On Stage: Kennett Symphony plays traditionally and untraditionally this weekend

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

The Kennett Symphony

Chester County is home to a musical treasure – the Kennett Symphony. Kennett Symphony was established in 1940 and provides the musical landscape of a historic region renowned for the arts.

Concerts by the Kennett Symphony are always a welcome addition to the area’s entertainment schedule.

This weekend, the Kennett Symphony (kennettsymphony.org) is performing two concerts, and both will offer more than just well-played classical music.

The first will be “Schubert & Champagne” on November 5 at 11 a.m. at Mendenhall Inn (323 Kennett Pike, Chadds Ford). The second will be “Masterworks 1” on November 6 at 3 p.m. in the Auditorium at Unionville High School (750 Unionville Road, Kennett Square).

At the “Schubert & Champagne” concert, seating around the orchestra will provide the audience with a unique perspective. Food and drink will be available throughout this one-hour long performance in a relaxed atmosphere.

“It’s one of our discover concerts that we’ve been doing,” said Kennett Symphony Music Director Michael Hall during a phone interview Wednesday evening. It makes it fun.

“The whole idea of a concert series is to make it fun. This will be very relaxed – sit, have a drink and enjoy some food. It will be general admission, and everyone sits arounds the orchestra at Mendenhall Inn.”

The program for Saturday’s matinee will feature Schubert’s “Entr’acte No. 3 from Rosamunde” and “Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished.”

“We take one master work and I talk about it,” said Hall. “There are screens with visuals about Schubert, I talk about his life and then we perform the piece.

“It’s early in the day – 11 a.m. One hour and then people are out to move on with the rest of their day. A lot of people have told me that they’ve learned a lot about master works this way.”

Schubert is considered the last of the classical composers and one of the first romantic ones. Schubert’s music is notable for its melody and harmony.

Born in 1797, in Himmelpfortgrund, Austria, Schubert demonstrated an early gift for music. As a child, his talents included an ability to play the piano, violin and organ. He was also an excellent singer. By 1814, the young composer had written a number of piano pieces, and had produced string quartets, a symphony, and a three-act opera.

Unfortunately, Schubert had health problems and he died on November 19, 1828, in Vienna, Austria.

It was only after Schubert’s passing that his musical genius received the kind of recognition it deserved. His talent lay in is ability to adapt to almost any kind of musical form. His vocal contributions, more than 500 in all, were written for male and female voices, as well as mixed voices.

Like the poets whose work he wrote his music around, Schubert was an unrivaled master of lyrical beauty. Schubert produced masterful works with rich harmonies and legendary melodies for a variety of genres.

“Schubert’s ‘Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished’ is so beautiful, so passionate,” said Hall. “It really jumps off the stage.

“Schubert composed two movements, but he never finished the symphony. I talk about the history of the piece. It’s one of Schubert’s most famous pieces.

“Schubert was a genius who wasn’t recognized in his lifetime. He died when he was only 31. ‘Entr’acte No. 3 from Rosamunde’ is a piece he wrote for a play. It will be the first thing we play on Saturday just to get Schubert in people’s ears.”

Ticket price includes the concert, your first mimosa or other beverage, and light hors d’oeuvres. Cash bar also available on site.

All seating is General Admission (no pre-assigned seats) with tickets priced at $50 for adults and $10 for students up to age 18.

At Sunday’s performance, there will be a “Pre-Concert Talk” by Hall from 2-2:30 p.m. followed by the concert at 3 p.m.

The program will include “Four Poems” by Christine Donkin, “Serenade No. 2” by Johannes Brahms along with another performance of Schubert’s “Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished”.

“It’s a repeat of ‘Unfinished’ without any talking,” said Hall. “There are two ways for people to enjoy the Kennett Symphony. With this one, I do a pre-concert talk.”

Brahms is a German composer and pianist of the Romantic period, who wrote symphonies, concerti, chamber music, piano works, choral compositions, and more than 200 songs. Brahms was the great master of symphonic and sonata style in the second half of the 19th century.

He can be viewed as the protagonist of the Classical tradition of Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven in a period when the standards of this tradition were being questioned or overturned by the Romantics.

Brahms was the son of Jakob Brahms, an impecunious horn and double bass player. He showed early promise as a pianist and first studied music with his father. Between ages 14 and 16 Brahms earned money to help his family by playing in rough inns in the dock area of Hamburg and meanwhile composing and sometimes giving recitals.

The first turning point came in 1853, when he met the violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim, who instantly realized the talent of Brahms. Joachim in turn recommended Brahms to the composer Robert Schumann, and an immediate friendship between the two composers resulted.

Between 1857 and 1860 Brahms moved between the court of Detmold and Göttingen. At this point Brahms’s productivity increased and he composed the two delightful “Serenades” for orchestra and the colorful first “String Sextet in B-flat Major.”

“‘Serenade No. 2’ is a piece unusual for orchestra in that there are no violins,” said Hall. “That gives the piece a darker hued quality.

“Brahms was 43 years old before he wrote his first symphony and in order to prepare, he composed this smaller, shorter ‘Serenade,’ which is a masterpiece in its own right.”

Christine Donkin is an award-winning composer whose music appeals to a broad range of listeners and performers. Described by critics as “stunning”, “poignant”, and “astonishingly beautiful”, her work is promoted by several publishers and is performed all over the continent and beyond.

Donkin, who was born in northwest Alberta, is known for her skill in composing music for a wide range of performers. While her compositions have been programmed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall and the Moscow Conservatory, they are also frequently played at concerts featuring music students, community orchestras, and church choirs.

“Christine Donkin is a Canadian composer who is with the Vancouver Conservatory,” said Hall. “Her ‘Four Poems’ captures the essence of poetry that describes the changing of the seasons and the moods that they invoke.”

Tickets for Sunday’s performance, which includes a post-concert Q&A with Hall, are $35, $50, $58 with student tickets priced at $10.

It’s hard to take farewell tours seriously.

Music acts such as the Who, Frank Sinatra, Cher and David Bowie have all, at one time or another in their careers, embarked on a “Farewell Tour.” No-one really believed them and, eventually, the artists were back on stage performing again.

Les Misérables

The hit musical “Les Misérables” went out on its “Farewell Tour” in 2006. Just as with the music acts, everyone felt sure that the popular song-laden classic would be playing theaters around the country again sometime in the not-too-distant future.

And, that’s just what happened.

A few years ago, “Les Misérables” was back on the road with a highly acclaimed 25th anniversary tour. Then, the show returned to Broadway for a run that closed in September 2016, after 1,026 performances.

But, like the Energizer Bunny, “Les Miserables” just keeps going and going – from Broadway to yet another national tour.

Now, “Les Miserables” is back in Philly again.

Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Tony Award-winning musical phenomenon, “Les Misérables,” is running now through November 13 on Philadelphia’s Kimmel Cultural Campus at the historic Academy of Music. This engagement is hosted by the Kimmel Cultural Campus and The Shubert Organization.

Celebrated tour alums Nick Cartell and Preston Truman Boyd will return to the barricades to portray the fugitive ‘Jean Valjean’ and ‘Inspector Javert,’ respectively. They are joined by Matt Crowle as ‘Thénardier,’ Christina Rose Hall as ‘Madame Thénardier,’ Haley Dortch as ‘Fantine,’ Devin Archer as ‘Enjolras,’ Christine Heesun Hwang as ‘Éponine,’ Gregory Lee Rodriguez as ‘Marius’ and Addie Morales as ‘Cosette.’ Cora Jane Messer and Hazel Vogel alternate in the role of ‘Little Cosette/Young Éponine.’ Harrison Fox and Gabriel Lafazan alternate in the role of ‘Gavroche.’

“Les Misérables”, which had its world premiere at the Barbican Theatre in London on October 8, 1985, has been seen in person by more than 70 million people around the world. There have been more than 60,000 performances, more than 50 major theater awards (including eight Tony Awards in 1987) and more than 30 cast recordings.

A year after closing on Broadway, Cameron Mackintosh’s monumental new production of “Les Miserables” launched its first national tour. Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, this sweeping epic is one of the most popular musicals in history, a tale of love and revolution that draws audiences in time and time again. Its classic score, written by Herbert Kretzmer and Claude-Michel Schonberg, includes the timeless “I Dreamed A Dream,” “One Day More” and “Do You Hear the People Sing.”

The main story is the tale of Jean Valjean, a fugitive whose devotion to doing the right thing leads to problems as he engages in a life-long struggle to elude Inspector Javert, a self-righteous and cruel police officer.

Two years after the Revolution of 1830, France is on the brink of violence once again. Dismayed that one king has been replaced by another, a group of rebels are plotting to overthrow the monarchy and lay claim to the throne for the common people.

Against this backdrop of simmering rebellion, we follow the story of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict who manages to build a new life for himself and his adopted daughter Cosette. Yet his new-found happiness cannot last for long, because the unrelenting police inspector Javert, who has been hunting Valjean for two decades, is close on his tail.

As Valjean’s past finally catches up with him, all of the characters are swept up in the chaos that breaks out on the streets of Paris in an epic story of thwarted love, forgiveness and the enduring strength of the human spirit.

On the surface, Valjean has the role of the good guy while Javert looks like the villain. In reality, Javert is merely obsessed with justice. He respects the law above all else and relentlessly pursues Valjean, hoping to bring the escaped convict to justice. He firmly believes in the justice of the law and has no room for mercy. In the end he commits suicide, broken by the mercy he experiences from Valjean.

The real villains in the show are the Thénardiers.

A second-rate thief, Thénardier runs a small inn where he continually bilks his customers. He and his family later travel to Paris, where he sets up as the leader of a gang of street thugs and con men. An eternal survivor, Thénardier is above nothing and below everything.

As innkeepers, Thénardier and his wife Madame Thénardier abuse Cosette as a child and extract payment from Fantine for her support — until Valjean takes Cosette away. They become bankrupt and relocate under the name Jondrette to a house in Paris called the Gorbeau house, living in the room next to Marius.

The husband associates with a criminal group called “the Patron-Minette,” and conspires to rob Valjean until he is thwarted by Marius.

Javert arrests the couple. Madame Thénardier dies in prison. Her husband attempts to blackmail Marius with his knowledge of Valjean’s past, but Marius pays him to leave the country. He becomes a slave trader in the United States.

In this production, Christina Rose Hall is the actress portraying one of theater’s most villainous characters.

“This is my first time doing ‘Les Misérables’ in my life much less a national tour,” said Hall, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Cleveland.

“This is going to be the 12th time ‘Les Misérables’ has played Philadelphia. It’s an opportunity to bring a tradition. It’s an amazing epic story and a lot of people will be seeing the show for the first time.”

Hall grew up in a suburb of Houston and was an acting major at Southern Methodist University with a minor in classical voice.

“After college, I moved form Texas to Chicago. I’m a Chicago-based actor. I spent the last 14 years in Chicago prior to the pandemic. I auditioned for this tour in Chicago and then went to New York for callbacks.

“I saw “Les Misérables’ in College Station when I was in high school. I cried my little eyeballs out. The show is truly epic. There is so much I love.

“It a story about perseverance of the human spirit. It’s about love and trying to make the world a better place.

“I get to play the humorous role. It’s delightfully fun. I like that Madame Thénardier is very straight-forward. I definitely really like being able to blow off steam.”

To date, Les Misérables remains one of the longest-running Broadway productions of all time. The new tour will undoubtedly play to packed houses around the country.

“Les Misérables” has been able to remain popular for such a long time because of the now-familiar music — and because the story is such a universal story. It is a story that has the ability to touch people.

Video link for “Les Misérables” — https://youtu.be/YPiWnNQtGog.

“Les Misérables” will run now through November 13 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices start at $20.

On November 5 and 6, Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, www.thefillmorephilly.com) will present two very different and very attractive shows – Trampled by Turtles on November 5 and MANIA – the ABBA Tribute on November 6.

Trampled By Turtles

Celebrated Minnesota sextet Trampled By Turtles will perform at The Fillmore in support of their new album, “Alpenglow,” which was just released on October 28 on Thirty Tigers. Their first new album in four years, which was produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, offers 11 new songs that feature the group’s signature blend of rock, folk, punk, country, and progressive bluegrass.

Trampled by Turtles is an American bluegrass-influenced band from Duluth, Minnesota. The band formed in 2003 and has released 10 albums, three of which reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard bluegrass chart. Their fifth release, “Palomino,” stayed in the chart’s Top 10 for 52 straight weeks.

The band’s chemistry has always been great, and the lineup still features the original six members – Dave Simonett (guitar), Erik Berry (mandolin), Ryan Young (fiddle), Dave Carroll (banjo), Tim Saxhaug (bass) and Eamonn McLain (cello).

“We made the album in 8-10 days,” said Saxhaug, during a phone interview Monday from his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“We had Jeff Tweedy from Wilco producing it and recorded it at Wilco’s studio, The Loft.

“COVID put the kabosh on touring, so we looked for a studio to use. We’ve all been fans of Wilco for a while. We reached out to them. It was a shot in the dark and it worked out.

“We didn’t do much pre-production. We had run through three songs backstage before shows but that was about it. We like to go into the studio fresh.

“Most of the songs hadn’t seen the light of day. They were all fresh. We did three or four takes at the most for each song. That’s our M.O. A lot of it was because we were recording live. We had 10 days booked in the studio and only used eight.”

According to Tweedy, “I enjoy TBT’s musicianship and ability to stick hard inside a genre, all the while stretching that same genre. It’s like you need to infiltrate it before you can pull it apart. They have a brotherly thing going on, too, which is always a great feel.”
“Alpenglow,” named after the optical phenomenon that takes places when the sun casts a reddish glow across the mountains at dawn and dusk, opens with the wistful beauty of “It’s So Hard To Hold On.” The narrator contemplates the passing of time and how imperative it is to savor it while you have it.

Ten of the 11 tracks on “Alpenglow” were written by lead singer Dave Simonett, whose introspective and literate songwriting is the foundation of the unwavering connection the group’s music has with its fervent and ever-growing audience.

“On The Highway” expresses a longing to wander but struggles with the value in maintaining roots. “Central Hillside Blues” addresses nostalgia and loss while “Quitting Is Rough” deals with having inner strength to not lose sight of what is real, with its beautiful and inspiring refrain “climb out, climb out, climb out.” The Tweedy-penned “A Lifetime To Find” features a simple back-and-forth dialogue with Death, which ends as one might expect.

“Dave writes all the songs and all the lyrics,” said Saxhaug. “Our part is as arrangers. In addition to the 11 songs we used on the album, we had two extras – instrumental tracks by our banjo player.”

Video link for Trampled by Turtles — https://youtu.be/fE-LXOfTH7Q.

The show at the Fillmore on November 5 will start at

Tickets are $37.50.

What is one of the most popular palindromes in the world and is also a name of one of the best-selling bands in the history of popular music?

ABBA, of course.

ABBA is a Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1972 by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni -Frid Lyngstad. The group’s name is an acronym of the first letters of their first names arranged as a palindrome. One of the most popular and successful musical groups of all time, they became one of the best-selling music acts in the history of popular music, topping the charts worldwide from 1974 to 1983, and in 2021.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of ABBA tribute bands such as Dancing Queen, Abbafab, Almost Abba and Abba Again. There are more than 50 ABBA tribute bands in the U.K. alone.

One of the best ABBA tribute bands actually got its start in the U.K. – “MANIA – The ABBA Tribute.”

On November 6, “MANIA – The ABBA Tribute” will visit the area for a show at the Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, www.thefillmorephilly.com)

Formed in 1999, MANIA -The ABBA Tribute has sold out theaters and concert halls across the globe, bringing the music of the beloved Swedish super group to more than three million people.

Abba’s timeless songs were written to be enjoyed live and MANIA delivers.

In an exhilarating two-hour recreation of ABBA’s last ever concert, Mania the ABBA Tribute brings to life the flamboyance of the 70s and all the uplifting, dance-inducing, and sometimes heart-breaking songs from the Swedish supergroup — fully live with fantastic costumes, staging, lighting and effects.

MANIA recently toured the United States for the 10th time with an impressive 37-date national tour, selling over 50,000 tickets and visiting 18 states.

The band members are Alison Ward (Agnetha Fältskog), Hana Keala Freeman (Frida Lyngstad), James Allen (Bjorn Ulvaeus) and Jeff Pike (Benny Andersson)

Originally from Liverpool, England, Ward has performed as a vocalist throughout the United Kingdom, including at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. She sang as lead vocalist in a show at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, and she remains a Las Vegas resident to this day. Ward has also performed with an array of major cruise lines worldwide.

“This show has been running since 1999 with a company in the U.K.,” said Ward, during a phone interview Monday from a tour stop in Burlington, Vermont. “I’ve been lucky enough to have been with the show since 2010.

“I grew up in a musical family, so I was familiar with ABBA since I was young.”

Ward has also been involved in entertainment since she was young.

“I was in dance school since I was little,” said Ward. “Then, I majored in mathematics at Leeds University. My goal was to keep my mum and dad happy. After I graduated, they gave me my wings – gave me my freedom.

“I got my cap and gown and then went immediately to L.A. to be a singer. I went from Liverpool to L.A. and then got a job in Las Vegas. I’ve been a headliner with my own show on the Vegas strip for the last 10 years.

“I really enjoy this ABBA show. We do a replica of one of their concerts. We even use replicas of their costumes – with their permission. We even talk in the show with Swedish accents. It’s just like being at an ABBA concert.”

Video link for MANIA – the ABBA Tribute — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZdWFHtolyc.

MANIA – the ABBA Tribute will play the Fillmore on November 6 at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $27.50 to $64.50.

The Philadelphia Theatre Company (Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.philatheatreco.org) is presenting a rock musical that celebrates empowering women and their autonomy. It is also a show that features an actress who grew up in West Chester – Grace Slear.

Slear, who grew up in West Chester and now lives in New York, graduated from the Center for Performing and Fine Arts through the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School. They play Lady Viola and recently made their Broadway debut in “Jagged Little Pill.”

“The Tattooed Lady,” which runs now through November 20, is a new musical by Obie Award-winning playwright Erin Courtney (Map of Virtue), Lortel-winner Max Vernon (KPOP on Broadway, The View Upstairs). It was developed and directed by Drama League-winner Ellie Heyman (Space Dogs) and choreographed by Mayte Natalio (How to Dance in Ohio).

The story of this new musical highlights one of sideshow’s biggest stars, the fictional Ida Gibson, in a moving tale that reveals the generational chasms and connections between Gibson and her granddaughter Joy. A parade of beguiling characters returns from the dead on a mission to liberate Gibson from her self-imposed exile and help Joy find freedom through forgiveness. The musical celebrates the resilience of women whose choices have the power to liberate them.

“This show is about the tattooed ladies of the 1800s and 1900s,” said Slear. “They were the only people in freak shows that chose to be in a freak show. They weren’t born different. They chose to get tattoos on their bodies.

“Ida is the oldest living ‘Tattoo Lady.’ She retired from being in freak shows and became a Christian woman living in suburbia. The ghosts of tattooed ladies from the past visit her. They come out of a sideshow trunk. Ida hid from her past. She covered it all up and denied it was true. The ghosts are mad because she is dishonoring their past. For them, to have one of their own turn her back on them is horrific.”

Video link for “The Tattooed Lady” — https://youtu.be/EJEryefSr14?list=TLGGpB7KqEUyeFAyODEwMjAyMg.

“The Tattoed Lady” is running now through November 20. Ticket prices start at $25.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) is presenting Bad Animals on October 28, 7 Bridges on November 3, Kung Yang Lin Dancers on November 5, Better Than Bacon on November 11, Miche Braden & The Aaron Graves Jazz Ensemble on November 12, Sherry Wilson Butler & the Hot Saints of Jazz with dancer Lauren Putty on November 13, The Cartoon Christmas on December 6, and The Last Big Band Holiday Show on December 20.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting Sonia on November 5, Angry Young Band on November 11, UZO on November 12, Antje Duvekot on November 18, The D Corridori Project on November 19, Jazz Jam on November 27, Dead Flowers on December 3, and Bryan Tuk Project on December 10.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) presents headline shows on the weekend nights always draw appreciative crowds. The show this Friday features the Roger Girke Trio. This Saturday evening’s concert showcases theDeb Callahan Band.

The Sound Bank (119 South Main Street, Phoenixville, www.soundbankphx.com) will have Michael Sarian on November 3, Haywood Trout on November 4, Kuf Knotz & Christine Elise on November 10, Lower Case Blues on November 12, and E Street Shuffle on November 18.

Phantom Power (121 West Frederick Street, Millersville, www.phantompower.net) will have Tigers Jaw on November 3, Animal Magnetism on November 5, Dancing Bears on November 12, Couch on November 18, Brass Monkeys on November 26, Local H on December 3, Maya de Vitry on December 9, and Aunt Mary Pat on December 29.

Colonial Theater (227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, thecolonialtheatre.com/events) is hosting Bruce Hornsby on November 16 and Jessica Lynn on December 9.

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