburgh Festival Opera Young Artists Program.

Since joining the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Theatre Arts in 2015, he has provided vocal direction and musical support for Pitt Stages’ productions of Nine, Peter & the Starcatcher, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; musical direction for Hair and Little Shop of Horrors; and direction for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Parade.

On stage, he has performed a wide range of roles including Mozart (Amadeus), John Adams (1776), Carl-Magnus (A Little Night Music), Bacchus (Ariadne auf Naxos), and the title roles in Don Carlo, The Tales of Hoffmann, Faust, and Willy Wonka.

A charter member of the New Mercury Collective, he originated the role of Orson Welles in Daron Hagen’s Orson Rehearsed in collaboration with Chicago’s Fifth House Ensemble in September 2018.

At the piano, Robert performs regularly as an active member of numerous ensembles including Pittsburgh’s IonSound and AnimeBOP; New York City’s The Phoenix Players and PRISM Players; and multi-city entelechron and Chrysalis Duo. He can be heard singing and playing on the Naxos, Albany, New World Records, Roven Records, New Dynamic Records, and Innova labels.

Monique Mead

A passionate ambassador of classical music, violinist Monique Mead enjoys a rich career as a performer, educator, and innovator. Inspired and mentored by Leonard Bernstein, Mead has devoted her performing career to nurturing new audiences and deepening the musical experience for seasoned concertgoers. Her programs with major orchestras and festivals in the United States and Europe have drawn international acclaim for their popular appeal and innovative approach.

Interweaving live music with education and audience engagement at the highest level, her programs have reached millions through television appearances, a six-year radio series with the Munich Radio Orchestra, and nearly 20 years of concerts with the Cologne Philharmonic, Munich Symphony, Düsseldorf Symphony, Berlin Radio Orchestra, RIAS Chamber Choir, Neue Philharmonie Westfalen, San Diego Symphony, and the Mainly Mozart Festival, among others.

Sharing her passion for audience engagement are conductors and soloists such as Manfred Honeck, Leonidas Kavakos, Jon Kimura Parker, Sarah Chang, Lars Vogt, Arabella Steinbacher, and Yan Pascal Tortelier, with whom she collaborates to create interactive events that build excitement around the concert experience. In this capacity, she has created long-term programs for many arts organizations in the United States and Europe. Her current focus is on the Pittsburgh Symphony, where she serves as Consultant for Integrative Strategies, spearheading initiatives that build loyal audiences and integrate music into community life.

Mead’s ability to see musical connections in everything from Verdi to Vader and Star Wars to soccer, has resulted in over 200 thematic programs for audiences of all ages, many sponsored by Audi, Bayer, FC Bayern-München, Dresdner Bank, Ronald McDonald House, BASF, Opel, and the Anders Foundation, among others.

In addition to programming, performing, and presenting concerts with orchestras since 1997, Mead has trained hundreds of orchestral musicians to be effective teaching artists, helping them to make meaningful connections with young audiences. The opportunity to offer this training at the conservatory level came in 2012, when Mead was appointed Director of Music Entrepreneurship Studies at Carnegie Mellon University. With a focus on experiential learning, she collaborates with world-class musicians in helping students develop a broad range of skills and take an innovative approach to professional life.

Other affiliations with CMU include a position as Violin Instructor at the Preparatory School and a lecture series for CMU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Most recently, Mead founded the Center for Arts Innovation at CMU, which serves as a cross-campus laboratory for developing strategies and products that support orchestras and other arts organizations.

She currently performs on a 1717 Stradivarius, graciously made available by Carnegie Mellon University.

Walter Morales

 A native of Costa Rica, Walter Morales is the Music Director of the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra.  His previous positions include Music Director of Undercroft Opera, Music Director of the Carnegie Mellon University Contemporary Ensemble, Head of Music of Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Principal Guest Conductor of the Pittsburgh Philharmonic, Assistant Director of Orchestral Studies at Carnegie Mellon University and Assistant Conductor of the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic.

He has been a guest conductor with the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, Pittsburgh Festival Opera Orchestra, Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Philharmonic, University of Costa Rica Symphony Orchestra, University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, McKeesport Symphony Orchestra, Helix New Music Ensemble, and the Rutgers Chamber Orchestra among others.

Morales is the First Prize Winner of the 2019 American Prize in Conducting (Das Rheingold/ Pittsburgh Festival Opera) and the 2015 American Prize in Conducting (Undercroft Opera). In 2017, he was awarded Third Place in Opera Conducting for Julius Caesar (Pittsburgh Festival Opera) and Die Fledermaus (Carnegie Mellon University). In 2016, he was awarded Third Place of the American Prize in Orchestral Conducting (Westmoreland Symphony) and Second Place in Opera Conducting (Figaro Redux/Pittsburgh Festival Opera).

In addition to his commitments as a conductor, Morales is an active concert pianist. He has toured through out the United States, Central and South America. In New York City, he has performed at Steinway Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall and Lincoln Center. He has also appeared at Severance Hall, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, International Piano Series, and at Rutgers SummerFest. He has performed as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, Symphony Orchestra of Chile, Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic, University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Mellon Wind Ensemble, McKeesport Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Mellon Virtuosi, Princeton Pro Musica, University of Costa Rica Symphony Orchestra, College of Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and the International Piano Series Orchestra.

His first commercial recording featuring George Crumb’s Makrokosmos III: Music for a Summer Evening is available on Mode Records. In June 2007, this recording received the Diapason D’Or, the highest phonographic award in France. Other releases include “Small Bear, Large Telescope,” with music of Carson Cooman, “Season Within,” featuring works of Marilyn Taft Thomas, and “Sigel” with Chilean percussionist Gerardo Salazar, “Other Sun,” with music of Nancy Galbraith on the Centaur Records label and “Noises…Voices… Distant Songs“ featuring music of the Costa Rican composer Alejandro Cardona on the Quindecim label.

 

Shall We Gather By the River

The eclectic classical cabaret program for this 16th Anniversary Birthday Concert has been created to present many of the genres enjoyed by ARCA audiences since its inception – from opera arias and scenes to musical theatre and pop songs — and chamber music with voice, violin and piano to solo piano works.

ARCA founders Arch & Roberta Newton & Rose Kalinowsky-November 4, 2016

Katherine Soroka – who sang its first classical concert on November 4, 2016 returns for this anniversary celebration with artists Monique Mead, violin; Robert Frankenberry, tenor; and Walter Morales, piano.

Katherine will sing a hauntingly beautiful work by Purcell remembering ARCA’s founders and all those who have generously supported it over the years, and pianist Walter Morales will perform two piano solos including a special tribute to ARCA’s President and founder, Dr. Arthur Steffee.

For the”operatically challenged” audience members, never fear! While the concert’s first half presents some vocal works in their native Italian, French and German, many are being sung in English – and for those in foreign languages, the storyline and drama will be explained before each work and translations provided.

This concert has it all – from the fireworks of Rossini and elegant melody of Massenet’s Elégie for violin, piano and voice to the steamy passion of a scene from Bizet’s Carmen with tenor Robert Frankenberry singing Don Jose and Katherine Soroka the gypsy. Then there’s the humor of Leonard Bernstein at his most outrageous with One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man  and I am so Easily Assimilated – as well as heart warming charmers by Bernstein and Gerwshin and Kern.

The high emotion opera of Massenet’s Ah mon fils – a mother’s prayer that God will bless her son – will be matched by Gian Carlo Menotti’s To This We’ve Come from the Consul, in which Magda entreats a secretary during World War II to grant her the “papers” that she requires for safe passage… an aria most relevant in the context of the vaccine passports of 2021.

Touching will be Kern’s All The Things You Are, Gershwin’s My Man’s Gone Now from Porgy and Bess, Bring Him Home from Les Miserables, Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns, Losing My Mind and Children will Listen, and duet made famous by Andre Bocelli and Celine Dion, The Prayer. And, of course, Aaron Copland’s Shall We Gather By the River into Godspell’s “We’ll Build a Beautiful City”. 

Internationally traveled violinist Ms. Meade performs in works by Massenet, the exquisite Beim Schlafengehen by Richard Strauss and the first Gershwin Prelude arranged by Jascha Heifetz. Mr. Morales will delight the audience with solo piano works in both the first and second halves of the concert. Mr. Morales will delight the audience with solo piano works in both the first and second halves of the concert.

At intermission, the audience will be invited to enjoy a champagne (or other bubbly) toast and at the conclusion of the concert, birthday cake and coffee will be served at the back of Lincoln Hall.

Katherine Soroka w/Tom Roberts & Susanne Ortner 2008 and performing Strauss w/the Alexander String Quartet 2019

The Founding of Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts

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For hundreds of years the scenic allure of the Allegheny-Clarion River Valley  has attracted settlers whose foresight established the business and social structure of the towns of Foxburg and Emlenton. Since the mid-19th century, arts and entertainment were brought to the valley to enrich the community – whether touring variety shows and musicians, silent movies or Emlenton Civic Club presentations.

Arthur & Patricia SteffeeWhen Dr. Arthur Steffee and his late wife Patricia began refurbishing the Fox estate and establishing Foxburg businesses in the late nineties and early millennium, they envisioned the arts as a hub of community and cultural life – drawing people to appreciate the refreshment of the arts in this stunningly picturesque valley.   Hailing from Cleveland, they had fond memories of going to Blossom Music Center, the Cleveland Orchestra’s summer home, where the commingling of nature’s splendor and music’s soaring inspiration were an idyllic combination. They believed that the Allegheny River Valley deserved to have the same thing.

Inspired by their vision, sixteen years ago a stalwart group of local culture lovers, educators and artists came together and began devoting their time, energy and resources to make this dream a reality. The founding Board of Directors in 2005 established the non-profit organization, Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts, and began creating a center for arts and education on the banks of the beautiful Allegheny River in Foxburg.

Lincoln Hall on October 5, 2006 for Inaugural Concert

From the beginning, the generosity and hard work of these Board members and volunteers joining their ranks, established the cornerstone of ARCA; they not only developed the cultural offerings but also refurbished the concert venue itself.  The Fox family had built Lincoln Hall as a concert and community venue which opened in 1909 on the second floor of The Foxburg Free Library; however, it had long since been used as a medical center – broken up with small cubicles and a dropped ceiling.

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Lincoln Hall oil painting backdrop, Paul McKissick, & inaugural performance poster

According to founding Board member, Jae Brown, when Arthur Steffee first threw open the doors to show the Board the space, they were shocked and “gobsmacked… it was a debris-logged and entirely impassable ‘warren’ of partially deconstructed office space that precluded any passage past the foyer at the front door. It seemed impossible, looking back, but in a reasonable amount of time what had seemed an irretrievable space was redeemed by the vision and hard physical labor of many.”

Lincoln Hall

During the reconstruction, an original hand painted oil painting of the river, originally used as a curtain, was found rolled up under the stage. Carefully conserved by Andor Jobb, who lightly cleansed the surface and reinforced the backing using rabbit glue, the painting now serves as Lincoln Hall’s stage backdrop. A gift of Dr. Arthur and Patricia Steffee, a beautiful seven-foot Steinway grand piano graces its stage.  Noted for its intimacy and crystalline acoustics, the hall is a favorite of instrumentalists, such as the Alexander String Quartet and Members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

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Photo: Dennis Keyes

As Lincoln Hall was being renovated, considerable efforts ensued to move and install the 1929 Wurlitzer Theater Organ, which the Steffees had purchased from Paul McKissick.  Over eleven years McKissick had lovingly restored this treasure, which originally had been installed in Cleveland’s Uptown Theater and played to accompany silent movies.  Dubbed the Mighty McKissick Wurlitzer, the theatre organ is one of only 24 created in its style and size.

Beginning in September 2005, Paul McKissick began putting the pipes in specially built boxes to prepare for their move to Foxburg. Over the next months, Dr. Steffee moved the boxes of pipes using a horse trailer at times with the assistance of Board member Thomas Hovis, to ease loading and unloading. For the next year Paul personally, painstakingly installed the organ in its new home.

Arthur & Patricia Steffee, Scott Foppiano & Sally & Paul McKissick
Arthur & Patricia Steffee, Scott Foppiano & Sally & Paul McKissick

It was determined that ARCA would inaugurate its first performance season in the elegantly refurbished Lincoln Hall on October 5 and 6, 2006 with concerts on the Mighty McKissick Wurlitzer performed by Scott Foppiano; the first non-organ concert,“Shall We Gather By the River”, was performed by Katherine Soroka and Friends on November 4, 2006 with Raymond Blackwell, piano, and PSO musicians, Jennifer Orchard, violin, and Mikhail Istomin, cello.

Scott Foppiano & Katherine Soroka, Lincoln Hall 2006
Scott Foppiano & Katherine Soroka, Lincoln Hall 2006

ARCA celebrates its sixteenth anniversary performance season on November 6 with this “Birthday party” concert and pays tribute with a champagne/bubbly toast honoring its founding Board members and volunteers, whose vision and prodigious contributions over the years have created an arts organization hailed as “the cultural jewel of the region” and becoming a cultural destination in its own right.

Executive Director, Adam Weiss; Opening night audience, October 5, 2006; Mighty McKissick Wurlitzer organ