Music

The Origins of "Hail to the Chief"

Feb 16, 2015
DVIDSHUB / Flickr

We’re all familiar with the tune "Hail to the Chief" as the President’s anthem. But what are the origins of the song? We’ll discover the history behind the president’s theme song with Deane Root, professor and curator for the Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh.

“It’s said to come from an old Scottish sailing song y a know there’s lots of islands around Scotland and as they would row to one island or another,they’d sing these songs and these tunes became part of the oral tradition. So in 1810 when Sir Walter Scott wrote his poem about one of those old legends, about an Arthurian legend, this song and many others were used in theatre productions.

Root also says that this song was not always used in a patriotic context.

“ It was used by tutors to learn how to play the violin and the fiddle and the flute and all these other instruments in the 19th century. It was sung by usually men in taverns ya know groups of people who just liked the tune and put whatever words they wanted to.”

Great Scott! Remembering Robert Burns in Pittsburgh

Jan 23, 2015
SummondByFellas / Flickr

When you hear someone exclaim, “Great Scott,” chances are they could be referring to Scotland’s favorite son, poet Robert Burns.

This weekend marks the 256th anniversary of his birth. We’ll preview dinners set to take place in his honor and discover why his legacy endures with Paul Thompson, president of the St. Andrews Society of Pittsburgh and Tim Wolfson, co-owner of Music Night on Jupiter, a grassroots local music event promotion company.

Paul and Tim tell us about Robert Burns and his importance to not only Scotland, but the world.

Take a look at the poems of Robert Burns below, more can be found at Robertburns.org

Untold Stories behind Holiday Songs

Dec 17, 2014
Pamla J. Eisenberg / Flickr

From “Jingle Bells” to “White Christmas,” many of our most popular holiday songs have interesting stories behind them. Pop culture contributor Joe Wos tells us the stories behind some of our favorite holiday songs.

Wos singles out “Jingle Bells” as possibly the first Christmas pop song. Originally intended as a Thanksgiving song, “Jingle Bells” became a popular drinking song and ultimately became associated with Christmas.

The 44th Annual Jazz Seminar and Concert Runs Next Week

Oct 24, 2014
Charlie Llewellin / Flickr

The 44th annual Jazz Seminar and Concert will take place next week. WESA Jazz host Bob Studebaker previews the event with Geri Allen, director of the Jazz Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh.

How Do Musicians Survive in 2014?

Sep 18, 2014
SouthernWI / Flickr

When Justin Currie was the lead singer for the band Del Amitri, he scored a top ten single in the U.S. and was heard regularly on top 40 radio.

But earlier this month he had sold only nine tickets to his upcoming solo show at the Club Cafe.

That's when he posted a desperate message on Facebook saying that he was going ahead with the show and that the people of Western Pennsylvania ought to show up. He joins us along with WYEP Program Director Mike Sauter to discuss the business model for the modern musician.

Thrival Innovation + Music Festival Returns to Pittsburgh

Sep 12, 2014
Thrival Festival Facebook page

The now two-day Thrival Innovation + Music Festival is being held this weekend in Bakery Square. While the music is the big draw, the organizers say the goal of the festival is to provide an outlet for entrepreneurs to get the word out on their projects as well as the opportunity to bring major national music acts to the city. 

Summertime in Pittsburgh, Sweet Simplicity and Spectacle

Jul 8, 2014
Taber Andrew Bain / Flickr

The July Fourth holiday weekend saw a number of activities in the city, from the Regatta to the annual visit of the Furries.

Betsy Benson, publisher of Pittsburgh Magazine says big summer events, such as the reopening of the Point State Park fountain and the arrival of the large rubber duck of last summer, have been big in Pittsburgh because of the attention they receive.

She says Pittsburghers really know how to enjoy the simplicity of these events, no matter how small.

“More people are swarming into the city, through tunnels and across rivers, for weekday and weekend activities. Yes, there are a couple of big events coming to town this summer, notably the USA gymnastics visit in August, but a lot of the activity is small stuff that just adds up. Like hundreds of people showing up to do yoga in Market Square. And the Furries, their presence makes any routine trip downtown a potentially odd and remarkable experience.”

Exploring 80 Years of a Summertime Classic with 91.3 WYEP Host Brian Siewiorek

Part of what makes any summer truly great is a catchy summer tune. 91.3 WYEP production director and host Brian Siewiorek guides us through the historic popularity of a classic summer song composed 80 years ago, Summertime by George and Ira Gershwin.

The Smithereens Rock the Arts Festival

Jun 12, 2014
M. Jeremy Goldman / Flickr

The Smithereens perform tonight as part of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. In the 80s and 90s, the group was churning out hit songs like “Only a Memory,” “Blood and Roses” and a “Girl Like You.” Pat DiNizio is the lead singer of the rock group, and joined us in studio to talk about the history of the group, and what he’s been up to since the group’s heyday.

DiNizio describes fame as “anticlimactic.” He says he finally realized the band had “made it” when he heard “Girl Like You," broadcasted on a radio station in New York, after six years. DiNizio says it was emotionally for him, because the band never expected to sell more than 3,000 records. They sold millions.

Chaka Khan Headlines at Pittsburgh Pride in the Street

Jun 5, 2014
ChakaKhan.com

A force of nature is a term used to describe a lot of things and if it applies to any single entertainer, Chaka Khan certainly fits the description.

Khan is a singer, songwriter, author, producer, actor, philanthropist and entrepreneur and she is coming to Pittsburgh to perform as the headliner for Pride in the Streets.

Khan shared her thoughts on headlining the event in Pittsburgh, “In lieu of what’s happened in the past week or so, I’m honored. I’m very honored to be performing at this momentous occasion.”

BYU Vocal Point / Facebook

The A cappella group Vocal Point, out of Brigham Young University, has just released their tenth CD titled Spectrum. One of the tracks on the latest album is titled Allegheny, with lyrics referencing "the sweet Allegheny, Monongahela.”

Carnegie Mellon Ph. D candidate Ben Tengelsen wrote Allegheny and said he had put his songwriting on hold indefinitely. However, the birth of his son, and a little motivation from his wife, provided the songwriter with the inspiration to write Allegheny.

“The words came first. My wife and I were driving around Pittsburgh when we first moved here (trying to get to know the place) and crossed the bridges many, many times. And the thought came to me once, ‘What would it be like to write a song with the words Allegheny and Monongahela in them? And is that even possible? Because I can’t think of many words that rhyme with or sound good next to those words.’ And so that was the prompt that was sort of sitting in the back of my mind. And my wife gave me a kick in the butt and said, ‘Why don’t you write me a song?’ And so those two things together got the words together." 

Looking Back at the Early Days of WYEP

Apr 30, 2014
Nick Frost / 90.5 FM WESA

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 was proclaimed “WYEP 40th Anniversary Day” by the Pittsburgh city council. On April 30, 1974, 91.3 WYEP went on the air for the first time.

Jeff Smith one of the founding fathers of WYEP was recruited to participate in some of the 40th anniversary events including a stint as a guest DJ. He said the idea to start WYEP came from a lack of diversity on the Pittsburgh airwaves at that time.

The Spirit of Pete Seeger Returns to Shadyside

Apr 29, 2014
Anthony Pepitone / Wikipedia

Musician and activist Pete Seeger filled his audiences with enthusiasm and hope. He is best remembered for his dedication to the American spirit with songs that continue to influence musicians today.

Seeger passed away this past January, but the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside will hold a Pete Seeger Tribute concert on Saturday to celebrate what would have been his 95th birthday.

Tribute coordinator Ginny Hildebrand says the church invited Seeger to perform in 1962, during the height of the "red scare," after being rejected from other Pittsburgh venues for being too “radical.”  

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

What started eight years ago as a gathering of store owners and employees celebrating the culture of independent record stores has evolved to include major music industry events, limited edition album releases and people camped out in front of record stores.

Saturday is National Record Store Day, and it’s one of the biggest days of the year for record stores and collectors alike.

“I like that it was started to bring back the whole record store experience,” said James “Selecta” Scoglietti, part owner of 720 Records in Lawrenceville. “People used to go every weekend to their local record store, and it was a social event. It was like a barbershop, where guys and gals would come in and discuss the latest hot tracks of the week. So I love that it’s bringing that back to the mainstream.”

Roger Humphries: Uplifting Pittsburgh Through the Generations

Apr 11, 2014
Billy Jackson / NOMMO Productions

Roger Humphries is one of Pittsburgh’s most notable jazz musicians. He’s performed professionally since the age of 14 with artists such as Horace Silvers and Ray Charles. But his contributions to the Pittsburgh community go beyond music, he’s uplifted generations of young people.

Humphries is the focus of the award-winning documentary Roger Humphries: Pass it On made by Billy Jackson.

The Beatles and Their Historic High Five Anniversary

Apr 11, 2014
CBS / Wikipedia

The Beatles have sold more than 2.3 billion albums through the years, a remarkable sales record by any measure. But the group's most historic chart-making moment was the first week of April, 1964 when the band held the top five positions on the Billboard charts.

Penn State Laureate Kenneth Womack is an English professor at Penn State as well as an expert on the Beatles. 

He explained how this record came about, “This great moment with these top five songs, in addition to drawing from these different periods in The Beatles' career, also are the culmination of what happened back in February when the Beatles came to America, had the wonderful series of appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. This first week of April is when it all came together and just exploded in this kind of frankly, commercial moment for the Beatles."

The historic high-five refers to the top five positions on the Billboard charts all held by the Beatles in 1964:

5. “Please Please Me”

Bob Prosser / flickr

Known as “Daddio of the Raddio,” “Your Platter-Pushin’ Poppa,” “Pork the Insane,” or “Pork the Tork,” DJ Porky Chedwick is a Pittsburgh legend.

Chedwick died Sunday at the age of 96, but his reputation and legacy set the standard for quality music on the airwaves for over 50 years.

Longtime Pittsburgh record producer and retailer Travis Klein remembers Chedwick for his honesty, integrity and pioneering radio work.

The 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' Big Night

Feb 7, 2014
CBS / Wikipedia

Fifty years ago this Sunday, February 9, 1964, the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

It was a live performance of several of their songs that had been hyped extensively and preceded by their hit song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" rising to the top of the American pop charts. WYEP Music Director Mike Sauter talks about the impact of the Beatles performance that night.

“It’s just an absolutely unique and remarkable phenomenon. The adulation that the Beatles instantaneously received, not just here in the US, but preceded by the UK and other countries subsequently around the world. It was just a very unique phenomenon to have happened and there’s no one reason why you can say why it happened in any one country or happened at that particular time or place.”

Stream It! Music to Make You Move in 2014

Jan 21, 2014
yuki55 / flickr

The first month of 2014 is almost over, how's your fitness resolution going?

The New Years' season craziness at the gym should be thinning out, now's the time to really stick with that routine.

Cindy Howes, host of the Morning Mix at 91.3 WYEP and program director Kyle Smith have helped compile a playlist with some of their favorite songs from 2013 to keep you moving as the year progresses. Follow it and stream it anywhere.

Punk Rock Humanitarian Billy Bragg Returns to Pittsburgh

Oct 3, 2013
Kris Krug / Wikipedia

Punk rocker and humanitarian protest lyricist Billy Bragg returns to Pittsburgh after sixteen years.

His influences derive from 1960’s Motown music and the civil rights movement to the arrival of punk rock in Britain.

Following the 1984 United Kingdom miner strike, Bragg began writing and performing protest songs expressing the discord in ideologies between working citizens and upper class public officials. He returned to Pittsburgh to play at Mr. Smalls theater on October 1.

Graham Nash Continues to Compose Music With A Cause

Sep 6, 2013
Matthew Harris / Wikipedia

Legendary singer-songwriter Graham Nash is revered for his prolific musicality, his inviolable commitment to human rights and his ability to seamlessly intertwine his compositions with worthy causes.

Nash is touring the East coast with keyboardist James Raymond and guitar player Shane Fontaine, playing old favorites and new tunes. They will be visiting the Carnegie Library Music Hall on Sept. 14.

Joey Spehar / Facebook

As a father, WYEP Morning Mix co-host Joey Spehar has a unique outlook on modern music. This led him to develop Cool Kids, a daily segment where listeners submit, “kid approved” songs and share stories about listening to quality music with their child.

“I’m a dad, my daughter’s almost two years old, and I found that she really enjoys music,” says Spehar. “I’m sure there are countless people out there who have had similar experiences.”

Dr. Rachel Whitcomb, assistant professor of music education at Duquesne University, says Spehar’s program touches on some important ideas in early childhood development.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has had financial troubles over the last few years.

With its endowments down millions of dollars and the deficit tripling, the musicians agreed to a 9.7 percent pay cut in 2011.

In addition to the salary cuts, the musicians themselves donated a combined $100,000 in 2011-12 to keep the symphony going.

That’s when Michele and Pat Atkins took notice.

The retired Point Breeze couple will give $1.2 million over the next three years to contribute to salary increases in the musicians’ new contracts.

Grab the blankets, picnic baskets and lawn chairs because the free outdoor music and movie season is back in Pittsburgh.

This weekend marks the beginning of both the 2013 Allegheny County and Pittsburgh Citiparks summer music and movies series.