Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: 'Fabulous Fables' right fit for family concert in Allentown

Fables have been used for centuries, giving animals the starring roles in fictitious stories that mirror human behavior. They're meant to instill in us meaningful lessons and lend advice with sayings like "Slow and steady wins the race," "Honesty is the best policy," and "Actions speak louder than words." Now such wisdom springs into action on stage with the Allentown Band's family concert, "Fabulous Fables," on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown.

The event, designed and conducted by Allentown Band Conductor Ronald Demkee, is part of an educational outreach young people's concert, now in its 13th year. It is presented each fall with matinees for Lehigh Valley elementary and middle school students at no cost to students or school districts.

This year, for the first time, Demkee said he is making the concert available to the public as an evening family concert on the same day as the matinees and at "a very affordable price" of $10 for general admission and $5 for children 12 years and under.

The "Fabulous Fables" program will include Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" and "Aesop's Fables" by local composer and music teacher Scott Watson of the Parkland School District in Lehigh County. Both will be narrated by Allentown Band clarinetist/saxophonist and teacher Emile Guida of the East Stroudsburg Area School District in Monroe County. Guida's narration of the fables will be accompanied by interpretative dancing by the Lehigh Valley's Repertory Dance Theatre. Selections from Elton John's "The Lion King" also are on slate.

"Our educational objectives for the youth concerts are designed to engage students, enhance learning experiences that connect music with other educational disciplines, and provide educational musical journeys that make learning fun," Demkee explained.

"Aesop's Fables" was commissioned by the West Chester University Wind Ensemble in 1999 and published by Alfred Music in 2005. Watson said he composed the music to four of his own children's favorites -- "The Hare and the Tortoise," "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," "The Dog and the Bone" and "The Wolf and his Shadow." His most recent commission work this past June involved the MusicAlliance summer honor band camp program in Cleveland, Ohio.

Guida has been a member of the Allentown Band since 1988. For the past five years, his prior broadcast radio career with the valley's WEST and WLEV has served him well as narrator for many of the band's patriotic concert events including the reciting of the Gettysburg Address.

Footnote: The Allentown Band holds its annual "Salute the Troops" concert on Sun., Nov. 9 at 3 p.m., at the Northeast Middle School auditorium in Bethlehem. The program includes Chet Brown, vocals, Steve Reisteter, clarinet, and the Northeast Middle School band and select chorus with conductors Brian Rupnik and Denise Parker, respectively.

The event is sponsored by the Bethlehem Morning Star Rotary Club and benefits the Victory House of the Lehigh Valley veterans program and other charitable activities of the club.

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The American Boychoir headlines the Bach Choir of Bethlehem's "I Hear America Singing" gala concert/fundraiser on Saturday at 8 p.m., at Central Moravian Church, 73 W. Church St., Bethlehem. The choir has performed with classical artists, jazz legends and pop icons. Many of its soloists go on to perform with major orchestras, as well.

According to the choir website, the renowned American Boychoir School, based in Princeton, New Jersey, marked its 75th anniversary in the 2012-2013 season. It is the inspiration for "Boychoir," a film directed by Francois Girard and starring Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates (currently in production).

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The Allentown Symphony Orchestra's classical series continues with "Beethoven Symphony No. 5" on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. Cello soloist Matt Haimovitz will perform Elgar's "Concerto for Cello."

Haimovitz has performed worldwide. He made his debut in 1984 at the age of 13 as soloist with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic. At 17, he made his first recording with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 2000, he took Bach's cello suites out of the concert hall and into clubs across the country, Canada and the United Kingdom. His own arrangement of Jimi Hendrix's "Star-Spangled Banner" was featured in his 50-state "Anthem" tour in 2003, which celebrated living American composers. Haimovitz plays a Venetian cello made in 1710 by Matteo Gofriller.

The weekend's classical concerts also will feature the Pennsylvania premiere, "Montuno," by composer Roberto Sierra. The montuno ("from the mountains") is described as an instrumental dance originating in the hilly regions of eastern Cuba in the 19th century, fusing the traditions of Spanish guitar and vocal music with the vibrant rhythms of Afro-Cuban percussion. The montuno gained popularity in Havana during the 1920s and became an important influence on today's salsa dance craze.

Music director/conductor of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra is Diane Wittry.

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Nationally acclaimed Lincoln artist Wendy Allen will discuss her work and how painting Abraham Lincoln inspired and motivated her life and art on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, 432 W. Walnut St., Allentown. Allen also will be signing her recent book, "Lincoln into Art." She has painted hundreds of Lincoln portraits and has exhibited throughout the country.

According to Allen, "My hope is that, by transforming the black-and-white and sepia images of the past, I can keep Lincoln within our grasp. I want people to see him as a modern figure, still powerful and relevant and with much to teach us."

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The deadline of Nov 15 is nearing for images to be accepted for the consideration of the new ArtPop Lehigh Valley billboard program, a partnership of Adams Outdoor Advertising, ArtsQuest and the Lehigh Valley art community.

The work of six local artists will be featured on six billboards located through the region in 2015. Winners will be announced Dec. 8 at Adams Outdoor Advertising in Bethlehem.

Artists from Lehigh and Northampton counties are encouraged to participate in the program and contact Deb Miller, ArtsQuest director of visual arts and education for specifications. ArtPop will be juried by arts administrators and professionals of the region's arts community. The sixth artist will be chosen by public vote in November as the "people's choice" winner.

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