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Joan Osborne to Take the Stage for Benefit Concert at The Strand

A portion of the proceeds from the "One of Us" singer's performance tonight will go to the Red Cross of Butler County.

“If God had name, what would it be/And would you call it to his face…”

If you can finish the next lyric then you remember Joan Osborne, the curly-haired pop-folk darling who broke onto the music scene in 1995 with her smash hit One of Us.

In the time since the ethereal One of Us ruled the radio airwaves, the Grammy-nominated Osborne has mostly flown under the radar, touring with Motown-backing band The Funk Brothers and with the Dixie Chicks. She later appeared in the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

In 2008, Osborne returned to her rock roots with Little Wild One, an album that the same team that gave us One of Us produced.

She now is set to release Bring it on Home, which Osborne described on her Web site as a bluesy mix of old school R&B and soul songs.

While the album won’t be in stores until March, area residents will get the chance to discuss Osborne’s music with the singer tonight in Zelienople, which is one of a handful of stops on Osborne's tour lasting through February.

Osborne will perform at in a special concert to raise money for the American Red Cross in Butler County. She also will meet with ticketholders in a catered—and heated—tent after the show. Tickets are $45, with $15 from every ticket sold going to the Red Cross.

“It will be like a little VIP party right after the show,” said Ron Carter, president and executive director of The Strand Theater Initiative.

Initially, Carter said the concert was not meant to be a fundraiser. That happened when the Butler Red Cross requested the space for a benefit on the same day Osborne was scheduled to perform at the theater. As a self-described big believer in karma, Carter reached out to Osborne’s management team to see if the singer would be interested in turning her performance into a benefit concert.

Osborne, a Red Cross volunteer, quickly got on board.

“They really embraced the idea and got behind it,” Carter said. 

Osborne is just the latest in a string of high-profile performers to grace the apron stage at The Strand. In the spring, the theater played host to r. The Celtic Tenors paid a visit to the stage in November, and Aliquippa native B.E. Taylor is set to headline The Strand on Feb. 14.

Carter said that show already is sold out.

On attracting big names to The Strand, Carter said many musicians like the idea of performing in the theater’s intimate surroundings. The Strands can accommodate 287 people, and Carter likens attending a show there to hanging out in the living room with your favorite performer. John Oates in particular enjoyed interacting with the audience and cracked jokes the entire time he was on stage, Carter said.

“Everyone who has performed here has talked about how the audience is right there with you,” Carter said.

The venue has come a long way from when it opened after years of planning and construction work. Carter said he bought the vacant theater—which had fallen into disrepair—in 2001 with the intention of opening it within six months. Eight years later—after raising $2.5 million for the renovation costs—the theater opened on July 16, 2009.

“It’s been a wild ride ever since,” Carter said.

The nonprofit Strand Theater Initiative now is raising money for the second and third phase of construction to the building.

Carter said he wants to create a state-of-the-art facility capable of producing musicals and shows on a stage that can hold a full cast. The Strand owns the empty building next to the theater that, until recently, was leased by Mary Ann’s Classy Lady consignment’s boutique.

Carter said there are plans to raze that building and add a stage house for the theater. Phase Three consists of adding a two-level parking garage to the back of the building and a multi-purpose room where The Strand can offer private lessons.        

The total cost of the renovations is expected to cost about $6.5 million and would double the size of theater. Carter said he hopes to have the second phase of construction complete in time for The Strand’s centennial celebration in 2014, although that's not a firm timeline.

"I've learned not to assign deadlines," he said.

If you’re going:

Joan Osborne will perform at 7:30 tonight in a special acoustic duo concert with keyboard/vocalist Keith Cotton. The $45 tickets are available for purchase online on The Strand’s Web site by clicking here or by calling The Strand at 724-742-0400.

The box office will open two hours before show time. The house will open 30 minutes before show time.

Catch Joan:

If you missed Joan Osborne in Zelienople, she also will be performing in other east coast venues as part of a small tour. Catch Joan at:

New Hope, PA, Jan. 20

  • The New Hope Winery

Blairstown, NJ, Jan. 22

  • Historic Blairstown Theater

Port Washington, NY, Jan. 22

  • Landmark on Main Street

Brooklyn, NY, Feb. 3

  • Grand Prospect Hall

Woodbridge, NJ, Feb. 23

  • Music on Main Street

Natick, MA, Feb. 25

  • Center for the Arts—Natick Special

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