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Area arts centers continue Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday celebration

AFI Silver will have a sing-along screening of the musical “West Side Story” on Sept. 2, as part of the Leonard Bernstein centennial birthday celebration. COURTESY PHOTO  AFI Silver will have a sing-along screening of the musical “West Side Story” on Sept. 2, as part of the Leonard Bernstein centennial birthday celebration. COURTESY PHOTO  There may not be a bouncing ball, but the upcoming presentation of the movie “West Side Story” at the AFI Silver will include lyrics to the songs in subtitles on screen. At which point, audience members will be invited to sing along.

The screening is part of a centennial celebration of the birth of Leonard Bernstein – composer, conductor, pianist, author, music lecturer, and teacher – born on August 25, 1918, said Todd Hitchcock, AFI Silver’s director of programming.

“West Side Story” and two other films to which Bernstein contributed the music are the American Film Institute’s contribution to the celebration. One is “On the Waterfront,” a dark drama about a stevedore who confronts the mobster who rules the docks, starring Marlon Brando; the other is the film version of the Broadway musical “On the Town,” about three sailors who find love while on leave in New York.

AFI is one of many arts organizations in the D.C. area presenting concerts, stage shows, and other events to pay tribute to Bernstein, who died on Oct. 14, 1990. A longtime conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein was considered by many to be one of the most versatile musicians.

Through such programs as “Omnibus” and “Young People’s Concerts,” Bernstein reached out to youthful audiences and others who wanted to be educated in classical music – although he subscribed to the notion that “there are only two kinds of music – good music and bad music.” He also wrote works that fit into or crossed several genres.

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O’Malley's March comes to BlackRock Family Fun Festival in Germantown

O’Malley’s March to perform at BlackRock Family Fun Festival in Germantown this Saturday. COURTESY PHOTOO’Malley’s March to perform at BlackRock Family Fun Festival in Germantown this Saturday. COURTESY PHOTO  Before Martin O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, he played music professionally.

He still does.

While in high school O’Malley formed a band, which played Irish music and folk rock. After graduating from University of Maryland Law School, he went solo for a year.

Then, in 1988, he founded the Baltimore-based Celtic rock band O’Malley’s March, in which he is the lead singer and plays acoustic guitar and penny whistle.

The band started as a trio, but now has seven musicians.

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Magic, music, and storytelling merge in Flying V Theatre’s first one-person show

Zia Hassan, who has performed around the area, will star in “The Very Fabric of Reality,” part of Flying V Theatre’s “Awesome-A-Thon Vol. 2” and its first one-person show.  COURTESY PHOTOLocal performer Zia Hassan will star in “The Very Fabric of Reality,” part of Flying V Theatre’s “Awesome-A-Thon Vol. 2.” COURTESY PHOTO  Zia Hassan has “always been a performer.”

He started making Michael Jackson-like dance moves at the age of three, then doing magic shows at age six. He took up piano at age seven and started writing his own music.

“So, piano recitals were interesting,” Hassan said. “Most of the other students were playing tried-and-true classical pieces, like Beethoven, and I was writing instrumentals inspired by events in my life.”

Theater performances followed in middle and high school, but, in college and beyond, Hassan evolved into what he is now: a solo performer.

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World Music Festival brings jazz and Ghanian drums to Silver Spring

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Trumpet Silhouette in Kente patternSILVER SPRING — Jazz bands shared the stage with African percussionists and Japanese dance troupes, while artisans displayed work that traveled across the Atlantic, at the World Music Festival Sunday in Silver Spring.

The festival highlighted the diverse culture of the D.C. area, with musical performances, food, and artisans. One vendor, Jean-Jacques from GlobalBatik.com, specialized in African art and clothing imported from the West African country of Togo. His wares are handmade by ten different artists in Togo with local fabrics and dyes, according to Jacques.

A popular product in GlobalBatik’s catalog is Batik shirts, according to Jacques. Many of his shirts feature bright, vibrant colors and West African themes and symbols.

“You can fit any kind of story that is related to Africa. In this case, I used an Adrinka symbol, which are visual symbols that usually represent words of wisdom,” said Jacques. “Or this T-shirt here, I put a map of the continent with all the lines representing the main rivers.”

Modern symbols, such as imagery from the Marvel movie “Black Panther,” had a presence among Jacques’s shirts as well. The designs being placed on non-traditional items, such as tank tops, further showed the mix of old and new that Jacques cultivated.

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Singer-songwriter Hayley Fahey underscores the voice of women in music

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Derwood-based singer-songwriter Hayley Fahey.  COURTESY PHOTODerwood-based singer-songwriter Hayley Fahey. COURTESY PHOTO  The love of music was like mother’s milk to Hayley Fahey.

“My mother used to sing songs to me in my crib,” said the Derwood-based singer-songwriter. “Both of my grandmothers sang and played piano.”

Music filled the house, mostly of her father’s preferred singers – Eva Cassidy, Stevie Wonder, Dixie Chicks, and Bob Marley – exposing the young Hayley to a “variety of genres.” The singer herself started writing songs when she was a child.

Fahey performed in church and school choirs and “did all the high-school musicals,” but technically, her first time on stage was in a musical revue at Roberto Clemente Middle School.

She feels so grateful to the school, Fahey said, that she volunteers there as a performer. Fahey also is a special guest, announcing the winner of the Battle for the Bands, then rehearing and recording one of her original songs with the winners.

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Children’s music performer launches new season of Strathmore’s “Backyard Theater”

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Little Miss Ann opens a new season of “Backyard Theater for Kids” at the Mansion at Strathmore. COURTESY PHOTOLittle Miss Ann opens a new season of “Backyard Theater for Kids” at the Mansion at Strathmore. COURTESY PHOTO  Elementary school teachers often spend time singing to or with students, but not everyone ends up a professional singer.

Ann Torralba did. With a Masters in special education, Torralba spent seven years teaching public elementary school students “on the spectrum.”

She often bought her guitar to class and joined a band while in graduate school.

“But I never thought I’d play professionally,” Torralba said. “I had very little formal training.”

A Chicago resident, Torralba now occasionally goes on the road as “Little Miss Ann,” and one of her out-of-town gigs will be at the Mansion at Strathmore, as part of its “Backyard Theater for Kids” summer music series, which she launches on July 5.

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Blues Festival celebrates beautiful music in Downtown Silver Spring

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Robert Lighthouse Performing at the Silver Spring Blues FestivalSwedish-born musician Robert Lighthouse performed at the Silver Spring Blues Festival. PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  SILVER SPRING — Singers pined for old lovers, protested social ills, and asked the timeless question, “When I get drunk, who’s gonna carry me home?,” at the 10th annual Silver Spring Blues Festival on Saturday.

The 12-hour-long concert featured 12 artists performing on two stages in downtown Silver Spring. The show marked the end of Blues Week, a series of concerts in the area leading up to Saturday’s festivities, in which 1920s-era blues classics shared the stage with new original songs to create a lively mix of styles.

Alan Bowser, former president of Silver Spring Town Center, started the Silver Spring Blues Festival in 2009. He created the festival to be something unique to Silver Spring, and to help support local businesses.

“Over the years we’ve grown from one stage from two stages. We’ve gone from all-electric blues to electric blues and acoustic blues. We’ve gone from one day to Blues Week because there wasn’t enough time for just one day of blues,” said Bowser.

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Alice and Isaac folk duo celebrate release of debut album

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Folk duo Alice and Isaac performed at Round House Theatre to celebrate the release of their debut album, “What I Was Thinking.”  PHOTO BY MATT HOOKEFolk duo Alice and Isaac performed at Round House Theatre to celebrate the release of their debut album, “What I Was Thinking.” PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  BETHESDA — Performing at Round House Theatre, the same theater where they first met during a production of “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” folk duo Alice and Isaac celebrated the release of their debut album, “What I Was Thinking,” a series of upbeat love songs.

The guitar-mandolin duo, whose real names are Katie Kleiger and Brandon McCoy, met two years ago but did not play music together until this past December. The delay resulted from Kleiger’s moving to New York City after the “Miss Bennet” production. Kleiger and McCoy reconnected after she moved back to the area, and the duo started playing together between showings of the play “The Book of Will” at Round House Theatre. The name “Alice and Isaac” comes from the names of the characters they performed in the play.

“We were playing just for ourselves (in the Green Room), and every now and then someone would sit down and listen,” said Kleiger. “But I mainly felt we were in the way, taking up this shared space.”

McCoy and Kleiger are actors by trade, and their musical-theater background showed through with polished two-part-harmony vocals. The concert is part of Round House’s move to become a more-diverse arts space, according to McCoy.

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Persian music and minimalism meet at Rhizome

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Bassist Ernest Jones and drummer Dave Miller join headliner Martin Bisi in a performance at the Rhizome.  PHOTO BY MATT HOOKEBassist Ernest Jones and drummer Dave Miller join legendary musician/producer Martin Bisi in a performance at the Rhizome. PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  WASHINGTON, D.C. — With his eyes closed, engrossed in the music, and sweat dripping down his face, the Washington D.C.-based musician Kamyar Arsani sang the words: “You are Nothing but a God,” as he performed at the Rhizome near the Takoma Park Metro station in Northwest Washington, D.C.

The show displayed tremendous diversity, with Arsani’s Persian music accompanied by a set of minimalist music by Takoma Park musician Jason Mullinax and headliner Martin Bisi’s noise rock.

Arsani’s music hails from a rich tradition of Sufi mystics. He took a bare-bones approach to his set, with two instruments, his voice, and the daf. The daf, a large, handheld frame drum with metal ingots attached, is an ancient instrument, its roots stretching back hundreds of years. Arsani paid tribute to this heritage while also giving the instrument a modern touch. Arsani’s first set, a collection of original compositions, showcased the new, while his second set, an adaptation of a poem by the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi, featured the old.

The Iranian-born Arsani began the performance singing in English, before switching to Farsi. He used dynamics, masterfully switching from bombastic, impassioned sections to subdued, quiet moments, when his voice became only a whisper.

“I saw people getting shot, screaming ‘freedom’ in Farsi, and just getting shot like it was no big deal, but it was a big deal for me,” said Arsani. “When I play my instruments that’s one of my first thoughts, is ‘How can I speak to that energy? How can I channel the feelings that those people went through?’”

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Protagonist in Round House Theatre show finds life lessons in drag

Zack Powell plays Elvis impersonator turned drag dancer and Yesenia Iglesias plays his wife in Round House Theatre production of “The Legend of Georgia McBride.”  COURTESY PHOTOZack Powell plays Elvis impersonator turned drag dancer and Yesenia Iglesias plays his wife in Round House Theatre production of “The Legend of Georgia McBride.” COURTESY PHOTO  For the first five years of his career, actor Zack Powell did musical theater almost exclusively – even getting a bit “burned out.” His resume of late mostly comprises the classics – Shakespeare and Chekhov, among others – although he still averages about one musical a year.

Now Powell is starring in a show he calls a cross between a straight play and a musical.

It’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” a play with music that is opening soon at Round House Theatre under the direction of Tom Story. Powell makes his debut as the show’s protagonist.

Casey is soon to become a father, as well as evicted. He makes his living as an Elvis impersonator but, always strapped for cash, he takes a more-lucrative job slinging drinks at a dive bar in Panama City, Florida. After the rundown bar gets a makeover, including a new stage, and one of the drag queens is unable to perform, Casey finds himself thrown into the world of stilettos and sequins.

“It’s a heartwarming, funny piece to which I felt a strong connection,” Powell said

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