Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Candlelight Carolers, edible art on tap for towns with holiday cheer

Local communities are gearing up for some Christmas offerings that will warm the heart this weekend. The Shops of Emmaus will feature strolling Victorian Christmas carolers along Main Street, while the Macungie Holiday will feature edible art in the way of a gingerbread competition and display held by Kalmbach Memorial Park.

Kate Varley, of Coopersburg, Lehigh Co., manages The Candlelight Carolers, a quartet of strolling entertainers, including herself, which spreads the spirit of Christmas in much the same way as portrayed in Dickens' tales. Wearing costumes representative of the Victorian period, the Candlelight Carolers can be heard on Friday from 6:30 to 8 p.m., during The Shops of Emmaus annual holiday celebration in the downtown.

A few miles away, edible creations, ranging from the traditional to the incredibly unusual 3-Dimensional, will be on display Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the barn at Kalmbach Memorial Park. The 10th annual Gingerbread Competition is a highlight of the Macungie Holiday throughout the town, featuring select artisans and free performances of "Nutcracker Highlights" by Coral's Academy of Dance. Michael and Laura McCready, administrators of Kalmbach Memorial Park, started the Gingerbread Competition in 2002, as a way to support the Macungie Holiday started by business owners. There are judges who critique each entry and offer encouraging words as well as suggestions for improvement, said Laura McCready. This year's event will award more than $800 in awards, she added.

Candlelight Carolers' Varley is a private voice teacher in Coopersburg who's performed with Pennsylvania Playhouse, Civic Theatre of Allentown and Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Most recently, she portrayed Marmee in "Little Women" and Edith/Little Edie in "Grey Gardens" at Civic, and was in the ensemble for PSF's "Sweeney Todd." Varley also is a secretary at Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, Upper Saucon Twp., Northampton Co.

In addition to Kate Varley, the Candlelight Carolers include her husband, Dennis Varley, bass, associate professor of music at DeSales University and music director at Church of the Assumption; Lisa Razze, alto, real estate agent with Keller Williams, and Michael Traupman, tenor, managing director of Civic Theatre. An additional caroler is Ruth Macfarlane, alto, a physical therapist with St. Luke's Rehabilitation.

The Candlelight Carolers perform throughout the Lehigh Valley and have entertained at Saucon Valley and Brookside country clubs, Moravian Hall Square, Fellowship Community, Kirkland Village, and at corporate functions for People's First Credit Union and Ocean Spray.

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A new collaboration is about to happen by two of the oldest musical organizations in Berks County. The Reading Symphony Orchestra, at 100 years, and the Reading Choral Society, at 137 years, will present a variety of classical holiday favorites with some audience participation on Saturday at 7 p.m., at the Hill School in Pottstown, and Sunday at 4 p.m., at Sacred Heart Church in West Reading. Featured will be Vivaldi's "Gloria" and Corelli's "Christmas Concerto," under the direction of Peter Hopkins.

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The Bach Choir of Bethlehem presents its Christmas concerts of Britten's "Saint Nicholas" and Bach's "Magnificat" on Saturday at 8 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church of Allentown and on Sunday at 4 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem. Audiences also will be singing carols with The Choir. Joining the Bach Choir will be the Bel Canto Children's Chorus of Red Hill, conducted by Joy Ondra Hirokawa.

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Berks County-based artist Matthew Mazurkiewicz will showcase his new work through February 2013, in a collaborative show with Reading Art Works, 715 Clinton St. The exhibition also is sponsored by the Berks Arts Council.

Having spent much of his adult life creating art in many of its various forms, Mazurkiewicz's recent work highlights both his process and his command of media, employing everything from household paint, charcoal, roofing tar and, in his words, "whatever else will stick to the canvas," in his play on the senses.

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Performances of "Nutcracker" continue in the Lehigh Valley by Repertory Dance Theatre on Saturday and Sunday, with 2 p.m. performances at Miller (Allentown) Symphony Hall, and live music by the Allentown Symphony Orchestra. Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, the Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley, performs the classic on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15-16, with 2 p.m. performances at Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.

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