On Stage: Michael Borowski makes solo debut at Sellersville

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

Michael Borowski

When Michael Borowski performs at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) on February 2, it will be as close as possible to what he could call a hometown show.

The talented pianist grew up 10 minutes southwest of Sellersville in Souderton and now lives about 15 minutes south of the venue in Hatfield.

As the son of a highly respected piano teacher, Cindy Borowski-Burns, Borowski’s piano journey began when he was just four years old. His musical interests while growing up were primarily classical composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Claude Debussy, Aaron Copland and West Chester’s world-acclaimed composer Samuel Barber. These influences remain with his music today.

When Borowski was 10 years old, his mother took him to see George Winston at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. That concert inspired him to start composing his own music and improvise daily at the piano. He learned Winston’s full album, “December,” by ear and performed it regularly.

“George Winston was one of my major influences,” said Borowski, during a phone interview Monday evening from his home in Montgomery County.

Tuesday night’s show, which is part of the Sellersville Theater’s Soundbooth Sessions, will not be Borowski’s first time to play the popular Bucks County venue.

“I played at Sellersville many times before this – first with the Dirk Quinn Band and then several times with Splintered Sunlight,” said Borowski. “But I’ve never done a solo show there so I’m really excited about it.”

Like all music acts, Borowski’s career has been sidetracked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve played Facebook Live shows and also have done nursing homes via Zoom but this is the first time since the pandemic hit that I’ll be doing an in-person show,” said Borowski.

“I like the Soundbooth Sessions. I watched the Soundbooth show that Paul Wilkinson just did last month. I thought it would be a good idea to do one. I sent the theater an e-mail. They were familiar with my work and liked the idea.”

One obstacle for the performance was that the theater didn’t have a Grand Piano – but it was an easy obstacle to overcome.

“Glenn Grafton, the owner of Grafton Piano & Organ, donated a Grand Piano for the show,” said Borowski. “He is an old family friend. My mom is a piano teacher, and she taught their kids piano. He has a really nice shop in Souderton. He always provides pianos for the Sellersville Theater.”

The piano shop is a few blocks away from Borowski’s high school alma mater.

“I went to Souderton High and played football there,” said Borowski, whose class is celebrating its silver anniversary this year. “My dad grew up in Sellersville and used to take me to theater as a kid to watch movies. So, anytime I get to play there is always special to me.

“I went to college at Temple University with a major in music composition. I always wanted to be a film scorer. All along, I’ve wanted to write my own music and also play more familiar songs.

“I played in a band called Manic Mule when I was at a sophomore at Temple. It was my first band – and my introduction to jam bands. That was back in 1997. I was also in MiZ and that was an original band. I joined Splintered Sunlight in 2001 and have played with them on-and-off ever since.”

Splintered Sunlight is one of the area’s premier jam bands and many of the group’s shows focus entirely on the music of the Grateful Dead. Some of that vibe will be on display in Borowski’s solo show.

“I play a wide variety of music in my solo show,” said Borowski. “I’ll play songs by Bruce Hornsby, the Grateful Dead and Billy Joel along with some classical stuff. I’ll definitely do a lot of songs from my new album.”

Borowski’s new album, “Peace Valley,” is also his debut album as a solo performer. It takes its name from Peace Valley Park.

Peace Valley Park is a 1,500-acre park located near Doylestown and is part of the Bucks County Park System. The park surrounds Lake Galena, a 365-acre lake created by the damming of the north branch of the Neshaminy Creek.

“I go there almost every day,” said Borowski. “It’s a beautiful park. I thought it would be a good title for my album, which I just released independently.”

In 2020, Borowski caught the attention of Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records founder and Grammy-winning producer. Ackerman’s work influenced Borowski’s music from a very early age.

“I just recorded a whole bunch of originals that people haven’t heard,” said Borowski, who headed north to record with Ackerman.

“I recorded it in early September at Will’s studio (Imaginary Road Studios in Windham Hill, Vermont). Tom Eaton did all the mixing and mastering. It only took two days. They did a great job.”

You can hear Borowski’s show on February 2 online via the Sellersville Theater’s Soundbooth Sessions on Facebook Live.

Borowski also can be heard twice a week on other Facebook sessions — every Sunday at 10 a.m. live from St. Matthew’s Church in Chester Springs and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m. when he presents his “Pure Piano Hour” on his own Facebook page.

Video link for Michael Borowski live from St. Matthew’s Church — https://youtu.be/tlPE_8_5NsI.

Tickets for the Soundbooth Sessions show, which starts at 8 p.m. on February 2, are $10 – in person or via Livestream.

Kasim Sulton

There will be two other concerts at the Sellersville Theater this weekend – both by Kasim Sulton and both on January 30 (3 and 8 p.m.).

Sulton and his fans are happy that this show is finally going to happen.

The show was originally scheduled as an evening concert on December 12. Because of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, a matinee show was added for the same day.

“When we booked the Sellersville show, it was allowed to have one-third capacity,” said Sulton, during a phone interview from his home in New York. “The show sold out in three days — 66 tickets just went out immediately.

“Two weeks later, Pennsylvania’s Governor changed it from one-third to 10 percent capacity. The only way we could accommodate the 66 tickets that were sold was to do two shows.”

Prior to show date, a new round of restrictions was issued by the state and that completely wiped out the option of a live audience.

The Livestream option still existed but the decision was made to remove the show from the December calendar and move it to a later date. Now, the time for the rescheduled show has come and Sulton will play a pair of shows on Saturday with live audience and Livestream.

Sulton is most known for his work with Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and on several other projects with Rundgren. He also has spent a lot of time over the last few years playing bass for Blue Öyster Cult.

The long list of acts he has worked with includes Mick Jagger, Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf, Celine Dion, Tom Robinson Band, Ronnie Spector, Hall & Oates, Cheap Trick, The Cars, Patty Smyth, Patti Smith, The Rubinoos, Sounding Rick, David Drew, Phil Thornalley, Johnny Hates Jazz, Steve Hillage, Richie Sambora, Lulu, Scandal, Shaun Cassidy, Rick Derringer, Indigo Girls, Joan Jett, Bonnie Tyler, Steve Stevens, Glen Burtnik, Boy Meets Girl, Eileen Ivers, The Burns Sisters and Ricky Byrd.

Over the last four decades, Sulton has been involved with the making of more than 100 albums — including three of his own. His most recent albums are “3,” which came out in 2014, and “Live Bootleg,” which was recorded in 2015 at The Cutting Room in NYC and Hotel Utah in San Francisco

Sulton honored his longtime association with the groundbreaking progressive rock band Utopia and its legacy by performing a limited run of full band shows consisting entirely of Utopia music.  Billed as “Kasim Sulton’s Utopia,” the shows featured songs hand-picked by Sulton, spanning the 10 albums he appears on, including deep cuts as well as many more familiar songs.

“I did most of the shows from that tour,” said Sulton. “All but six of those gigs happened. I did a bunch and then everything shut down. The plug got pulled just before our Cincinnati show on March 14. Everything shut down and we came home.

“It’s been a complete life-changing experience. It is the first time in 45 years that I haven’t been on a plane. I have done a couple shows since the shutdown. I did one of the first drive-in shows in the country in May at Tupelo Music Hall (Derry, New Hampshire). It’s just been really different.”

Sulton will also be hooking up with Utopia mate Todd Rundgren for a new project.

“We’re getting ready to do a 25-city virtual Todd tour,” said Sulton. “We’ll set up at a venue in Chicago and start in February.”

Utopia was formed in 1973 and by mid-1976 settled into a stable line-up featuring quartet of Todd Rundgren (guitar, vocals), Kasim Sulton (bass, vocals), Roger Powell (keyboards, vocals), and Willie Wilcox (drums, vocals).

All four band members wrote, sang, produced, and even engineered material for the band.  Sulton wrote and sang lead on Utopia’s biggest hit, “Set Me Free,” from the band’s best-selling album “Adventures in Utopia,” which was released in 1980 and peaked at number 27 on the Billboard Top 40 charts in the U.S.

Sulton is always busy with a variety of projects. His latest endeavor – other than this tour – is making new music of his own.

“I’ve been working on my next solo project,” said Sulton. “I just finished my fourth solo album. I was in London working with my writing partner Phil Thornalley.

“I go to his studio in St. John’s Wood. A lot of songs were done at his place. On some, I used my home studio – mainly for the bass parts and the lead vocals. We spent about a year-and-a-half making this record.

Video link for Kasim Sulton — https://fb.watch/2fSH8T57-O/.

The shows at the Sellersville Theater will start at 3 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50. Livestream option is available at $17.50.

Other upcoming shows at the Sellersville Theater are Romeo Delight on February 5 and “A Magical Evening with John Westford” on February 6.

Live music will be presented in the upcoming week at several local venues.

Cedar Hollow Inn Restaurant and Bar (2455 Yellow Springs Road, Malvern, www.cedarhollowinn.com) will present Samantha Seider on February 7 and Sunshine Jones on February 9.

Lisa Chavous

Ashley’s Restaurant and Bar (68 Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills, https://www.ashleysrandb.com) is hosting “Motown with Lisa Chavous her brother Bobby D!” on January 29 and “Music with Jerry Lee!” on January 30.

Media’s Towne House (117 Veterans Square, Media, http://www.townehousepa.com) will present a show by the Gina Roche Duo on January 31.

The Bridgeport Ribhouse (1049 Ford Street, Bridgeport, www.ribhouse.net) will present River Dawgs on January 29, Montoj on January 30 and February 27, Whiskey Logic on February 6, Vik Raolji on February 6, Eddie Kurek on February 12, Old School on February 13, and Catullus on February 20. The schedule also features performances by Brian Quinn & Danny Beissel on February 3, 10, 17 and 24 and March 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31.

Tuned Up Brewing Co. (135 North Main Street, Spring City, www.tunedupbrew.com) will host Allan Combs II on January 29, Nightshift on January 30 and Mike Kropp on February 6.

Creekside Sports Bar & Grille (765 N Lewis Road, Royersford, http://www.creeksidesportsbar.com/) will present Shot of Southern on January 29, Triple Rail Turn on January 30 and Junkyard Band on February 6.

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