Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Chamber music, jazz headline Williams Center season in Easton

Music is filling the air this month in Berks County and the Lehigh Valley, ranging from chamber to classical, jazz to rock. Take your pick. The region's venues are heating up with some great performing artists. This weekend kicks off with Easton's Lafayette College hosting the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and featuring Ukrainian-born Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman in works by Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn, on Friday at 8 p.m., in the Williams Center for the Arts.

This time around, the orchestra has commissioned a tone poem, "End Stages," by composer Michael Hersch, who often takes his inspiration from art and death. The program also features the orchestra's first performance of the fiercely challenging Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, written for legendary violinist Leopold Auer. Gluzman will perform on the 1690 Stradivarius formerly owned by Auer. The program is completed with Mendelssohn's "Scottish" Symphony.

Jazz vocalist Marianne Solivan makes her Williams Center debut performance with her 12-piece big band on February 11 at 8 p.m. Her voice is recognized as "evoking the smooth, sultry, and timeless qualities of such predecessors as Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dinah Washington."

Another debut performance at the Williams Center will be the early music ensemble, Apollo's Fire, with Jeannette Sorrell, conductor and harpsichordist. The program, slated for February 26 at 3 p.m., is "An Afternoon at Bach's Coffeehouse," featuring Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 4 and 5, Telemann's Don Quixote suite, and Sorrell’s own arrangement of Vivaldi's "La Folia."

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The 11th annual SnowBlast Winter Festival in Emmaus, Lehigh County, takes place Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., with free, community-wide art-related events organized by the Emmaus Arts Commission.

Friday's musical performances include country pop guitarist, songwriter and singer Alex Alegra, East Penn School District Chamber Orchestra, strings performance by Michael Montero and Ryan Williams, and Rhys Williams. There also will be a SnowBlast Winter Art Show and Sale, a Photo Gallery, and art demonstration by Barbara Greco-Potash.

Various events will be taking place in stores, bars and restaurants throughout the borough. On Saturday, Triangle Park will be the scene of chainsaw sculpture by four-time International Extreme Chainsaw Sculptor Michael Blaine from Dream Wood, and Burning Hearts Fire & Light Theater.

Footnote: SnowBlast Headquarters/Community Center for the Arts is located at the former Elephant’s Trunk, 348 Main Street.

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A leading Latin jazz ensemble, Mambo Kings, shares the stage with the Reading Symphony Orchestra on February 11 at 7:30 p.m., at the Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading, for a journey through the Pan-American experience.

Music will range from the sultry melancholy of Astor Piazzola to the Afro-Cuban jazz of Tito Puente, featuring original orchestral arrangements and compositions from the United States, Peru, Argentina, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Highlights of the program include covers of "Day Tripper" by The Beatles, "Oye Como Va" popularized by Santana, and "Blue Rondo a la Turk," the Dave Brubeck jazz classic.

Mambo Kings, together since 1995, perform under the direction of pianist and musical director, Richard DeLaney. Members are percussionist Freddy Colon, saxophonist John Viavattine, bassist Hector Diaz, and conga player Tony Padilla.

A pre-concert performance in the lobby by the Muhlenberg High School “Mambo Combo” will be presented under the direction of John Evans.

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Family fun takes over when "Disney on Ice presents Dream Big," tonight through Sunday at the PPL Center in Allentown. Tinker Bell leads the journey with fearless dreamer Ariel yearning to explore life above the water. The list goes on with daring Jasmine and Snow White, Aurora and Tiana. Rapunzel, Cinderella and Belle learn about the power to make their own magic. And, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without Disney's "Frozen" Arendelle and sisters Anna and Elsa, plus Olaf.

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"What Lies Within: Dancing with Race and Identity" is a collaborative performance by DanceLink and Basement Poetry, February 10 -11, 8 p.m., at the IceHouse on Sand Island in Bethlehem. Sarah Carlson and Chloe Cole-Wilson, artistic directors of DanceLink and Basement Poetry, respectively, team to create an original performance that unpacks the complex issues of racial identity and injustice.

The performance explained "seeks to explore identity, examine oppression and initiate conversations that lead towards racial understanding and healing." The show involves a mix of improvisational movement and poetry, with live musicians Moe Jerant and Vernon Mobley. Each performance will be followed by a talk-back with the audience to discuss and reflect upon the major themes of the show.

The directors and cast have been working in consultation with Kara Bender, a national trainer for Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training.

Carlson is a co-director of the Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange and has been on the dance faculty at Muhlenberg College, DeSales University, Cedar Crest College, and Lehigh University. Wilson's theater productions with Basement Poetry have been performed at Lehigh University, The IceHouse, Northampton Community College, and Moravian College.

"What Lies Within" is a part of the valley-wide arts series, "Voices of Conscience: Toward Racial Understanding," for 2016-17, designed "to foster a climate that features the production of socially-conscious art and engages the Lehigh Valley community in relevant conversation."

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Muhlenberg College's annual "Master Choreographers" concert tonight through Saturday in Allentown showcases two iconic restagings and one original piece from three world-renowned choreographers, as well as four world-premiere works by accomplished returning contributors.

Restaged are "Radical Severance" choreographed by Cristina Perera, and "When We Fly" choreographed by Orion Duckstein. Also, an original balletic piece, "Without Words," by Trinette Singleton, and new works by four Muhlenberg dance faculty: Heidi Cruz-Austin, alumna of the Pennsylvania Ballet; Shelley Oliver, director of Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers; Randall Anthony Smith, repetiteur and assistant to choreographer Donald McKayle, and Jeffrey Peterson, former dancer with Danny Buraczeski’s Jazz dance.

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"Taj Express: The Bollywood Musical Revue" captures the sounds of India and Bollywood in a stage performance on February 10 at 8 p.m., at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem. Through a fusion of film, dance and music, it’s a live cinematic journey through modern Indian culture and society.

A free, pre-show performance in the lobby at 7 p.m. will feature Mayura Academy of Dance from the Lehigh Valley, with students trained in Indian classical dance Bharatanatyam. Founder/artistic director is Swapna Suresh.

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If you were a fan of the Grammy-winning Karen and Richard Carpenter, better known as The Carpenters, this show is for you. "We've Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered" comes to the State Theatre in Easton on February 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Michelle Berting Brett will be accompanied by her seven-piece band of musicians from Nashville directed by Harry Sharpe. The band has worked with such popular music icons as Donna Summer, Wynonna Judd, Trisha Yearwood, Sara Evans, Alison Krauss, Gloria Estefan, Michael McDonald, and Tom Jones.

The show re-creates the original sound of the Carpenters, along with shared stories from those who knew Karen and Richard Carpenter personally and professionally.

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