Kennywood’s Open!

Ah, words that have a magic ring!  Kennywood Park is our local historical (but very up to date) amusement park. School children in Western Pennsylvania love the phrase “Kennywood’s open!” – it signifies that it is spring, school is almost over, and a great day at the amusement park is in order! But there is a second less obvious meaning that every kid and former kid knows, a local colloquialism that means “your zipper’s open!”

I may be rushing the season a bit, as the park does’t open until May, but I wanted to feature a piece written by my husband and musical partner, BIll Purse. When he was commissioned to compose a symphonic band piece for the local North Hills High School, he chose Kennywood as his inspiration and the famous phrase as the title of the piece. Bill has a history of writing pieces inspired by favorite places; Kennywood’s Open featured six vignettes based on his favorite park rides. In the name of research, we made several trips to the park to record the sound of the rides as well as photograph and videotape footage for what eventually became a combination of music and actual sounds from the park and plenty of resources for multimedia presentations.

Since its premiere, Bill has rearranged it for orchestra for a performance by the Washington Symphony Orchestra on the very day that the park opened for the season. The concert hall featured an enormous screen and high resolution projector, so I was able to create moving graphics of the park rides while the orchestra performed the piece.

When creating his solo CD Sonic Art, Bill  adapted the “Merry Go Round” section as a jazz piece featuring Duquesne University’s Catch 22 and jazz trumpeter Sean Jones. This video features the CD recording of The Merry Go Round combined with the Kennywood footage and some stills of Sean taken by friend and photographer Doug Harper. The video features the Dentzel Carousel installed in the park in 1927 and the 1915 Wurlitzer Band Organ whose actual sound begins and ends the piece.

Enjoy the ride!

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25 thoughts on “Kennywood’s Open!

  1. Awesome! I missed this post first time around. Great music and video. What a great combination, and to be able to work on things jointly must be very satisfying.

  2. Absolutely wonderful! You both are SOOOO talented. I love carousels and that perfectly captured the great feeling of riding one. :-) My Dad has an old Wurlitzer-type organ in his restored concert/dance hall, but sadly, it no longer works. Pretty hard to find someone that can fix these old organs.

  3. Tell your hubbie that I loved, loved, loved this piece. I just got home from a very stressful day, and I decided to read your post to sooth my raging headache and potentially exploding head. I started smiling from the first note of the Wurlitzer organ to the last and I haven’t stopped. (Was that your guy flying by on one of the horses at one point?)

    The two of you together must never sleep with all that talent exuding from your pores! Most excellent and better than Advil! Take care. (I’m going to go listen to it again. . .)

  4. This would be so fun to hear live, with the big screen and moving images of the rides :-) It has the ‘feel’ of a holiday > that sense of just ‘letting go’ ~

  5. I really enjoyed that. Thank you!

    My husband and I visited Kennywood for the first time last summer, taking our granddaughters and their parents. We spent a long weekend in Pittsburgh, with Kennywood as part of the outing. It’s a great park, especially for children their ages (6 and 2 at the time). It was great for us big kids too. :)

    • Robin, how neat that you were there! It is a favorite place of ours, big enough to be engaging for the day but small enough to be manageable. Some of our students work there and a lot of musicians we know play there in the summer. I have lots of childhood memories of the place and still enjoy many of the same rides that were my favorites.

  6. Beautiful way to start my day. :-)

    Lovely arrangement, visually and sonically. I like the dissonant organ bookends, as well; and the visual bit where the carousel horses bob about slightly out of frame. Such a sweet rite of spring…

  7. Awesome! I enjoyed this very much. Loved the way the Wurlitzer starts and ends the piece as it acts as the perfect bookends … and yes, the opening of amusements is a good sign of what is to come.

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