Arts Around Town: Heart, soul of 'The Voice' contestant, backup singer Judith Hill coming to Sellersville
She calls herself an organic soul artist with a passion to bring the world together. Whether it’s by way of funk or ballad, it’s all about that message, which is on the way to Bucks County next Wednesday at 8 p.m., when season four of “The Voice” contestant, singer-songwriter Judith Hill, performs at the Sellersville Theater.
Followers of TV’s “The Voice” will find it hard to forget the outstanding performance Hill, 29, gave in her blind audition, singing Christina Aguilera’s “What a Girl Wants.” It was powerful enough for all four judges to turn their chairs and start her on a journey that would take her to the top 8 as a member of Adam Levine’s team.
Hill appears in the 2013 RADiUS film, “20 Feet From Stardom,” directed by Morgan Neville. It spotlights the untold stories of backup singers, including Hill, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer and Darlene Love, who were the voices behind some musical legends of the 21st century, such as Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced last week that the film made the Academy Awards shortlist in the documentary feature category.
Hill, Clayton, Fischer and Love will kick off the pre-game festivities at the 100th Rose Bowl Game, presented by VIZIO, with a special performance of the “Star-Spangled Banner” on New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. According to a spokesman for the Tournament of Roses, this will mark the only known time in the game’s history that the national anthem will be performed by an artist rather than a Rose Bowl Game participating team band.
Fresh off from opening for Josh Groban’s “In the Round” arena tour, which she called “awesome,” the Sony Music recording artist also contributed backing vocals to three tracks on Groban’s latest album, “All That Echoes.” She gave a preview of her Sellersville show in a phone interview from her hometown of Los Angeles.
“It will be very organic, with soulful ballads and upbeat songs,” described Hill, who is of Japanese and African American descent.
She said she will be accompanied by a four-piece band as she performs original songs and covers from “The Voice.” That could include songs by such artists as James Brown, Brenda Lee, Nina Simone, James Taylor, Michael Jackson and will.i.am.
Remember that Hill was rehearsing to perform alongside music icon Michael Jackson back in 2009, for his “This Is It” world tour when his life was tragically cut short. In addition to performing as a backup vocalist, she was chosen to duet with him on the classic Bad ballad, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” She was asked to sing at his public memorial service and did so with a powerfully poignant performance of “Heal the World.”
“Working with Michael Jackson was life-changing,” Hill explained. “It was bittersweet. I was truly grateful to be with him.”
She’s also backed artists such as Elton John and Stevie Wonder. She called Wonder “an inspiration, just like Michael.”
When asked if she’s followed any of this season’s “The Voice,” she said that touring has kept her busy but she had been checking online.
As for advice to someone who wants to audition, she said, “Prepare yourself. It’s more than a competition. It takes personality and character. Know who you are artistically, and the better it will be. Know your style.”
Hill said she’ll be working on an album in 2014, which she described as “soulful, vocal-driven, with a mix of the classic and modern worlds.”
Some of her original ballads were featured in the Spike Lee film, “Red Hook Summer,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
The Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre presents a Christmas puppet show on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with a Christmas elf workshop to follow, at the America on Wheels Museum, 5 N. Front St., Allentown. Reservations are required.
For further info: 610-432-4200.
Selkie Theatre presents a concert reading of Dylan Thomas’ magical holiday tale, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” on Sunday at 3 p.m., at Anam Cara Farm, 2317 Minnich Rd., South Whitehall Twp., Lehigh Co., (off North Cedar Crest Boulevard between Troxell School and Parkland High School). The event marks the public debut of the farm as the theater’s newest venue.
Director is George B. Miller who, along with his wife, Kate Scuffle, co-founded the Selkie Theatre in 2005. The company produces both in Ireland and the United States.
The intimate parlor performance of the classic taking place in the 1794 farmhouse will be followed by a dessert reception, holiday carols and wassail.
The work is one of the best known works by Thomas, a radio prose poem recorded almost by chance. Set in the wintry Welsh countryside of the poet’s youth, the work evokes the sights, smells and sounds of a long-ago Christmas.
Miller will be joined on stage by actors Scuffle, Pat Kelly and Marcy Hake Repp. Artist Julie Miller, Selkie designer and collaborator, will exhibit her art, books and jewelry.
Seating is limited; reservations are required.
For further info: selkietheatre.org
The 35th annual outdoor live Bethlehem Christmas pageant, a reenactment of the historical events that surround the birth of Christ, will be held Saturday and Sunday at 1:45 p.m., beginning at the Bethlehem Rose Garden Band Shell off 8th Avenue. There will be singing, narration, actors, and live animals.
For further info: 610-865-0274.
“Magnificat – Music for an Evensong” featuring the Camerata Singers is the program for Saturday’s annual Christmas concert at 7:30 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church of Allentown. Music will include anthems, motets and canticles by Britten, Mendelssohn, Rutter, Durufle, Saint-Saens, Tavener, Stanford, Walton, Murrill, Posten, Mathias and Wood.
Soloist is soprano Leslie Johnson, with John Richardson on the organ. Conductor is Allan Birney.
For further info: 610-434-7811.
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a performance of the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker,” and there are plenty of offerings this weekend in the Lehigh Valley.
The Repertory Dance Theatre, with Tchaikovsky’s timeless score performed live by the Allentown Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Ronald Demkee, presents “Nutcracker” on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. New choreography is by Trinette Singleton and Jennifer Haltzman Tracy; singing by the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts touring choir, directed by David MacBeth. There also will be new sets and costumes.
For further info: millersymphonyhall.org
The Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, the performing company of the Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley, presents its 45th annual production of “The Nutcracker” with live music by the South Side Sinfonietta and Conductor Eugene Albulescu. Artistic director is Karen Kroninger Knerr. Performances are Saturday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m., at Zoellner Arts Center (Baker Hall) at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.
For more info: zoellnerartscenter.org
Fifty young dancers from the Pennsylvania Classical Ballet Academy in Northampton will portray Party Children, Mice, Snowflakes, Angels, plus more in Saturday’s 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. performances of the Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” at the State Theatre in Easton. Exclusive to the production is a tribute to world peace, the “Dove of Peace,” for which two dancers become one bird with a 20-foot wingspan. Two-hundred, all-new, hand-embellished costumes were designed by Shakespearean expert Arthur Oliver and created in St. Petersburg’s oldest theatrical costume shop.
For further info: statetheatre.org
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