One of the many advantages of having a fine performing arts program in our community, such as that at the State University of New York at Fredonia, is the fact that past graduates sometimes return and grace us with their talents.
On Friday at 8 p.m., Jazz singer and recording Marcus Goldhaber will take the stage at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House, for an evening of jazz with an intimate approach. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $13 for Opera House members, and may be purchased in person at the Opera House, by phoning 679-1891, or by going by computer to www.fredopera.com.
I've been listening to the singer's most recent compact disc, and I can safely assure you that if you love jazz, you'll want to be in the audience when he takes the Opera House stage with the Joe Davis Trio.
Goldhaber has a rich baritone voice, yet he almost whispers into the microphone. It certainly isn't hard to hear, nor in any way difficult to understand the all-so-important words. Rather, there is a quality of intimacy, as though he is singing just for you.
I recently spoke with him by telephone from New York City, where he was headlining at the famed ''Iridium'' club. Within the past two years, he has drawn crowds to The Friars Club, the Cutting Room, The Carnegie Club, the Lenox Lounge and The Ritz Carlton, to name just a few.
Let me share what I've learned:
''My performance in Fredonia will be a mixture of songs I've written myself, and what I hope is a fresh look at standards from the American Song Book,'' he said.
Intermingled with his original songs on the most recent album, for example, are ''When I Take My Sugar to Tea,'' ''Look for the Silver Lining,'' ''I've Never Been in Love Before,'' and ''I Get Along Without You Very Well.'' Like the early recordings by Frank Sinatra, he sings familiar songs, but in ways you've never heard them performed before.
Goldhaber was born in Buffalo, and grew up in the Williamsville suburb, not far from the Buffalo International Airport.
''My parents were both very musical,'' he said. ''Every evening, after dinner, my mother would sit down at the piano and play jazz songs. If my father was becoming impatient to leave and we weren't getting ready fast enough for him, he would sit down at the piano and play 'If It Takes Forever, I Will Wait for You.' Music was just always part of our lives."
His family's involvement in performing groups around Buffalo led to his singing at concerts and events, all over the city. He went to Fredonia State with the intention of becoming a performer in musical theater.
If you attend performances at the Michael C. Rockefeller Performing Arts Center, you've probably seen and heard him in ''The Boyfriend,'' ''Sweet Charity,'' ''Working,'' ''Into the Woods,'' and even in one of the Hillman Operas, Mozart's ''The Marriage of Figaro,'' in which he sang the role of Dr. Bartolo.
The baritone left Fredonia with his BFA degree in Musical Theater, and headed off to Manhattan to become an actor. But when he arrived there, he found he enjoyed singing in clubs and focusing on the music, instead of portraying a character.
''I had to learn to use my voice differently,'' he said. ''It's still necessary to project the sound and to enunciate the words so they can be understood, but it's different singing to the people in a club than trying to fill a theater to the rafters with sound.''
Goldhaber said he felt he was trained very well at Fredonia. And what has he learned since he left?
''For one thing, I've learned that to survive in the music business, it's necessary to run my life like a business. It might be fun to go to a ballgame and scream my lungs out, but I can't allow that to happen,'' he said.
One adaptation to that business has been his growing fame as a composer.
''I made my first recording, called 'The Moment After,' in 2006. All of the songs were standard favorites, in a variety of styles. Almost immediately, people began to phone and ask to hear what I'd written myself. I had studied performing, not composing, and I was nervous about people knowing things about me from my writing,'' he said. ''I made up my mind to try, and I tried to put down words which meant something. One night, I was lying awake, tossing and turning, and all of a sudden, I got an idea and I wrote it down. Now, when people say they are touched by my singing, it means even more.''
Like his singing voice, his words are intimate and emotional. In ''I Fall Apart,'' he says, ''When it comes to love I'm never smart. There is not a soul I trust, so please don't start. I will never love again, I must defend my heart. But, when I look at you, I fall apart.''
''A Felony Called Love'' suggests, ''My symptoms are the worst by far, I'm burning with a fever. And, I'm afraid of the married life, for what if I can't leave her?''
The baritone writes his own words, and shares credit for the music with Joe Davis, the keyboardist with the trio which accompanies him.
''The bassist is Dave Ambrosio, and the drummer is Marcello Pellitteri. If it works out, we may be joined by a cellist from the School of Music at Fredonia, but that isn't certain yet,'' he said, expressing admiration and respect for the role of the trio in the success of his performances.
You can hear the jazz stylings of Marcus Goldhaber on Friday evening in Fredonia, both in his own words and those of people such as Irving Berlin, Sammy Cahn, and Hoagy Carmichael, to name a few of the greats. It will be well worth the trip.
If you want to own the albums, they are both on the Fallen Apple label. Each sells for $12, and you can purchase them on the singer's web site, at www.marcusgoldhaber.com. If your computer does sound, you can hear a couple of examples of his work, while you're on that site.
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There are sometimes periods when it seems as though the news is nothing but tragedies and misery. Between economic collapse, wars, terrorism, mass killings and more, this certainly seems to be such a time.
Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo may have just the perfect tonic to help you face the gloom. This is the 18th year they have performed their famed ''Buffalo Quickies.''
Although the performances always begin with a frustrated male buffalo who thinks - incorrectly - that he's going to have more than his share of fun, the production is, in fact, a collection of ten short comic plays, most of which are set in Buffalo. Usually some of them are side splitters and some are less successful, but this year's version can make an evening fly past and keep their audience laughing, loud and long.
Some of the short works resemble the humor on ''Saturday Night Live.'' In ''Unclear to Land,'' by Jay C. Rehak, for example, Michael Seitz and Carlton Franklin portray air traffic controllers who get so involved in their personal conversation, then give faulty instructions to aircraft in the air.
In ''How to Be Naked in Northern California,'' by Linda Eisenstein, a young, engaged couple learn that the ''resort'' to which they have been invited by his boss is a nudist colony. Tammy Reger and Christopher S. Parada play the uncertain couple.
A few of the segments rose to a much more interesting level than just the humor. In ''Saturday Night Chippewa, Sunday Morning Lackawanna,'' a young women has gone to the bars of Chippewa St., to take her mind off her boyfriend's unfaithfulness, and finds herself waking in the cluttered apartment of a stranger. Michael Seitz's patient and optimistic Matthew gives a whole new range of dignity and hope to Tammy Reger's humiliated Claire.
The rest of the cast, not already named are Louise Reger and Sheila Connors. The cast is attractive, well spoken and Joyce Stilson's direction makes their performances believable and easy with which to identify.
The tone can get a bit spicy, at times, but the closest to nudity they come is a man wearing a beach towel and a woman in a bathing suit cover-up. There are 10 ''quickies'' which run about 90 minutes, including intermission. It isn't art, but it's fun.
Tonight is the last night of the production, so you'll need to make your plans quickly. If you can do it, you'll have fun.
Actors, both male and female, are being sought for a most remarkable production.
For many years, lovers of literature have delighted in Edgar Lee Masters' famed ''Spoon River Anthology,'' a collection of poems in which the residents of a cemetery recount a brief overview of their brief residency on earth.
During the coming week, actor and teacher Tom Andolora will be auditioning local actors for an adaptation of the ''Spoon River'' poems, to be performed ''on site,'' as it were, after dark, in Lakeview Cemetery. Music has been created as well, so musicians are being sought.
Andolora envisions the actors as four men and four women between ages 18 and 75. He envisions the musicians as performers on keyboards, fiddle, flute and guitar, although if you play something else and you're interested, he's eager to talk with you.
The performances are scheduled for late July.
Andolora is a Jamestown native who now lives and works in New York City. He will only be in town during the coming week, so he encourages anyone who is interested in auditioning to send him an e-mail at TOMANDOLORA@aol.com, so he can contact you about an audition. He encourages prospective actors and musicians to include contact information, a quick resume of acting or performing experience, personal strengths, etc.
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This week will mark the 144th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. In memory of that sad occasion, local author and storyteller Paul Leone will present a multi-media interpretation of poet Walt Whitman's tribute to the death of the great man: ''When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd.''
The presentation will take place in the Carl Cappa Theatre at the Robert H. Jackson Center, which is located at the intersection of Prendergast Ave., and Fifth St., in downtown Jamestown.
Performances will take place next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and April 19 at 7 p.m. Music will be performed by the Kerry Byard Family, on flute, cello and violin. Admission is $5.
Tickets may be purchased at the Jackson Center, or at the Fenton History Center and the Reg Lenna Civic Center.
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Congratulations to Glenn Cortese, music director of the Western New York Chamber Orchestra. He was one of 40 American composers who received a grant of support from the American Music Center's Composer Assistance Program.
Included with his award was support or a performance of his composition ''Songs of War, Remembrance and Hope,'' at New York City's Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world.
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The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, on Elmwood Ave., in Buffalo, will present an exhibition of photographs of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, taken by Hungarian-born photographer Nickolas Muray.
The exhibit will open May 8, and will be available through July 5. The images in the exhibit were taken between the years 1937 and 1940.
Kahlo was the subject of a 2002 feature film for which actress Salma Hayek was nominated for an academy award for Best Actress.
Exhibits now on display at the gallery include ''Photographs from the Arkansas State Prison,'' by University at Buffalo professors Bruce Jackson and Samuel P. Capen, which will be available through May 10.
''Action/Abstraction: Pollock, deKooning, and American Art, 1940-76'' includes works by 31 different artists from the period in question. It can be seen through June 10.
The gallery opens at 10 a.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, it closes at 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, it closes at 10 p.m. Admission is $12 for the general public, $8 for senior citizens and students, and free of charge for gallery members and for children age 12 and younger.
Each Friday after 3 p.m., the gallery holds an event called ''Gusto at the Gallery'' in which admission is free, and both the permanent and temporary exhibits are available to be seen, in addition to a series of lectures and/or performances.
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The Fredonia Jazz Ensemble has recorded its first full-fledged studio album in 16 years. ''Still Kickin'' will be officially released April 26. A concert and release party will be held at 5 p.m. on that date in Diers Recital Hall, on the Fredonia campus.
The disc may be purchased at the release concert, plus in the college bookstore and at various online retailers.
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World famous jazz pianist Dave Brubeck will perform at Shea's Buffalo Performing Arts Center, on Apr. 25 at 8 p.m. Performing with him will be the Dave Brubeck Quartet, including Buffalo native Bobby Militello on saxophone.
In addition to Brubeck and his quartet, a 150-voice choir made up of choirs from various colleges and churches in Buffalo will perform some of Brubeck's compositions for choirs.