September brings a full smorgasbord of diverse culture to Western Pennsylvania.
On Sept. 5, Pittsburgh reached across the pond and embraced the British Isles with the 8th annual weeklong “Britsburgh” festival. Enjoying tea and scones—along with some ale and a bit of Shakespeare—we celebrated our shared connections.
British Airways’ direct flight from London to Pittsburgh, relaunched in June, surely made it easier for British visitors to attend, and maybe the festival inspired Pittsburghers to plan a trip to the U.K. on the same flight.
Moving from tea time to 4/4 time, the City of Bridges will welcome some of the finest musical talents in the world at the Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival and the International Jazz Festival, which both begin this week.
“We are delighted to host two diverse and friendly festivals in Pittsburgh that showcase and celebrate such a wide range of musical talent in the jazz and blues genres,” said Susan Klein, chief marketing officer of VISITPittsburgh, the city’s tourism agency. “They attract thousands of visitors from all over our region, the surrounding counties and well beyond. We’ve got a well-earned reputation as ‘Festival City,’ and the Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival and the International Jazz festivals are just two of the reasons why.”
Both festivals are signature events for the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in downtown Pittsburgh, which provides year-round cultural and educational programs that highlight music, dance and the arts.
“We are excited for the celebration of music, fun, and family that is the Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival and the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival,” said Sidney Hale, marketing manager for the Wilson Center. “The connections that music makes across races, neighborhoods, and beliefs are so important for this community.”
The two-day Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival begins Sept. 14 and hits all the corners of blues music with traditional, classic blues, gospel and new horizons in the blues genre. It will be held at Highmark Stadium on the south shore of the Monongahela River, near Station Square.
Among the many acts scheduled to perform are Grammy nominee Shemekia Copeland, who is the headliner along with Ruthie Foster on Wednesday night. Copeland’s electric blues lays down a sultry, traditional sound with some contemporary themes and even a bit of humor.
Among the well-known blues artists on the schedule are three-time Grammy-winning artist Fantastic Negrito and Walter “Wolfman” Washington, a blues vocalist and guitarist who’s been an integral part of the New Orleans music scene since the 1960s.
After soaking up the blues, the city segues right into the two-day Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, which begins Sept. 16 at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center with a bevy of talented artists, including legendary jazz bassist and Grammy winner Ron Carter and his quartet, Foursight.
Other scheduled performers include Stanley Clarke, a five-time Grammy winner and a pioneer of jazz fusion; Incognito with Maysa Leak; the Average White Band; the Orrin Evans Trio; Nate Smith; and host of other great entertainers.
The second day of the jazz festival will be held at Highmark Stadium.