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Concert from the Heart: Now International with BBC UK Interview

As the doors at Kleinhans Music Hall opened at 7:00PM this past Tuesday (St Patty’s Day), it was alternately 11:00PM in England. In the back offices a telephone rang. It was London calling. The BBC actually. Concert From The Heart had gone international and presenter Max Pearson of BBC World Service had joined us for the interview. This was the same man who had once come close to dying while cycling in the deserts of Rajisthan while on assignment, after running out of water. Incredibly, he still cycles 16 miles a day in order to get to work and back.
Take a look at the photo for a moment. Stateside, we have Susan Marie, the publicity machine who helped to generate huge interest in this event – the first of possibly many, events of this kind. Next we have Mike Billoni of the Food Bank of Western New York, more about Mike below. And finally George Scott, president of the Colored Musician’s Club, the oldest such organization in North America. In the background, shooting footage, is WKBW-TV Channel 7 cameraman Rich Lee, who just always seems to be everywhere anytime anything is happening in Buffalo.  
If you’re interested in listening to the interview, it can be heard at Susan Marie’s Think Twice Radio site. At some point, I will update as to how to hear it on BBC World Service (once the BBC link is set). Just a word of caution: once interviews are over there is still a lot of work that has to be done before it can be posted, so be patient and check back if you don’t see it right away. Nina Robinson had this to say on a citizen journalism project called Your Story  on BBC World Service.  
As for the scene, the Bar-Room Buzzards opened the pre-show festivities in the lobby, and then returned during intermission. But it was Conductor Paul Ferrington who appeared, smiling ear to ear like a kid in a candy store, who opened the first Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra number with ” Love of Three Oranges ” by Prokofiev.  Next, the George Scott Big Band, from the Colored Musician’s Club, joined in with Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin ” – one of my favorites from the Rat Pack era. It was the soulful improvisation that is jazz combined with the elegant meticulousness that is classical. In other words… pure magic.
Trombonist extraordinaire, Phil Sims, wrote arrangements for 80 some BPO musicians just so that they could accompany four distinctly different musical ensembles. Which would be fine if each band did only one song each. But with each combo performing around five BPO accompanied songs per set, (and many others not accompanied by the BPO), that’s some 20 songs in total. And quite the miracle for Phil to compose some 1500 instrumentations in time for the show. Being a piano player myself, you can color me amazed as to the amount of charts Phil had to produce to pill this off.
Next up was the Old School B Boys, dressed in matching cream hot-white outfits, delivering five-part harmonized Temptations and Barry White favorites. The Mark Mazur Little Big Band accompanied them.


                            Van Taylor “To care for the last of us is to care for all of us”

Act II started with a tribute to the Irish with Hamilton Harty’s “Fair Day from the Irish Suite”. Then it was time for the man who brought all of the various musical ensembles and organizations together, Van Taylor of Taylor Made Jazz. Van’s work with Ron Daniels was instrumental in bringing the BPO on board for this event. Add the heavenly harmonies of Joyce Nixon, Melissa Kate and Joey Diggs and it made me think of recordings from the 60s that I have heard, especially when they performed Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On?” 


                            Rick Mathews, President of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, and
                            Ellen R. Pieroni, $500 Music Student Scholarship Contest winner from     
                            Cheektowaga Central High School
Rick Mathews, president of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, went on stage and thanked many who had made the night possible. He then announced the winner of the $500 Music Student Scholarship Essay Contest. The winner was Ellen R. Pieroni – a ninth-grader from Cheektowaga Central High School. Since the prize had to be used in a musical way, Ellen chose to go to band camp this summer. After presenting the award, Rick Mathews then introduced, “A fabulous musician, arranger, collaborator… Mr. Van Taylor. Tonight is Van’s dream, he has been working on this for many decades.” The audience exploded.
It was Stuart Harper, the executive director of the Buffalo City Mission, who mentioned, “Since 1970 the City Mission has been the place for people to come, when they have no other place to go. The money you paid for your ticket tonight will go to support 400 men, women and children that live with us on a daily basis. They decided they wanted to change their lives, and through that change they climb huge mountains. I listen to the music tonight, and as the music was increasing and increasing in amplitude, it makes me think of the mountains that these people face.”
Mike Billoni, the promotions and marketing director of the Food Band of Western New York, stated, “On behalf of the residents of Buffalo and Western New York we thank you for being here this evening. We strive to feed the hungry in Buffalo and Western New York.  Back in 1988, I came into this building with a vision to have the BPO perform outdoors on Independence Day Eve at the brand new jewel of downtown Buffalo, Pilot Field. And they did. And they have been doing so ever since. This is our Super Bowl winning Philharmonic. You are tremendous. Congratulations!”


                     Lance Diamond had the whole audience standing and grooving 
Lance Diamond, sporting a purple violet getup and his famous ” LD ” belt buckle, belted out the mantra “Touch Me Buffalo” repeatedly, as he shook and touched hands and fingers with the crowd standing in the front row. Lance brought the house down with the entire congregation rising to their feet and grooving to McFadden and Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now”. And I mean everybody.
Post show, the celebration continued in the Mary Seaton Room as the Jim Tudini Band played big band and swing music to die for with Bobby Millitello on Alto Sax and great lyrics with Ben Baia and Buffalo Rising’s own ECB. What an incredible lineup – the audience danced the night away. I especially loved “Summertime” by Gershwin.
Can’t wait for the next event in the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame series.


For more information about Concert From The Heart please see related posts:
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