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!