Northwestern Press

Wednesday, June 3, 2020
PRESS PHOTO BY PAUL WILLISTEIN Piano man and woman: Morgan Reilly, left, sang a duet with Joe Boucher, right, on PRESS PHOTO BY PAUL WILLISTEIN Piano man and woman: Morgan Reilly, left, sang a duet with Joe Boucher, right, on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" for the Allentown Symphony Pops Concert, "Piano Men: the Music of Elton & Billy."

Playing here in Allentown

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

Everyone saw it on the program: "Allentown."

And when the time arrived to perform the song which landed Billy Joel on the Top 20 charts and in hot water with Allentown officials, piano man Joe Boucher couldn't have put it better.

"I grew up in a factory town. And when I heard this song, it spoke to me," Boucher said in introducing the song from Billy Joel's 1982 "Nylon Curtain" album that reached No. 17 and charted for six weeks in Billboard.

"The song has had a major place in my heart and it's so great to be here and see that Allentown's thriving," Boucher said.

With that, the factory whistle emblematic of the recording sounded as did the clank of metal and Boucher began, "Well, we're living here in Allentown ... " to audience cheers and applause.

The rains cleared at sunset and a rainbow arced over Allentown's Miller Symphony Hall just before the annual "Pops Concert" May 11 by the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, led by Associate Conductor Ronald Demkee, with the theme "Piano Men: the Music of Elton & Billy."

Boucher, at the concert grand, sang and played 19 songs, along with Gary Backstrom, electric guitar, vocals; Chris Eastburn, bass, vocals; and Steve Ellsworth, drums, and the ASO.

Songs by Elton John and Billy Joel alternated. Joel's "Angry Young Man," which opened the two-hour show, including intermission, was followed by John's "Your Song."

Was it intentional or coincidence that John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" followed "Allentown"?

Indeed, Joel's "Moving Out (Anthony's Song)" followed "Sorry."

Still, a huge ovation greeted the conclusion of "Allentown." You only needed look out the lobby doors of the hall at intermission and across Sixth Street to see the illuminated 11-story steel superstructure for the Seventh and Hamilton streets headquarters of National Penn Banchshares, Inc., parent firm of Lehigh Valley bank KNBT, and the steel rising for the PPL Arena beyond, to realize that Billy Joel's "Allentown" may require a lyric brush-up.

The audience was charmed by Morgan Reilly, a 2011 Parkland High School graduate and Muhlenberg College sophomore, who sang the Kiki Dee part in a duet with Boucher in John's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart."

The concert's other big moment was William Allen High School ninth grade student Mardochee Dade guest-conducting John's "Crocodile Rock." He was chosen at the request of Lorrie Scherline, widow of Jay A. Scherline, who was to be guest conductor, but died earlier this year.