Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
February 13, 2011

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris delivered two of the best lines when she and a half dozen of her colleagues assembled Saturday night to offer “Love Quotes.”

“Politics doesn’t make strange bedfellows — marriage does,” she said, quoting Groucho Marx.

The audience at East Liberty Presbyterian Church laughed loudly in response to Groucho’s quip and to Mark Twain’s observation that love grows very slowly. “No man or woman knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century,” Mrs. Harris said.

Six members of council and city Controller Michael Lamb took part in a pre-Valentine’s Day benefit for the Hope Academy of Music and the Arts.

Their aphorisms on romance, borrowed from everyone from Alfred Lord Tennyson to Voltaire, were part of a varied program that included classical, jazz and pop music selections. The fifth annual event drew more than 200 people to the church sanctuary.

Most of the performers were students, teachers, parents and supporters of the 11-year-old arts program. Operated as an outreach effort of the church, Hope Academy provides after-school and Saturday instruction for about 350 children and young people ages 4 to 18.

Interviewed before the concert, Executive Director Linda Addlespurger said the academy has thrived with the support of some of the region’s best-known cultural institutions. Pittsburgh Ballet teachers offer dance classes, and Pittsburgh Symphony musicians have done benefit performances.

Hope Academy initially served students living in East Liberty’s 15206 ZIP code. As word of the quality of its offerings has spread, it now draws students from a three-county area, she said.

While Hope Academy seeks to nurture talent in the arts among people of all ages, it concentrates on the young, the church pastor, the Rev. Dr. Randy Bush, told the audience.

Saturday’s performers included the East Liberty Community Engagement Orchestra. The ensemble includes both Hope Academy students and some of their parents and other adult players under the baton of Federico Garcia.

The Howie Alexander Trio played jazz standards while Cello Fury offered electrified strings.

Rev. Bush accompanied teaching artist Carly Noel Black and Alexandra Loutsion in the “Flower Duet” from the opera “Lakme.”

Also, students from the Hope Academy Theater Company interpreted pop tunes by contemporary artists, including Kanye West and Britney Spears. They performed first in the sanctuary and later offered a cabaret show in the church’s McKelvy Room.