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Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Student musicians "Side by Side" with Allentown Band for city, county anniversaries

Fifty high school students from the area will be performing "Side by Side" with members of the Allentown Band on Sunday at Allentown Symphony Hall, in a salute to the 250th anniversary of the city of Allentown and the 200th anniversary of Lehigh County. The musical program, "Americans We," will be held at 7 p.m., with conductor Ronald Demkee of the Allentown Band and guest conductor Loras John Schissel of the Blossom Festival Band in Cleveland, Ohio.

Demkee put together the anniversary program using American composers, including John Philip Sousa and Charles Ives. The students will be playing their respective instruments literally side-by-side with the members of the band.

"It's a great experience for both adult and student musicians, a great learning and mentoring experience and a great way to not only pass on traditions, but connect generations," Demkee said. "I invited Loras, a good friend of the Allentown Band, who is a highly respected conductor, composer, arranger and authority on American music, especially Sousa, Grainger and Ives. The students, adult musicians and the audience will gain much from the experience."

Schissel is founder and music director of the Arlington-based Virginia Grand Military Band, an ensemble comprised of current and former members of the four U.S. service bands. A frequent guest conductor of the Allentown Band, he recently collaborated with the group as associate producer of its Our Band Heritage recording, "Pennsylvania Pioneers." Schissel and John Philip Sousa IV, great-grandson of the composer, recently completed a book, "John Philip Sousa's America," a photo-biography of the March King. 20th Century Fox recently reissued the Clifton Webb classic, "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

The Side by Side concert includes Albertus "Bert" Meyers' "Game Preserve" since he wrote the march for the county's Trexler Game Preserve, according to Demkee. Also included is "The USAAC March" because Sousa wrote it after visiting the U.S. Army Ambulance Corps, stationed at Camp Crane, aka the Allentown Fairgrounds, during World War I. Demkee explained that while Sousa was there, he attended a musical revue put on by the soldiers and incorporated two of the songs into the march.

"The march was never published," Demkee said, "but was arranged for band by former Allentown Band trombonist Ray Wetherhold and premiered by the Allentown Band for the 50th anniversary of the USAAC Association reunion in Allentown in 1967."

The 2012 Side By Side participating schools are: Bangor Area High School; East Stroudsburg North High School; East Stroudsburg South High School; Easton Area High School; Emmaus High School; Freedom High School; Liberty High School; Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts; Moravian Academy; Parkland High School; Pleasant Valley High School; Pottsville Area High School; Saucon Valley High School; Southern Lehigh High School and Wilson Area High School.

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Arts Roundup

Music genres continue to fill the air this weekend in the Lehigh Valley with show tunes and familiar favorites emanating from Allentown Symphony Hall on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., when the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra ends its spring season with a "Broadway Revue" featuring soloists, Allentown's own Joan Barber and Muhlenberg College's Ed Bara.

Barber has been an Equity artist at Muhlenberg Summer Theatre, including Aldonza in "Man of La Mancha," a role she's played on Broadway opposite Richard Kiley and Raul Julia. Other Broadway credits include "Big," "The Sound of Music," "A Christmas Carol," "King David," and "Follies." Bara has performed numerous lead roles with various opera companies, orchestras and ensembles.

Saturday's program, with guest conductor Vincent Trovato, includes the Gilbert and Sullivan overture to "Iolanthe," melodies from "The Mikado" and "Showboat," "The Carousel Waltz" and "Pippin," in a special arrangement by Trovato.

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The Reading Symphony Orchestra's season finale, "Audience Choice Concert," will be presented Saturday at 8 p.m., at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center. This is the first of its kind for the symphony, with the finale program of its 99th season decided by the public voting throughout the season via audience ballots at symphony events and online polling. Favorite works chosen include "Hoedown" and "Buckaroo Holiday" by Copland, "Piano Concerto No. 3" by Rachmaninoff, and "Symphony No. 5" by Tchaikovsky.

Joining the concert will be fan favorite, pianist Matthew Bengtson, who will perform Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 3." Bengtson is known as the "musician's pianist," having appeared with violinist Joshua Bell on NPR's "Performance Today" and XM Satellite Radio's "Classical Confidential."

A footnote here: Just announced was that the 2012 "Guiding Lights" summer concert tour, featuring Earth Wind & Fire, will perform with the Reading Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday, June 19 at 8 p.m., at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.

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The exhibition, "Theresienstadt's Children and Their Art," currently on view at the Reading Public Museum, has been extended through May 27, with more than 30 objects from the Beit Theresienstadt Holocaust Museum, Archive and Educational Center in Israel. The works, including collages, drawings, embroidery, dolls, diaries, magazines, games and marionettes, were created by children at the Theresienstadt ghetto in what is now the Czech Republic.

Also at the museum: The nature paintings of Fleetwood resident Rhonda Counts will be on display in the museum's Atrium Café beginning Wednesday, May 23, as part of the "Artists Among Us" series. Counts is a retired "Disney Imagineer" and spent 30 years as an art director at Walt Disney World.

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