Gray Skies got grayer, on the evening of June 17th as the Hill District was poised for its annual Pittsburgh Symphony Engagement Concert. Still, no one suspected a storm with record rainfall three times the amount of the previous record set in 1973 would cancel the evening. Even as barges were breaking from their docks on the Monongahela, hopeful Symphony fans were still filing into St. Benedict the Moor Church on Centre Avenue with their umbrellas in hand, looking forward to an evening of entertainment. Even the flickering of the lights did not dim the hope that the concert would still go on. It wasn't until the largest clap of thunder and the final power outage that Jessica Schmidt, of the PSO and Terri Baltimore from the Hill House Association announced to committee members, volunteers and the expanding crowd that the Pittsburgh Symphony was --alas--unable to perform.
Within minutes, the crowd was filing to the back of the church not to leave, but to eat, drink punch and chat. In the dim light, jazz musicians exchanged stories with classical musicians, nuns brought candles for the tables, ushers held battery powered lights over the cookies and punch as people gathered goodies and talked, and children played hide and seek among the long carved pews. In no time flat, the rained-out affair became a full scale social event with the all charm of an impromptu, moonlit bar-b-que.
"I'm in no hurry to leave," said one participant settling in. "If you have to ride out a storm, this is the perfect place!"
In fact the beauty of St. Benedict the Moor, was punctuated by slivers of light coming through the stain glass windows; and the door through which attendees occasionally peeked to see how deep the water was running over the sidewalk, making light of whether or not they would be washed out of their shoes or high heels. Then slowly, over the period of a few hours, they all left, content overall with the evening.
Special thanks go to the Symphony engagement committee for their gallant efforts: Demareus Cooper, Terri Baltimore, Jessica Schmidt, Janine Davis, Dr. Nelson Harrison, Elbert S. Hatley, Carrie Henderson, Marlene Jackson, Christine Bethea and Rachel Walton ,
The next Symphony Concert is planned for March of 2010.