Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Branford Marsalis is season opener for Allentown Symphony Orchestra

He rubbed elbows with Jay Leno as musical director of "The Tonight Show Band" in the mid-90s. Now, three-time Grammy Award winner Branford Marsalis switches from jazz to classical this weekend as he performs solo on soprano saxophone with works by 20th century Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos for the opening season/gala of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown.

Marsalis will perform on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Allentown Symphony Orchestra will be led by Music Director/Conductor Diane Wittry.

On Friday at noon, Marsalis will speak on the symphony stage during the brown bag lunch. The event is free, and those attending are encouraged to bring their own lunch.

The music of Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) reflects the influence, rhythms and sonorities he discovered in the indigenous songs and dances of his native land. He was deeply influenced by classical composers Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. The Allentown concert will include Villa-Lobos' tribute to Mozart in 1916 with "Sinfonietta No. 1" ("A Memoria de Mozart"), followed by "Fantasia for Saxophone and Orchestra," written in 1948 and dedicated to French saxophonist Marcel Mule.

Marsalis also will perform Villa-Lobos' "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5" and Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 3" ("Eroica"), written during the time of French leader Napoleon Bonaparte.

Marsalis, who hails from New Orleans, is the oldest son of pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis and brother to Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. He worked with trumpet legend Clark Terry and alongside Wynton in Art Blakey's legendary Jazz Messengers. He formed the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1986. He has played with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, and Sonny Rollins. Duets have included his boyhood friend, Harry Connick Jr., and longtime pianist in his quartet, Joey Calderazzo. Marsalis has played with major symphony orchestras and served as creative director for the Cincinnati Symphony's Ascent Series in 2012-13.

He was named NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2011.

His Broadway credits include original music for a revival of August Wilson's "Fences," with a Tony nomination for best original score written for the theater. He also wrote the score for the Broadway premiere of "The Mountaintop," starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett.

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The events of 9/11 are unknown to many of a new generation. That's why a community outreach, "9/11 Story Share," is being held to honor first responders and revisit the 9/11 story as it evolved in our own lives, neighborhoods, and across the nation. The free event, open to the public, will be held October 22, from 1 to 3:30 p.m., hosted by Longswamp United Church of Christ, 200 Clay Road, Longswamp Township, Berks County.

A gripping first-person account will be presented by Mahlon Fuller who, on that fateful day, was the watch supervisor of the FAA control tower and radar room at Pittsburgh International Airport. It was the day that four planes were hijacked, but only three had crashed into targets set by terrorists. Fuller had to deal with United 93 prior to it crashing near Shanksville, Somerset County, and help shut down the nation's air space.

Now a board member of Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial Park, Fuller has made it his mission to tell the story of those 40 heroes aboard Flight 93 who thwarted the hijackers in the skies above Pennsylvania. His talk is a compelling reminder that ordinary people can change the course of history.

The afternoon will feature opportunities for adult participants to share their own 9/11 remembrances in group settings. A session for younger children will focus on how difficult times can bring out the good in people with the reading of "The Little Chapel That Stood" by A.B. Curtiss. The story recounts how St. Paul's Episcopal Chapel, located across the street from the Twin Towers, remained unscathed amid the carnage and provided food, shelter and support to the rescue workers.

Older children may view the video, "Boatlift: An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience," narrated by Tom Hanks, which relates the amazing waterfront rescue of half-a-million people from Lower Manhattan and the largest waterborne evacuation in history.

The program will conclude with a brief reflection and sharing of spiritual hopes led by the Rev. Dr. Kathy Brearly.

A free-will offering will be taken to benefit The Friends of Flight 93, the support arm of the Flight 93 National Memorial.

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Supernatural tales for all ages for the Halloween season are in store in a family matinee with SATORI and "Shadows of the Samurai: Supernatural Stories from Old Japan" on Saturday at 2 p.m., at the Williams Center for the Arts, 317 Hamilton Street, on the campus of Lafayette College in Easton.

Japanese snow spirits, dragon kings, and samurai heroes are on the way when the SATORI ensemble delivers the sights and sounds of centuries-old folklore and with shadow puppetry, mime, masked performers, and projected artwork. Traditional Japanese music on the shakuhachi (bamboo flute) and East Asian Percussion accompany the tales.

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Broadway hits are at their finest with Jerry Herman's musical revue, "Showtune," presented by Act 1 DeSales University Theatre through October 23 in the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts on the Center Valley campus.

"Showtune" presents 40 musical masterpieces from Herman, composer and lyricist for such Broadway hits "Hello Dolly!" "Mame," and "La Cage aux Folles." Herman also penned such songs as "We Need a Little Christmas," "Before the Parade Passes By," "If He Walked into My Life," and "I Am What I Am."

The cast includes students Kyle Schumaker, Caileigh Idell, Louis Jannuzzi III, and Ally Borgstrom.

Director and choreographer is alumnus Stephen Casey, with scenic and costume designers/students Leah Nodalski and Kayleigh Downey, respectively. Lighting is by alumna Alyssandra Docherty.

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Featured singers Mary McCormick and Jarrod Miller will perform at the "Unleash Your Inner Opera Fan" soiree on Wednesday at 7 p.m., in conjunction with the Met Live in HD Broadcast Opera, "Don Giovanni," on October 22 at 12:55 p.m., at the Reading Movies 11 & IMAX, 30 North Second Street, Reading.

Wednesday's soiree is being presented by the Berks Opera Company and features a multimedia presentation, "Man and Superman or Not That Superman" by David Richie.

The location of the soiree will be provided at registration.

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The Washington, D.C.-based comedy troupe, The Capitol Steps, will present a show based on songs from their current album, "What to Expect When You're Electing," on October 20 at 7 p.m., at the State Theatre in Easton.

For more than 30 years, the Capitol Steps have been providing a unique blend of musical and political comedy, with tasteful lampooning guaranteed to leave both sides of the political spectrum laughing. Their show is constantly changing, strenuously bi-partisan, and includes songs about the election madness, as well as other things in the news.

Performers include Kevin Corbett, Jon Bell, Mike Carruthers, Bari Biern, and Janet Gordon, accompanied by Marc Irwin on piano.

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