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Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

Favorite Things (2010)

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · December 31, 2010

Just in time for the end of the year, here’s a list of the albums that has caught my ears. I can’t claim that these are the best albums available, but they are the things that I’ve enjoyed hearing and often find myself telling friends about.

 

C.E.F. Weyse: The Key Masterpieces (DaCapo 8.226105-06)

Christoph Ernst Friedrich Weyse. Who was this guy? According to the liner notes, this Danish composer was also a “piano virtuoso, court composer, organist, improviser, gourmand, humorist, and celebrity.” A year ago, I’d never heard of him. Because of listening to this album, I now know he’s written some delightful symphonies, lovely songs, a Christmas cantata, and some catchy overtures, all thanks to this collection and its crisp performances.  

Warner/Nuzova: Russian Music for Cello & Piano (Cedille 120)

Great romantic cello performances, with a really nice selection of repertoire. My favorite discovery here is the Miaskovsky Cello Sonata No. 2, but you also can’t go wrong with Rachmaninov’s cello sonata here. These two major works are complemented by miniatures from Scriabin, Schnittke, and Prokofiev. I love the music, the performance, and the sound. 

Mozart * Spohr Clarinet Concertos / Jon Manasse, clarinet; Seattle Symphony, dir. Gerard Schwarz (HMU 907516)

Yes, you do need another Mozart clarinet concerto recording, and here it is. I’m not a clarinet expert, but I love listening to Manasse play, so I’m happy to add this recording to my collection (along with Stoltzman and Meyer). Don’t ignore the Spohr concerto either! Will someone please arrange to get Jon Manasse to play here in West Virginia? Either with an orchestra or as a duo with pianist Jon Nakamatsu, he’s an artist from whom I’d like to hear more.  


Mi Alma Mexicana (My Mexican Soul) / Alondra de la Parra, Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas (Sony 75555) 

More excellent performances of music I rarely encounter (except for Moncayo’s Huapango – that piece has started showing up everywhere recently!) This collection features music written by Mexican composers over the last 200 years, and I agree with conductor Alondra de la Parra that this music deserves a place in the standard repertoire of more orchestras (check out her interview in the recent issue of Listen magazine if you can). Give this album your attention, especially the Ponce Concierto del Sur for guitar and orchestra.


 Telemann: The Baroque Gypsies / Ensemble Caprice (Analekta 9919) 

Shhh! I’m cheating. This album is from 2009, but I first heard it this year. Ensemble Caprice is an inventive group of performers, both in the traditional Gypsy selections and the music by Telemann (including the Cricket Symphony!)  This year Ensemble Caprice released Salsa Baroque, which highlights music from Spain and Latin America. It’s also a good album with which I look forward to spending more, but I keep coming back to this Telemann.


Mozart Symphonies / Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Levine (BSO Classics 1001/02)

Lots of good orchestral albums this year! The Boston Symphony continues with their series of concert recordings on their own record label, and these recordings of early Mozart symphonies are lively and lovely.

John Sheppard: Media vita / Stile Antico  

I just love listening to these guys sing. I can hardly keep up with how many albums they have coming out recently, but it has all been beautiful. John Sheppard might have been a “neglected Tudor master” a year ago, but hopefully no longer after more people hear this recording of church music in Latin and English (my favorite: the Gaude Maria).

 - - - 

Okay, I’m sure I’ll remember or discover some other forgotten favorite from the past year within a day or two of publishing this list, but it’s time to let it go. The new year will be here in just a few hours, and I hope it brings us all some more great music.  

 

Let me know some of your recent favorites in the comments :)

 

Previously:

Favorite Things (2009)

Favorite Things (2008)

 

Christmas with the Ohio Valley Symphony

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · December 21, 2010

The program that I've been producing airs tonight (and on Christmas Eve), and I still have yet to mention it here! 

Hope you can tune in for "Christmas with the Ohio Valley Symphony" tonight at 9pm and December 24 at 2pm on West Virginia Public Radio. Here's the press release from the Ohio Valley Symphony with all the details! 


Ohio Valley Symphony Christmas 2009
Ohio Valley Symphony, Christmas 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE OHIO VALLEY SYMPHONY


W.Va. Public Radio airs "Christmas with the OVS"

Hark! The little town of Gallipolis is about to share its holiday spirit with the world, thanks to West Virginia Public Radio. The state-wide network will air "Christmas With The Ohio Valley Symphony" -- a broadcast of highlights from the OVS's 2009 "Christmas Show" recorded live at the Ariel Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre-- twice during the week before Christmas.

Celebrate the sounds of the season with family, friends, and favorite holiday songs and Christmas carols at Dec. 21 at 9 p.m. and Dec. 24 at 2 p.m. OVS music director Ray Fowler leads southeast Ohio's only professional orchestra from the stage of the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre. The performance was part of the orchestra's season-long 20th birthday celebration.

For Fowler, the OVS's conductor since its first performance in 1989, the holiday concert is a special event that has become a beloved community tradition. Listeners can look forward to new pieces, holiday classics and more modern seasonal standards -- all set for orchestra by master arrangers including Carmen Dragon and Leroy Anderson.

The OVS's years of success are a testament to the region's dedication, Fowler said. "A small, Appalachian community can actually support a quality symphony orchestra experience. That's very special."

Hearing the OVS on their home stage, the 1895 opera house that was restored by the community is a special treat. “The acoustics are superb,” remarked Executive Director Lora Lynn Snow. “We treat the Ariel as an instrument and have designed the orchestra around the hall. We are so pleased to be able to share this sound with WV Public Radio’s audience.”

In addition to the 14 broadcast stations of WVPR, whose signals already reach well into Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the performance also will be available online through the network's Web site, www.wvpubcast.org. On this home page, click on the “Listen Live” box and choose the medium you want to listen on (computer, iPhone). Anyone around the world with an Internet connection -- on a computer or a mobile device like a smartphone -- will be able to share the experience of an Ohio Valley Symphony holiday.


Tune in and let The Ohio Valley Symphony cap your Christmas preparations with this special holiday event. For more information, call the Ariel-Dater office at (740) 446-2787, visit the OVS online or WVPR's Classically Speaking blog.

Symphony Chorus Triumphs

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By Carole Carter
 · December 20, 2010

While the Symphony Chorus cannot be heard on the current WVSO season, the local community clearly demonstrated their support of the chorus last evening. (ed. note: This sentence was edited for clarity after this article was initially published.)

Messiah poster
Art by Su Tams
Messiah poster

It was SRO for Messiah at Christ Church United Methodist in Charleston. Chairs of all kinds were brought from rooms throughout the church to accommodate the overflow crow – and some folks just stood through the concert or sat on the stairs. Christ Church’s David Donathan says: “In my 18 years at CCUM, I have never seen that many people in that room. It was very exciting!”

And for their efforts, the 80 member ensemble was rewarded with an extended standing ovation at the end of the 90-minute concert.

Castleberry, Dr. David




Kudos go to director Dr. David Castleberry for his leadership, and not just as conductor. The choice of repertoire, Handel’s Messiah, was both popular and timely. His judicious cutting created an offering that both satisfied the audience but did not wear out the chorus. He also matched the vocal quality of the soloists to the solos well.

As a conductor, Castleberry was efficient and clear with very little expression except during the alternating sections of Since by man … He’d obviously done his job in rehearsal. He took the movements at a clip, detached and ‘dry’ to match the musical period. A small instrumental ensemble of 11 provided more than sufficient accompaniment for the chorus and soloists. Oh – and no stick. It was an intimate performance.

The chorus was well-rehearsed and fairly well-balanced. They executed the melismas with accuracy and delicacy, a quality often lacking in the performance of this work. The chorus was not unleashed until the Hallelujah and the following choruses. And Castleberry gave the singers somewhere to go and grow in the final chorus by starting the Amen section quietly and detached.

As for the soloists – they were all members of the chorus. What a pleasure! Choristers are rarely allowed to shine individually but they did last night. Dirk Johnson, Roger Wolfe, Erin Kishpaugh, Susan Tams, Eva Jones, Winnie Smith and 16-year-old Collin Nelson all acquitted themselves admirably.

WV Symphony Chorus
WV Symphony Chorus

Thanks should also go to the concert sponsor, DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero and all the donors who stepped up to support this dedicated organization. It’s amazing the commitment a little controversy can elicit.

By all reports, the retiring offering plates were over-flowing – and well-deserved!

Bravo WV Symphony Chorus!


P.S. The Bloch Sacred Service is planned for the spring semester. Interested singers can contact Dr. Castleberry by email or at 304.696.2963 to schedule an audition. 

Reflections on an amateur orchestra

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By John Ashton
 · December 14, 2010

Last night after six years at the helm, I conducted my final program with the West Virginia University Community Arts Orchestra. The CAO is a community outreach orchestra that services players of various abilities ranging from talented youngsters to college age students, working pros who are looking for an opportunity to perform serious literature and older players who simply enjoy performing as a hobby. Regardless of their playing level they all take the idea of performing very seriously, and it has been a privilege and pleasure to work with them.

One of the real challenges for a conductor working with a group like this is to program literature that balances the technical abilities of more advanced players with the limitations of the less advanced. Last night’s program included the Prince Igor Overture of Alexander Borodin, an arrangement of the Schubert Marche Militaire, the first movement of the Franck D minor Symphony, the rarely played Three Holy Kings March from Franz Liszt’s Oratorio “Christus” and three movements from the Opus 10 Caucasian Sketches of Ippolitov-Ivanov.

I have always admired the work of Andre Previn. I worked for him on many occasions when he was Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and think of him as an exceptionally perceptive musician. One of my colleagues who worked for Previn while playing in the San Antonio orchestra many years ago said that he admired most that Previn was able to recognize and ignore problems that could not be solved and to work all the harder at problems that could be dealt with. I think that this is one of the paramount abilities that a conductor of an amateur orchestra must possess. When rehearsals can be made productive without becoming stressful for the players a conductor can feel a real sense of accomplishment.

Our recent program stretched the abilities of our fine double reed section (Caucasian Overture), our brass section (Franck and Liszt) and our winds overall in the Borodin, while allowing the strings a bit of a breather in the Schubert and Ippolitov-Ivanov. If player as well as audience reaction was any indication we succeeded in the primary goals of this sort of program, which should be to please the audience, allow the players a sense of genuine accomplishment and present the composer’s works as faithfully as our abilities allow.

My hope for this orchestra as well as for the many other similar orchestras in this country is that they will continue to receive the institutional and community support that they deserve. The many players who devote individual practice and rehearsal hours to present programs of this sort form the backbone of the cultural life of our local, regional and national arts identity, and I hope that you join me in supporting them and wishing them many years of great success.



John Ashton is a conductor, composer, former classical trumpet player, decent wine maker and mediocre sailor (recently wrecked his twenty-seven foot sloop). He still conducts the Fairmont University Community Orchestra and tends to his garden.

Don Carlo at the Movies

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By Larry Stickler
 · December 10, 2010
Princess Elisabeth of France and Prince Don Carlo of Spain fall in love. However, because of a treaty between the two countries, Elizabeth must marry King Phillip of Spain, Don Carlo’s father. This is the conflict presented in Act I of the opera Don Carlo by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).

Don Carlo 3


Don Carlo
will be broadcast live in high definition from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to select movie theaters around the world this Saturday, December 11, at 12:30 pm. Local opera lovers can view this broadcast at the Cinemark theaters in Ashland and at the Huntington Mall (ed. note: You can can find a location near you on this site.)

The start time of 12:30 pm is a half hour earlier than usual because the expected running time is 5 hours. The opera will be sung in Italian with MET titles in English. If you have time conflicts this Saturday, the United States encore performance will be Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 6:30 pm at the local Cinemark theaters.

The world premiere of Don Carlo was at the Paris Opera in 1867. The original French libretto (script) was based on the play by Friedrich Schiller. The libretto was later translated into Italian.

Don Carlo 2

Some of us saw the live broadcast of Boris Godunov on October 23. When Don Carlo was performed in St. Petersburg, the Russian composer Modeste Mussorgsky was working on Boris Godunov. The audience may notice similar characteristics in Czar Boris and King Philip.

Father and son conflict, tyranny and the downtrodden, and idealistic realism and status-quo are all points of stress in the plot of the opera. A major conflict is the struggle between the power if the throne, represented by King Philip and the power of the Church, represented by the Grand Inquisitor. The confrontational duet between the two basses provides a memorable dramatic impact.

The ending of the opera tells us that “suffering is unavoidable and ceases only in heaven.”

Larry Stickler
Professor of Music
Marshall University

It's beginning...

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · December 10, 2010


It's beginning to look...

 


I'm not sure when it began to look a lot like Christmas, but it certainly is now in full swing. My friends are all putting up their Christmas trees (I'll get there eventually), and I've heard some great holiday concerts.

I have a few more holiday concert pictures to share (previously posted holiday concert pictures can be found here and here).

The West Virginia Symphony will perform its "Home for the Holidays" concert tonight and tomorrow at the Clay Center in Charleston. They were in Lewisburg last night, and they'll be in Parkersburg on Sunday. They'll also be playing for Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet next weekend. And the weekend after that, the WV Symphony Chorus is singing Handel's Messiah. You can find these concerts and many others on our calendar.


WV Symphony Holidays 1
WV Symphony Orchestra and choruses

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WV Symphony Holidays 2
Nutcrackers try to join the bass section

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WV Symphony Holidays 3
Home for the Holidays with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and choruses

GHSB
Greater Huntington Symphonic Band


If you have holiday concert pictures you want to share, get in touch!


Related links:

- A few thousand words (not really!)

 - WV Classical Calendar -- December

 - West Virginia Symphony Orchestra

womanSong Winter 2010

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By Carole Carter
 · December 9, 2010
Capece, Emily
Emily Capece

The female vocal ensemble womanSong has been on the Charleston scene a dozen years now, and I’ve attended several of their concerts, mostly after Emily Capece assumed the position of artistic director and conductor.

This past weekend’s Winter Concert offered a diversity of music and musical styles. Capece is a fine conductor – clear and expressive. While I’m not very well acquainted with the female choral repertoire, she seems to be well-acquainted with it.

 

womanSong Alleluia
William Henstock
'Alleluia' was performed from the back of the hall.

The concert opened with a small ensemble singing an Alleluia by Tarik O’Regan, an up-and-coming thirty-something British composer who’s gaining an international reputation. The fanfare was performed with only drum, putting both audience singers in the spirit of the season.

The full ensemble then divided in two and went back a century for an 8-part Ave Maria by another British composer, Gustav Holst.

Stabat Mater
William Henstock
Cora Voce (in red) joined womanSong for 'Stabat Mater'

Capece also directs Cora Voce, the high school girls choir of Appalachian Children’s Chorus. They joined womanSong for the performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, the entrée of the evening as it were. A small instrumental ensemble from the symphony, David Donathan on continuo and soloists Mariel van Dalsum-Boggs and Branita Holbrook-Bratka also joined the fray.

Dalsum-Boggs,Mariel van
Mariel van Dalsum-Boggs

A commissioned work, Stabat Mater was originally written for male soprano and alto and continuo; the work was later arranged for SA chorus with soprano and alto soloists and strings by Bach. Unfortunately, both soloists were sopranos. Van Dalsum-Boggs offered her usual lovely spinning soprano, but Holbrook-Bratka’s fine mezzo voice was often lost in the lower range, However she did provide a marvelous tonal color contrast.


Holbrook-Bratka, B
Branita Holbrook-Bratka

Pergolesi died at the young age of 26 and this was one of his final works. Written as a Good Friday meditation in honor of Mary, it enjoyed immense popularity and secured his place in musical history.

The addition of the younger voices suited the Pergolesi well, supporting a pure tone to match the style of the musical era. The instrumentalists only covered the alto soloist occasionally. I was surprised to see cellist Andrea DiGregorio playing bass, but I probably shouldn’t have since most string players must teach all strings.

After intermission, it was obvious that the audience was bolstered by family and friends of Cora Voce as there was a mass exodus. What a shame! There were treasures in store for those who stayed for the second half – not the least of which was the outstanding accompaniment of pianist Janet Brightbill who also offered a superb solo for the free-will offering.

Vivos Voce
William Henstock
Vivos Voco

We traveled back a few more centuries for the text to Vivos Voco by contemporary composer Joan Szymko. The ensemble performed this intricate work from memory as they did some other works near the end of the program. As a choral singer myself, I appreciated the commitment required to do that and it impresses an audience.

The chorale was joined by violinist Tim Tan for two of the Five Hebrew Love Songs, written by Eric Whitacre for his wife, soprano Hila Piltmann. These are haunting melodies, delicately delivered by both ensemble and violinist.

Snowforms by Canadian R. Murray Schafer paired vocal and visual landscapes for what the composer calls a ‘soundscape.’ As a singer, I can assure you that these require much more than vocal skill to perform. Each singer must become a vocal interpreter, a shared creator of the work of art.

womanSong Christmas
William Henstock
Eric Whitacre's 'Hebrew Love Songs'

After a nicely sung When the Song of the Angels is Stilled by a small ensemble, the full chorus launched into the lighter section to close the program. The folk song Wood River and soloist Nicole Cofer was an audience pleaser. That was followed by a sing-along First Nowell (which could have benefited from some audience light) and a Swingle Singers-like version of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The program ended with the stirring Lay Earth’s Burdens Down, a commissioned work for the Portland Symphonic Girlchoir. The ensemble then launched into a rousing encore of the favorite, Go Where I Send Thee.

I should mention that Wood River and Go Where I Send Thee are both part of their just-released first CD, titled Gloria for its main work, the setting by Vivaldi.

All in all, it was a most pleasant evening of diverse music well-performed. The ensemble actually looked like they enjoyed singing this music, a quality that is often lacking. They sing again for Good Night and their Spring Concert is slated for April 30. Mark your calendars!

Free Holiday Download from Canadian Brass

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · December 9, 2010
Canadian Brass Record

Here's a holiday greeting from the Canadian Brass -- a free download of A Very Merry Christmas performed by Zoë Bentley & The Canadian Brass.

(You have to give them your email address to get the download, but perhaps it's not too bad to share your address with such amiable musicians as the Canadian Brass.)

This comes just in time for the holidays, and as the Canadian Brass arrive in West Virginia to perform at Shepherd University.

Related links: 

- Interview with Chuck Daellenbach of Canadian Brass
- WV Classical Calendar -- December 2010

A few thousand words (not really!)

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · December 3, 2010

Just a few pictures that I've received recently from classical music groups in the area. If you have pictures from classical concerts or other music events that you've been attending, consider sharing them with Classically Speaking readers. Send me an email if you're interested in submitting pictures.

The WV Youth Symphony is playing a concert this weekend, and they sent a picture of the orchestra taken by Michael Keller at a recent rehearsal:


WVYSO 2010 Rehearsal
Michael Keller
WV Youth Symphony Orchestra rehearsal

The Ohio Valley Symphony has been been performing in the lovely old Ariel Theater in Gallopolis, where they'll be playing their Christmas concert this weekend.  Here are some pictures taken by Lora Lynn Snow: 


Quartetto Gelato at OVS
Lora Lynn Snow
Quartetto Gelato with the Ohio Valley Symphony

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OV Xmas
Ohio Valley Symphony Christmas Show 2009

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Ariel Theater 3rd Floor
Lora Lynn Snow
Third Floor of the Ariel Theater, perfect for chamber music

Finally, here's a photo from the West Virginia University Holiday Choral Concert, with the choir conducted by Kathleen Shannon.

 


WVU Choir Holiday
WVU Holiday Choral Concert

For my part, I'm looking forward to getting out my Santa hat for the Charleston Civic Chorus concert on Sunday and hopefully having a chance to hear womanSong perform on Saturday. Check out our concert calendar, and I hope you have a chance to enjoy listening to or performing some good music this weekend! 

WV Classical Calendar - December 2010

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By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · December 1, 2010

December 2010

There are a lot of great concerts around the state before the end of the year.  Check them out, and let me know if I'm missing anything here.


Dec. 1: Marshall University Orchestra

Dec. 1: Met Opera HD Encore: Donizetti’s Don Pasquale (Barboursville, Ashland, KY; Pittsburgh, PA; Germantown, MD, and others)

Dec. 2: Marshall University Wind Symphony

Dec. 2: Chamber Music Recital (Fairmont State University)

Dec. 2: WVU World Music Showcase

Dec. 3-4: Madrigal Dinners (Glenville State College)

Dec. 4:
Ohio Valley Symphony Christmas Show

Dec. 4: WomanSong Chorale: Songs of the Angels

Dec. 4-5: Marshall University Choral
Union

Dec. 4-5: Holiday Gala Concert (Shepherd University Friends of Music)

Dec. 5: WVU Holiday Choral Concert “Magnificat”

Dec. 5: Charleston Civic Chorus Winter Concert

Dec. 5: West Liberty University Winter Choral Concert

Dec. 5: Festival of Lessons and Carols (West Virginia Wesleyan College)

Dec. 5: Messiah Community Sing Along (River Cities Symphony)

Dec. 5: Alderson-Broaddus College Christmas Festival Concert

Dec. 5: WV Youth Symphony Winter Concert

Dec. 6: Saxophones of Fairmont State University

Dec. 6: Marvin Hamlisch and J. Mark McVey (interviews) (Marshall Artists Series)

Dec. 7: Marshall University Symphonic Band

Dec. 7: WVU Chamber Winds 

Dec. 7: Ceremony of Carols (Concord University)

Dec. 7: Collegiate Singers and Chamber Choir (Fairmont State University)

Dec. 7: Ohio University Southern Christmas (OUS Community Band and the Brass Band of the Tri-State)

Dec. 8: Sounds of the Season (Concord University)

Dec. 9: Canadian Brass (interview) (Shepherd University Friends of Music)

Dec. 9: Fairmont State University Wind Ensemble

Dec. 9: WVSO Home for the Holidays (Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg)

Dec. 10: WVU Community Arts Orchestra

Dec. 10: WVU Graduate String Quartet

Dec. 10-11: The Nutcracker with the Wheeling Symphony

Dec. 10-11: WV Symphony Home for the Holidays

Dec. 11: Met Opera Live in HD: Verdi’s Don Carlo (Barboursville; Morgantown; Ashland, KY; Pittsburgh, PA; Germantown, MD, and others)

Dec. 11-12: Chanticleer Children’s Chorus

Dec. 12: Holiday Pops with the WVSO and Parkersburg Community Chorus

Dec. 14: Tuesday’s with Fran: Schumann’s Short Pieces (interview)

Dec. 17-18: The Nutcracker with the WV Symphony

Dec. 18: Huntington Symphony Holiday Festival

Dec. 19: WV Symphony Chorus, "Messiah"

Dec. 21: Carnegie Children’s Choir Annual Holiday Concert (Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg)

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