Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Philadelphia's Chet Brown prepares way for young voices of Lehigh Valley

Chances are if you've heard a male singing voice accompanied by a band at a public park in the Lehigh Valley, you've experienced the smooth sounds of Chet Brown singing selections from George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A.," or even "Mr. Bo Jangles" in a tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. The Philadelphia native frequently performs with The Allentown Band, most recently at an Independence Day concert at the Levitt Pavilion at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.

Brown had the ability to understand harmonies at an early age back in the city of brotherly love, where he sang gospel in church, studied piano and trumpet among other instruments, and performed with community youth choirs. He grew up listening to such legendary singers as Johnny Mathis, Lou Rawls and Frank Sinatra, whom he refers to as "The King."

"I never stopped singing," said Brown, who's been part of the Philly music scene all his life as a member of various bands and singing everything from jazz to popular music. After being signed by Polydor Records in 1978, he recorded an album under the name ‘Jet Brown' at Sigma Sound Studios, home of the famed "Philly Sound."

Brown has performed at such events as Vice President Joe Biden's inaugural ball in Washington, D.C., and at the Republican National Convention with Teddy Pendergrass, David Clayton Thomas and numerous other artists. He is a featured vocalist in the James Gerard Orchestra. He's also worked as a studio vocalist and voice-over talent throughout the region for radio and television.

Brown briefly led the vocal ensemble, Fusion, at Community Music School in Allentown. He's been a vocal music instructor at the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts in Bethlehem for the past four years. He also serves as the outreach coordinator, organizing performances by students from the school at Musikfest, ArtsQuest, Hotel Bethlehem, and Godfrey Daniels throughout the year. He said his mission is encouraging kids in performance and finding them opportunities from which to grow.

Now in its fourth summer, Brown will be sharing his music experience with local youths during a two-week Pop & Jazz Performance Workshop at the school, as part of its Summer Academy Program. Open to Lehigh Valley students entering grades 8 through 12, the workshop will run from 9:30 a.m. to noon July 21-25 and July 28-Aug. 1. Brown said it's designed to give vocal students a major edge in all aspects of performing in front of an audience, from proper phrasing to proper breathing. Each student will develop music skills through coaching and ensemble work and in the end will participate in the creation of a performance for the public on Aug. 4, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., at Musikfest's Plaza Tropical stage. Brown said students will have the opportunity to sing either solo or with a chorale.

"I always tell the kids, ‘Be satisfied with what you do. Be the best that you can be,'" Brown said.

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Elton John and Tim Rice's Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical, "Aida," will be presented by Reading's Genesius Theatre beginning tonight at 7 and running through Saturday at Conrad Weiser Middle School near Robesonia. Music is by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls and David Henry Hwang, and produced by Walt Disney Theatrical.

The two-act show is based on Giuseppe Verdi's Italian-language opera of the same name, the scenario of which was written by Auguste Mariette. The musical originated from a children's storybook version of Verdi's opera written by the soprano Leontyne Price and with illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon.

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Pastels and oils by accomplished figure painter Gabriela Gonzalez Dellosso are on exhibit at The Baum School of Art in Allentown through Aug. 8. Titled "Symbolism & Romance," the exhibit focuses on that which is borrowed from literature, poetry, and the artist's fertile imagination and presented in glowing, richly-detailed works. Guest curator is Dr. Christine I. Oaklander.

The widely-exhibited, award-winning painter at mid-career, Dellosso is a teacher of figure drawing and painting at the National Academy School in New York.

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The 37th annual Easton Heritage Day will be held Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m., at Centre Square and along the Delaware riverfront. The historic reading of the Declaration of Independence will be held at noon, reenacting that great moment in history when it was read in the city's "Great Square" on July 8, 1776.

The event features colonial reenactors, Civil War encampment, historic pageants, wares of the period, carriage rides and tours, live music on three stages, and Northampton County's heritage on exhibit at the Sigal Museum on Northampton Street. Kids' activities include pony rides, games, and a Kids Construction Zone.

A "Be the Bugler" event will be held at 3:30 p.m., followed by a Patriot Parade. Fireworks on the riverfront will begin at 9:30 p.m.

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The Gallery at St. John's, 330 Ferry St., Easton, is holding a summer art show, "Vistas of Creation," beginning Sunday through Aug. 17. Members and friends of St. John's Lutheran Church are exhibiting various fine art and crafts depicting the natural wonders of God's world, including views of the Grand Canyon.

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The legendary exhibition, "Space: A Journey to Our Future," continues through Sept. 7, for the first time at the Da Vinci Science Center, 3145 Hamilton Blvd. Bypass, Allentown. Presented by Air Products, the exhibition is part of the Center's Year of Innovation.

Created in part by NASA, it brings the epic and innovative story of space exploration to life with such highlights as a future Lunar Base Camp, real rocks from the Earth's moon and Mars, a centrifuge that can be powered like a bicycle, artifacts and displays on new spacecraft, and displays and interactive experiences.

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One Tank Trip: Space: A Journey to our Future


The Tony Award-winning musical, "Monty Python's Spamalot," is underway through July 27, at the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. "Lovingly ripped off" from the classic comedy film, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," it parodies the legend of King Arthur and his band of haphazard knights who sing and dance their way through a ridiculous divine quest. Book and lyrics are by Eric Idle; music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle. Muhlenberg director is James Peck; musical director is Justin Brehm; choreographer is Sammy Reyes.

Set designer Curtis Dretsch will give a backstage tour and explain his design process from concept to actual stage set on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Dorothy H. Baker Theatre at Trexler Pavilion on the college campus, as the second installment of the Arts Alive! 2014 series, "Behind the Scenes." Dretsch is director of design and technical theater at Muhlenberg College.

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Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival's "Lend Me a Tenor" (through Aug. 3) and "Macbeth" (July 17-Aug. 3) are featuring the same cast performing in repertory, alternating performances on the main stage at the Labuda Center for the Arts on the campus of DeSales University in Center Valley. Director of "Lend Me a Tenor" is Jim Helsinger; director of "Macbeth" is Patrick Mulcahy, PSF's producing artistic director.

The title role of Macbeth will be played by Ian Bedford, veteran PSF player whose credits include the title role in last season's "Henry VIII."

The Baltimore Consort will present "The Food of Love: Songs for Shakespeare," an evening of songs and music from or inspired by Shakespeare's plays on Monday, July 28 at 7:30 p.m., on the PSF main stage. The group will play period instruments. Members include Larry Lipkis on bass viol and Renaissance winds, Mary Anne Ballard on treble and bass viol, Mark Cudek on cittern, Ronn McFarlane on lute, Mindy Rosenfeld on flute, fife and bagpipes, with vocalist Danielle Svonavec.

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Naxos of America, the world's leading classical music distributor, is distributing the Allentown Band's "Our Band Heritage" series of recordings in the United States and Canada. Naxos is the largest independent classical label in the world. It is also the largest distributor of band music in the world.

To date, over the past 27 years, the Allentown Band, whose conductor is Ronald Demkee, has recorded 27 volumes of "Our Band Heritage" recordings in compact disc format, which have reached listeners in all 50 states and 17 foreign countries. The band will be included in the Altissimo Military Music band catalog that goes to more than 100,000 fans of martial and band music quarterly. The initial release this month will include three volumes in the series: "Our Band Heritage," "Americans We," and "Pennsylvania Pioneers."

Catch the Allentown Band performing its annual Sousa concert on July 19 at 7:30 p.m., at Allentown's West Park, and on Sunday, July 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Historic Haines Mill in Cetronia.

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