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Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Raffaele Ponti honored by GSO Board prior to final show with orchestra

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, entertainment, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music

The Genesee Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors hosted a farewell luncheon at GO ART! this afternoon for Raffaele Ponti, the musical director and conductor of the orchestra for 18 years who will conduct his final concert with the GSO tomorrow.

The luncheon was attended by board members and several longtime orchestra members, including Helen Grapka, pictured above with Ponti and his daughter, Sofia.

Sofia is holding the violin Grapka played for 46 years with GSO. She sold it to the Ponti family, along with the violin of her late husband, John, when she retired from music a few years ago. Sofia will play it during her featured performance at tomorrow's concert.

Grapka is the last surviving founding member of GSO.

In the 1940s, she and her husband played with a small orchestra organized by a local man who wanted to be a conductor each Jan. 1 at the old folks home in Bethany. At the 1947 show, Helen and John had a conversation with two members of their string quartet and decided they should start a local orchestra.

The GSO's first concert was later that year, in November, at the old Dipson Theater. Some 1,400 people attended and hundreds more were turned away at the door. Grapka remembers men showing up in tuxedos and the women dressed in long gowns and minks.

From the beginning, the orchestra attracted the finest musicians in the area and had a dozen first violinists that first season.

John Grapka was musical director at the New York State School for the Blind and after teaching at a public school for six years, Helen taught music at the School for the Blind for 20 years.

She's proud that what she and her husband started has lasted into the 21st Century.

"If anything ever happens and it all falls apart, it will never happen again," Grapka said. "It's important to keep it going because it's such an important cultural thing for the community."

Tomorrow's concert is at 4 p.m. at Batavia High School.

Ponti with an award presented to him by Board President Paul Saskowski and Board Member Roxanne Choate. 

Below are pictures from yesterday's rehearsal at Batavia High School. Dave Mancini is also performing with the orchestra tomorrow. The Rochester resident will perform on some of his own compositions, including "A Piece for Him," which he wrote and dedicated to his father. Members of the Student String Workshop (featured in some of the photos below) will also perform with the orchestra.

Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 11:53 am

A Night of Southern Music

post by Holland Land Office in civil war, history, Holland Land Office Museum, live music, music

The 2015 Concert Series at the Holland Land Office Museum continues Friday, April 10th, with "A Night of Southern Music". Returning again are Dave Armitage and Dona LaValle, along with newcomer Al Capurso. Tickets are just $8.00 per person and can be purchased in advance or at the door.

 

Event Date and Time

April 10, 2015 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 11:37 am

Photo: Students prepare for performance with GSO on Sunday

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, entertainment, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music

Jonathan Jaeger, music instructor at Roxy's Music in Batavia, practices with students Lucia Sprague, John Patt and Kirk Ellison. The students are preparing for Sunday's performance with the Genesee Symphony Orchestra of the "1812 Overture" and "Concerto Grosso."

Showtime is 4 p.m. at Batavia High School.

The concert will also feature drummer Dave Mancini and his original compositions of "A Peace For Him" and  "Symphony of Peace." 

It is also the final concert under the direction of Conductor Raffaele Ponti.

Photo submitted by Debbie Patt.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 6:44 pm

Batavia Concert Band announces annual Concerts in the Park

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Concert Band, music

Press release:

The Batavia Concert Band’s 91st season of music-making will run again this year with free public concerts in Batavia’s Centennial Park on July 1, 8, 15, 22, and July 29, as well as the ever-popular July 4 "Picnic in the Park" sponsored by GO-ART!

The Batavia Concert Band’s repertoire is wide-ranging in origin, period and style: marches, Big Band and swing numbers, popular songs from musicals and movies, jazz and rock favorites arranged for band, classical adaptations, fun songs for kids of all ages, and everything in between.

The Band consists of 45-50 brass, woodwind and percussion players ranging from talented local high school students to 60-year veterans. Many have professional experience; the rest are advanced amateur musicians. All love to play.

This year’s conductor will be John Bailey, instrumental music director at Lyndonville Central School. The July 1 and July 4 Picnic in the Park concerts will be conducted by David Keller.

Founded in the early 1920s, the Batavia Concert Band has brought musical pleasure to the region every year except during World War II. The Band currently enjoys financial support from the NY State Council on the Arts via GO-ART!, concert sponsors, program advertisers, and individual patrons. The City of Batavia supplies chairs for musicians. The Band also sponsors 50-50 raffles at every concert and a season-long 50-50 raffle. Individuals interesting in supporting the Band should contact a Board member at any concert.

Downbeat for regular season concerts is 7 p.m., Wednesday evenings, in Centennial Park, Batavia. (* In the event of rain, concerts will move to Genesee Community College. Notices will be posted at the NW corner of Centennial Park and announced on WBTA radio AM1490, posted on http://TheBatavian.com, and the Batavia Daily News Web site, http://www.thedailynewsonline.com)

All concerts are free to the public of all ages. Light refreshments are available. Bring the family, some friends, lawn chairs or a blanket… and enjoy!

For more information on the Band, how to sponsor, etc., see http://bataviaconcertband.net. We’re also on Facebook!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 2:59 pm

GSO prepares for Sunday's concert with Dave Mancini, farewell to Raffaele Ponti

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, entertainment, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music

Nationally renowned drummer and composer Dave Mancini joins the Genesee Symphony Orchestra on Sunday afternoon in a performance that will include popular pieces such as "Caravan" and the world premier of Mancini's own "Symphony of Peace."

The 4 p.m. performance at Batavia High School will be the last GSO concert under the direction of Conductor Raffaele Ponti.

Ponti's daughter, Sofia Ponti, will also be featured on violin.

Mancini composed "Symphony of Peace" and dedicated it to his father, a World War II veteran.

The Rochester resident is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and has performed with Chuck Mangione, Rosemary Clooney, Maureen McGovern, Joe Williams, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis and Bop Hope, as well as Doc Severinsen, the Boston Pops, Chicago Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, New York Pops, Vancouver Symphony, Dallas Symphony, and the Milwaukee Symphony.

Other pieces in the concert include Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," Vivaldi's "La Primavera," Fiesta Latina, Concerto Grosso by Antonio Vivaldi, the "1812 Overture."

There will also be a performance by participants in this year's string workshop.

Tickets are available at GO ART!, Roxy's Music, Batavia Senior Center and the Bank of Castile branch in Le Roy, and are $15 for adults, $7 for students, $10 for seniors and $35 for a family with children 12 and under.

Photos are from Monday's rehearsal.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 10:57 am

Van Halen plans tour stop at Darien Lake

post by Howard B. Owens in darien lake, entertainment, music

With David Lee Roth back in the fold, a new live album, and an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Van Halen is about to hit the road for a tour that will include a stop in Genesee County.

The legendary rockers will play Darien Lake on Aug. 25.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd will open the show, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m., April 4.

For more information, visit LiveNation.com.

Monday, March 16, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Emily Helenbrook dreams big, works hard as she seeks career as opera singer

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, alexander, Emily Helenbrook, music

It's a long way from Alexander, New York, to the Metropolitan Opera House, much further than the 536 miles measured on a Google map, but it's the road Emily Helenbrook has traced in her dreams nearly all her life.

At age 20, Helenbrook is building the resume that just might carry her from small town to big city, including a sixth engagement March 27 and 28 with the Buffalo Philharmonic.

A student at Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, Helenbrook's aqua eyes glimmer when she talks about what she loves. 

"I'm obsessed with classical music," Helenbrook said. "I can't get enough of it. Even at Eastman, where everybody loves music and that's what they want to do with their lives, I'm still the one who is constantly listening to more music and I love it. My grandpa was the same way. Music was his life and seeing him as I grew and grew into being a musician, I saw how much he was devoted and I wanted to be like that."

That love of classical music began at home. Arias and etudes weren't something she was introduced to. It was what she was born into.  

Her grandfather, Mathew Tworek was an original member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra as a violinist, and master musician and a member for more than 60 years. Her aunt, Adrienne Gryta, was a vocalist and frequent performer with the BPO and Helenbrook's first vocal instructor.

Growing up, all three of the Helenbrook children were introduced to music. Older brother Jason, now a local auctioneer, played flute and twin brother Eric played piano.  

For Emily, music quickly surpassed the hobby stage, however, and became the driving passion of her life.

Passion is what carries her through the hard work of learning her craft and building a career.

People tend to think, Helenbrook acknowledges, that singers just get up and sing, but there's so much more that goes into it. Learning the intricacies of vocal technique is grueling and takes years to master. They also need to research repertoire, study languages and diction, and for performance they must learn more than their own parts, but know and understand other characters, the history of the period and the story.

And that's just the singing part of her life. There are the academics that go into earning her music degree as well as her second degree in political science.

None of that is daunting, though, Helenbrook said.

"For a break, it's my practice time," Helenbrook said. "I don't think of practice as a chore. It's still fun for me, even though it's hard work, it's still fun."

When she needs to get away, she comes home, where there's more space, more quiet and more green.

"I really do appreciate being home," Helenbrook said. "Being in the country is a good way to escape the humdrum of city life. I can't stand it after a while and coming back home to something more simple is really important with the sort of speed of classical music and trying to be a musician."

Success came early for Helenbrook. At 17 she won the Barry/Alexander International Voice Competition, which led to a performance at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and an afternoon-long voice lesson with her childhood idol, four-time Grammy winner Renee Fleming.

"She has the most beautiful voice and she's such a nice person," Helenbrook said. "She's a great role model for young singers. I always dreamed maybe some day I could sing for her and maybe she could teach me some things and that's exactly what happened and it was in her house in New York City. It was the craziest thing."

Performing at Carnegie was also a crazy thing, she said.

"That was an out-of-body experience that I don't remember as much as I would like," Helenbrook said. "It was kind of like a dream, in every respect."

It's hard to believe she won't make it back to that great venue. Talented, beautiful, hard working, passionate about her art and establishing the connections that build careers, Helenbrook is doing more than just dreaming.

She also understands, there are no guarantees, which explains the second degree in political science and her plans for law school after graduation. It's a long way from anywhere to the Met.

"Even really, really good singers don't make it," Helenbrook said. "I've seen people at the Met auditions and they're really good, but nothing happens because a lot of it is luck and being the right place at the right time. I know that and I'm trying to be realistic about it. I know what I want. I want to be a singer and I want to at least try to make a career of it, but it's also important to have a backup plan."

For more on Helenbrook's upcoming performance with the BPO and to purchase tickets, click here.

Sunday, March 15, 2015 at 8:56 am

Photos: All-County Music Festival showcase held in Attica

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, Attica, entertainment, music

Photos by Jim Burns.

The first of two All-County Music Festival concerts was held Saturday in Attica, with student musicians from throughout Genesee and Wyoming counties participating.

The concert is the culmination of a lot of hard work by students, including an audition process that also contributes to the grades of many students in music classes.

The next show is at 2 p.m., Saturday, at Batavia Middle School. Tickets are $4 at the door.

Saturday, March 14, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Photos: No Blarney at St. James benefits HLOM

post by Howard B. Owens in entertainment, hlom, music, st. james

Local musicians Rich Conroy and Don Bouchard, as "No Blarney," performed a show of new and traditional Irish music Friday evening at St. James as a fundraiser for the Holland Land Office Museum.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 3:10 pm

HLOM's Irish Music Night - held at St. James Episcopal Church

post by Holland Land Office in history, Holland Land Office Museum, irish music, music

The Holland Land Office Museum kicks of its 2015 concert series with a night of music from the Emerald Isle.  

Local musicians Rich Conroy and Don Bouchard perform as "No Blarney", singing and strumming all of your favorite Irish ballads and drinking songs!

NOTICE: The event will be held at St. James Episcopal Church, 405 East Main Street in Batavia.  

Friday, March 13th, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Admission is $8.00 per person.  All proceeds go to the Holland Land Office Museum.  

Light refreshments and coffee are provided.  

Event Date and Time

March 13, 2015 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm
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