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Arts Around Town: Allentown Community Concert Association marks 85th anniversary with world tenors

By Susan Kalan, WFMZ.com Arts Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 06 2012 03:34:30 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 13 2012 09:41:19 AM CDT
Arts Around Town: Daniel Rodriguez

Georgia Chomicky knew exactly what she wanted for her music organization’s 85th anniversary season series, and she wanted to kick it off with a gala opening for her 1,000-plus patrons in a night to remember. Her programming efforts are sure to be met with heartfelt thanks on Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m., when the curtain rises at Parkland High School for three world tenors accompanied by the country’s oldest civilian concert band.

Chomicky, who heads the Allentown Community Concert Association, will take the stage to personally greet her audience and run down the entertainment slated through April 2013: Benny Goodman Tribute “The King of Swing” on Oct. 19; The Dallas Brass on Nov. 16; Forever Irish with Andy Cooney on March 8, and the Philadelphia Organ Quartet on April 19.

Then it will be a special introduction for “Tres Voce,” featuring three of the world’s best tenors – Daniel Rodriguez, Ciaran Sheehan and Karl Scully. The trio will perform under the baton of Ronald Demkee and the Allentown Band who, for the first time, will be part of the local Community Concert series in a special invitation from Chomicky.

Demkee has assembled what should be an outstanding program for the evening, with the three tenors singing Broadway, opera and a few surprises in between. It will include a tribute to renowned American composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch, whom Rodriguez performed with about 10 years ago when Hamlisch was a guest conductor with the Florida Orchestra in Tampa Bay. Hamlisch passed away unexpectedly on Aug. 6.

Rodriguez is easily recognizable as New York City’s “Singing Policeman” who helped to uplift the spirit of our country with promise and hope with his stirring rendition of the national anthem at the first Yankee game after 9/11. He officially retired from the force in 2004, and his tag line was updated in the media as “America’s Beloved Tenor.”

He recently performed in the Lehigh Valley on Aug. 17, at Easton’s State Theatre, as part of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation tour. Monies are raised to build “smart homes” for America’s returning severely injured soldiers so they can lead independent lives. The Easton engagement was in support of local hero Sgt. Adam Keys of Whitehall.

Rodriguez was singing long before 9/11. As a youngster of Puerto Rican heritage, he was inspired by the tenor voices of his father and grandfather. In junior high school, he was a member of the American Youth Repertoire in Manhattan and was mentored by Juilliard-trained Elliot Dorfman. With a baritone voice that had not yet matured for tenor roles, his performances extended to recital halls at Carnegie Hall. An opportunity in his early 20’s to join the New York City Police Department allowed him security and also the benefit of being able to continue his singing in off hours. His singing soared in the community and he soon became known as “The Singing Policeman” for official functions and even some special events on Broadway.

Rodriguez said he was poised to take over the role of Jean Valjean in Broadway’s “Les Miserables” right before the tragedy of 9/11. But all that changed after driving over the Verrazano Bridge that fateful morning to begin his shift with the NYPD and learning that the first plane had struck the World Trade Center. He was on the ground near the buildings when they collapsed. The next several months were a turning point in his life, working at the morgue at Ground Zero and singing at hundreds of memorials and funerals. His music proved to be not only healing, but a calling. The opera world’s Placido Domingo was so moved by hearing him sing at “Prayer for America” after 9/11 that he took him under his wing to study at his Young Artists Program in Washington, D.C.

The voice of Rodriguez has inspired presidents and princes, and audiences around the world. He’s performed with the USO and major symphony orchestras, at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden, the Crystal Cathedral in California, and on national television talk shows. He’s recorded CD’s of inspirational, patriotic and Broadway songs, with an upcoming album of Latin songs. He currently performs with the Chelsea Opera in New York. Though he admits he’s an avid fisherman (“fly, deep sea, trophy”) in his down time, his major time is filled with benefit appearances for the numerous causes he supports. However, he said with no hesitation, his ultimate is “to sing on a Broadway stage” and “do the Mario Lanza story.” Lanza was an American tenor and actor in the late 1940s and 50s.

He will be returning to Easton’s State Theatre on Dec. 1, as part of “The New York Tenors Christmas: Memories of Herald Square,” sharing the stage with Andy Cooney and Michael Amante.

Rodriguez is married to New Zealand native Marla Kavanaugh, a soprano and member of the musical trio, The Highland Divas, with Margaret Kelly of “Cats” and Amy Rivard of “Celtic Woman.”

“I’m very, very happy I’m still doing what I love to do,” Rodriguez said. “I feel blessed that I was born to be where I am, and to be able to share the gift God has given me. …I’m just an ordinary man with an extraordinary job.”

For further info: 610-395-8379 (Allentown Community Concert Association) danielrodriguezmusic.com

Arts Roundup

An Acoustic Roadshow showcasing local musicians will be featured in the 17th annual Chile Pepper Festival & Field Excursion in Bowers, Berks Co., on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7 and 8, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., rain or shine. Things will heat up with contests for Chile Pepper Salsa and Jalapeno Pepper Eating. Festival admission is by donation.

For further info: Pepperfestival.com

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The Easton Farmers’ Market major fundraiser, “Art for the Market” live auction, will be held Sunday, Sept. 9 at 2 p.m., at the Sigal Museum, 342 Northampton St., with an artists’ reception and preview at 1 p.m. More than 40 original works inspired by the Easton Farmers’ Market will be auctioned and prizes awarded to Best in Show, Essence of the Market, and Best Market Product Depiction. All proceeds will benefit the Easton Farmers’ Market. A preview of the art or proxy bids will be held Saturday, Sept. 8 at the museum during market hours, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday also will be when Easton launches its new coloring storybook, “A Sunny Day,” with a special story time at 11 a.m., led by Mayor Sal Panto and accompanied by market mascot,“Sunny.” The story was written by local writer/musician Carter Lansing and illustrated by Skye Bolluyt, a student at Moore College of Art. The project was made possible through a 2012 Crayola Foundation Grant.

For further info: eastonfarmersmarket.com

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“Max Ginsburg: The Social Realist Master,” an exhibition by renowned New York artist Max Ginsburg, will kick off Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the Baum School of Art in Allentown. The paintings in the exhibition, which runs through Oct. 19, give graphic evidence related to his strongly held feelings about peace and justice and his deep outrage to war. It is said that he is one of the few artists who has held to his convictions. His social and political awareness grew from his personal experience with anti-Semitism, the depression of the 30’s, and the civil rights movement. Many of his paintings portray life in the streets of New York, reflecting the unglamorous urban realities as well as the joy of life.

Ginsberg will give a demonstration from 3 to 5 p.m., painting a portrait using a live model. An opening reception will follow at 6 p.m. A two-day workshop is set for Sept. 29-30. Ginsburg will be guest of honor at the annual Baum Gala on Oct. 13.

For further info: baumschool.org

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