PSA President Diane Unkovic, at the virtual cocktail party preceding this year’s Virtual Gala for PSO, asked the group, “What was your most memorable PSO concert?”
“It was ‘The Night of 2,000 Stars,’ the April 29, 1995, opening event for the Centennial Celebration for PSO,” said PSA member Connie Bernt. “It was held at the Civic Arena.”
Mrs. Bernt and her husband—the late Benno Bernt, who joined the PSO Board in 1984 and served for 35 years—were chairs for the event. “We sold out the arena. We had 15,000 seats to sell, and we sold 15,000.”
“We wanted to get the whole community involved.
“ I was president of Mendelssohn Choir at the time and Robert Page was director. Bob spent a year working with 2,000 high school age singers from 35 schools all over the area. They rehearsed in Heinz Hall with Bob directing from the stage. There were yellow school buses parked for miles. “
The high school choir sang “Ode to Joy” with Mendelssohn Choir in the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and the student chorus performed Page’s a capella arrangement of “America the Beautiful.”
The after-intermission concert program featured four songs by famed composer Henry Mancini, who began his musical career playing flute in West Aliquippa. Mrs. Bernt pointed out photographs in her scrapbook of some of Mr. Mancini’s family who attended the “Night of 2,000 Stars.”
A wood floor was placed over the hockey team’s ice, and 500 people sat at tables there with wine and appetizers. Lorin Maazel (1984-1996) conducted Pittsburgh Symphony’s concert (program above).
“Then they opened the roof of the Civic Arena and I remember a cool breeze played on my neck.”
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with the PSO and Mendelssohn Choir concluded the orchestra concert as fireworks and cannon exploded overhead outside the Arena for the grand finale that ended the memorable evening.
“It was the last time the roof of the Civic Arena was opened.”
There can be many reasons for a concert to be the most memorable: an event celebrated, a composition, the company you were with, a solo artist. This was Connie Bernt’s most memorable PSO concert. We would love to hear about yours. If enough of you respond we will run these throughout this 125th anniversary year. Please email them to Maburl Schober, email@example.com, with your contact information, and we’ll be in touch!