On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Show #224 Bethlehem, PA

We’re back in Boston after taping a show this past weekend at the Zoellner Performing Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was a wonderful show in all respects, starting with the opening act: flutist Rachel Rodgers, 15, who played Giulio Briccialdi’s Carnival of Venice. In addition to playing classical, Rachel is also a phenomenal jazz flutist; she’s already recorded CDs with Ron Carter and Michael Buble. Check her out in this YouTube clip.

Following Rachel was a familiar face to folks who are fans of our television show: pianist extraordinaire Alice Burla, now 14. She played two contrasting pieces by Russian composers, Shostakovich’s Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in a minor and Nikolai Kapustin’s Prelude from Concert Etude No. 1.

Next up was 15-year-old cellist Ben Solomonow who played Variations on a Paganini Theme by Gregor Piatigorsky and gave the audience a fascinating introduction into the life of the composer.

At the midpoint of the show, Christopher O’Riley treated the local audience to his own arrangement of And So it Goes by “the muse of Allentown” Billy Joel.

Chris then pointed out a special guest who was in our audience: Stanford Thompson, an alum of From the Top who founded an incredible outreach program called Tune Up Philly that provides instruments and music lessons to urban youth. http://www.stanfordthompson.com/heart.html. He’s one of the many musicians bringing their art to the community who is highlighted in From the Top’s “Get on the Map” project.

Taking the stage next was 11-year-old classical guitarist Thomas Pfefer, who played Barrios’ “Julia Florida” with such beauty and sensitivity that the audience literally held its collective breath and exhaled as one when he finished!

Closing the show was the American Boychoir, the nation’s most widely performing choral ensemble. Under the direction of Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, they sang Faure’s Agnus Dei from Messe Basse followed by “Music Down in My Soul,” a traditional arranged by Moses Hogan.

The music was all so impressive, I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy this montage from dress rehearsal that I took on my Flip video camera­– and be sure to tune in when this show hits the airwaves the week of January 17th.