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The gothic serial “Dark Shadows” has had various incarnations over the years. Starting as an original television soap opera of the 1960s and 1970s, it became a comic book series, a big-budget 1991 primetime series, and several movies. The most recent adaptation was a Tim Burton film, which is both an homage and a spoof […]

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Visitors of the Kentlands Mansion and Arts Barn in Gaithersburg currently have an opportunity to celebrate a famous phenomenal singer of the mid-twentieth century: the great Nat King Cole. Cole was not only a suave romantic balladeer but also a jazz pianist of renown. Both sides of Cole are on display in a enthralling performance […]

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The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has developed a new way to experience a film. On a fairly regular basis, it screens a movie with the BSO playing the orchestral soundtrack score live. These performances are done for several showings, divided between the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore and the Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda. […]

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A grand and lavish “My Fair Lady” is at the Kennedy Center through Jan. 19, and this touring production of Director Bartlett Sher’s recent Broadway musical will beguile you with its excellent singing and acting. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, the […]

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The literary activism of one of America’s most renowned African–American poets will be examined at 8 p.m. on Jan. 24, at the Music Center at Strathmore with Manuel Cinema’s “No Blue Memories: The Life of  Gwendolyn Brooks.” A multi-media piece using shadow puppetry, silhouetted actors and live music, the work captures the complexities of Brooks’ […]

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The New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna is a New Year’s tradition known throughout the world. Attendees at Strathmore Music Center recently had the opportunity to enjoy an authentic recreation of a Vienna New Year’s Day concert, all without a passport or plane flight to the capital of Austria to experience one of Europe’s loveliest […]

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George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” is an annual tradition for many at this time of year, and the largest production in our area was held this past weekend in two stunning performances at Strathmore Music Center, with its excellent acoustics. Handel himself said relative to this work: “I did think I did see all heaven before […]

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I  recently had the pleasure of visiting Washington D.C. at the Blues Alley to hear the Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra’s annual tribute to jazz legend Duke Ellington’s take on the “Nutcracker Suite” of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Jazz renditions of popular Christmas tunes such as “Let It Snow,” “Happy Holidays” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (the […]

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We live in an age when, because of increased life expectancy, it is not uncommon to see people working into their 70s and beyond and when multiple presidential candidates this election cycle, including the incumbent, are septuagenarians. Nonetheless, we can only look on in amazement as a classical pianist performs with nimble fingers at the […]

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When a young composer who had never had an opera of his own performed became a finalist in a competition through a work entitled “Cavalleria Rusticana,” he probably never expected the wild success his tale of marital betrayal and lush music would receive.  Pietro Mascagni probably also never anticipated that his short opera would frequently […]

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It was a season that almost did not happen. But now, the National Philharmonic is back in business as they kick off the 2019-2020 season with their opening concert, called “Eroica + Beethoven,” combining Ludwig van Beethoven’s Eroica (Symphony No. 3), played by the orchestra, and his Triple Concerto in C Major, performed by guest […]

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It is not Wolf Trap, but the gazebo in downtown Takoma Park does host live entertainment.  A public piano is currently installed at the gazebo as part of the Arts at Takoma Park, beckoning all those who play the instrument and all those who love its music. The piano made its concert debut on Aug. […]

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With one-year-old twins, Maureen Andary has her hands full. That has not curbed her professional activities, however. She performs along Sara Curtin as the duo, The Sweater Set, a few times a month at such venues as Millennium Stage and the Creative Cauldron. They were artists-in-residence at Strathmore, too and may also be found playing […]

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SILVER SPRING – A unanimous vote by the National Philharmonic board of directors on Aug. 10 paved the way for a bright future for the National Philharmonic under new management but with the same musicians and conductors. The orchestra and chorale, which perform at The Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, will open its season […]

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BETHESDA—On July 16, the National Philharmonic, who hold residency in Montgomery County’s The Music Center at Strathmore, announced that it will be closing its doors after years of financial decline. The National Philharmonic has been performing for more than 40 years with many local musicians from Montgomery County. The Philharmonic’s closure will affect the jobs […]

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By Barbara Trainin Blank    @traininblank It was not only outsized musical talent but fortitude that enabled Leon Fleisher to continue his accomplished career despite a debilitated right hand. At age 90, Fleisher is still the latter – continuing an international schedule of performances, guest conducting and master classes that might be daunting for a […]

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By Barbara Trainin Blank    @traininblank Some say men’s choruses are on the decline – with many going the coed route. On the other side of the coin are the persistence of gay men’s choral groups and the determination of male glee clubs on college campuses across the country to continue. That’s the view of […]

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By Barbara Trainin Blank    @traininblank Jennifer Bivin is an old hat at “The Nutcracker.” The high-school senior, who has been studying at Metropolitan Ballet Theatre for four years, is this year dancing her fifth full-length “Nutcracker” and her second “Nutcracker Suite,” – the under-45-minute version for younger audiences. She danced the romantic role of the […]

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By Barbara Trainin Blank    @traininblank The logistics alone are daunting. Taking hundreds of students who arrive via buses and seating them in as large a venue as The Music Center at Strathmore isn’t easy, especially when they’re second-graders. Once in their places, they hear a classical music concert, which the National Philharmonic Orchestra performs for […]

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By Barbara Trainin Blank Violinist Gil Shaham has won the kind of praise that would turn the head of any musician. The Washington Post, for example, extolled his “go-for-broke passion, his silvery tone, spot-on-intonation and meticulously molded phrasing.” The multiple Grammy winner has appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and Orchestre […]

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Julia Nixon has enjoyed a long and enviable career. The rhythm and blues/soul singer understudied, then took over the lead role of Effie – first performed by Jennifer Holiday – in the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls.” “It was a great roller coaster ride,” said Nixon, a D.C. resident with roots in the South. “That […]

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Heartfelt folk ballads, songs based on Greek myths, and punk odes to making friends with woodland creatures while drugged out, came together at the Rhizome Monday night.

Singer-songwriter Jesse Ainslie began the night with his jangly, melancholy, country-influenced tracks. Ainslie, who is signed to Takoma Park’s own Epifo Records came to Rhizome as part of a tour supporting his latest album, “Only In The Dark.”

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SILVER 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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Derwood-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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Little 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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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 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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Bassist 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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Swedish-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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Jim Kennedy’s latest CD reflects multiple sources of inspiration. COURTESY PHOTO  Asking Jim Kennedy how he intends to market his new album, “The Mischief of Life,” elicits an unexpected response.

“The point is not to sell the album; the point is to make it,” said Kennedy. “Music can be produced as a consumer product with sales as the goal, or it can be [artistic] expression and craftwork. My ‘marketing strategy’ is to share the CD with people. and hope they like it. I’m not trying to become a rock star or get rich.”

If they do like it, he’ll try to put together a “good group of musicians” and perform it to attentive audiences. If that doesn’t happen, he says he’s “still perfectly satisfied” having made the CD.

Kennedy wrote all 12 songs on “The Mischief of Life.” He plays all the instruments, and did the engineering and producing. He recorded the songs in his “home studio” – a laptop on his kitchen table and a cluttered corner of his band-rehearsal room.

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Folksinger David Mallett. COURTESY PHOTOFolksinger-songwriter David Mallett grew up in rural Maine, in a somewhat-isolated existence. That changed when, at the age of 12, he acquired a Martin – the cream of the crop of guitars – for only $120. “My mother used to sing hillbilly songs and the songs of Jimmy Rogers around the […]

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Diego el Cigala sings various genres of music at The Music Center of Strathmore.  COURTESY PHOTO  Ask people the key component in flamenco, and they’ll likely say, dance. Experts will reply that dance is only one of five elements – and singing is another.

One who illustrates the centrality of singing in flamenco is Diego el Cigala, who will appear at The Music Center of Strathmore, under the co-sponsorship of Strathmore and Washington Performing Arts.

Becoming a flamenco singer was a foregone conclusion.

“It was never a conscious decision,” el Cigala said. “I am a flamenco singer since I can remember. I won my first contest at 11 or 12 years old and started to work really early, so there was never a moment where I said: ‘Now I am going to be a singer.’”

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Jason Rafalak (left) often plays in duo with Brad Yoder. COURTESY PHOTO If Scott Moore has his way, Montgomery County will grow increasingly rich in folk and other acoustic music.

Moore is president of FocusMusic, which local singer/songwriter Steve Rey founded 15 years ago as a nonprofit under the auspices of the Folk Alliance 501(c)(3) umbrella.

Acoustic music venues in the area were scarce and tended to come and go, said Moore.

FocusMusic draws inspiration from places like Caffe Lena in New York City, which dates to the 1960s and featured Bob Dylan early in his career.

FocusMusic provides an intimate, “up-close” musical experience and the opportunity to discover high-quality new artists,” Moore said. “Our concerts offer personal contact with performers, a sense of belonging to a community of music-loving friends, and time to socialize.”

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Idan Raichel, on solo tour, has since shed his turban and dreadlocks. COURTESY PHOTOIsraeli world-music superstar Idan Raichel has undergone a transformation.

Gone are his signature dreadlocks and black turban. At least for a while, The Raichel Project he founded – incorporating performers and sounds from many different backgrounds – has taken a backseat.

Instead Raichel has gone on tour, performing a “stripped-down” show of songs and personal stories, jumping from acoustic to electric piano and percussion instruments.

One stop on the tour is The Music Center at Strathmore, where he appears Thursday, Feb. 22.

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Eliot Pfanstiehl Courtesy PhotoWhen Eliot Pfanstiehl was first hired in 1981 to convert the Mansion at Strathmore in Bethesda into an arts center, he heard the same thing over and over again: “Why bother?”

After all, the Kennedy Center was the place to perform for artists and productions visiting the Washington, D.C. area, and with a population of roughly 500,000, and Montgomery County was considered nothing more than a bedroom community for people working in the District. As far as the arts were concerned, Pfanstiehl said, the area was “prehistoric.”

37 years later, however, the County’s population has surpassed 1 million, and the Strathmore, with its concert hall and education center, hosts 160 concerts each year, of which most, he said, draw audiences large enough to fill 80 to 85 percent of Strathmore’s 1,976 seats. Both the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the National Philharmonic call the Mansion their local home, and the eclectic concerts staged at Strathmore are as varied, culturally speaking, as the residents of Montgomery County are, he said.

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Aerial View performing at the Takoma Park VFW post. PHOTO BY MATT HOOKEFriday night’s “Hibernation Station” concert at Takoma Parks VFW Post was anything but sleepyThe show,organized by the Twin Moon Arts Collective and local band Aerial View, displayed a wide variety of local talent, ranging from comedians, indie rock, and metal.

For the Silver Springbased Aerial View the show commemorated the launch of their firstever tour. The band will be playing six shows around the Northeast, hitting cities such as Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston.

“To see people who don’t live here, to play with various bands,a road trip is just fun.” said Aerial ViewfrontmanKjell Hansen, on the reasons for the tour.

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Catherine Russell, jazz singer to perform with John Pizzarelli. COURTESY PHOTOFor Grammy Award-nominated jazz singer Catherine Russell, juxtaposing the music of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday in her upcoming Strathmore concert was a given, as was performing with jazz guitarist and bandleader and vocalist John Pizzarelli.

It is to Pizzarelli who Russell attributes the idea of blending those world-class vocalists in one program. 

 “It’s a natural fit since Sinatra was a great admirer of Billie Holiday and her unique singing style,” said Russell. “Both singers came up working as vocalists during the Swing Era, with big bands, before leading their own groups.”

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Academy of the Holy Cross senior and aspiring opera singer Amanda Primosch will compete in January at the 37th annual National YoungArts Week in Miami. COURTESY PHOTOBETHESDA — A Montgomery County student is one of 21 finalists who will perform in a national art competition next month. 

Amanda Primosch, an aspiring opera singer and senior at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, will compete at the 37th annual National YoungArts Week, held in Miami Jan. 7 through Jan. 14. The competition is put on by the National YoungArts Foundation, which presents awards to high school students around the country in a variety of creative and performing arts disciplines. 

“I actually used to be terrified to sing in front of other people,” said Primosch, who serves as president of AHC’s Madrigal Singers, as she explained how her sister – who is four years older– was the reason she got into singing.

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Ronnita Freeman performing at the Electric Maid in Takoma Park. COURTESY PHOTO BY SAM PASCALTAKOMA PARK — Singer-songwriter Ronnita Freeman’s set at the Electric Maid in Takoma Park last Friday started out with only two things; her voice and her guitar. Her minimalist approach soon transformed into a bombastic display of energy with her and her three-piece backing band, creating tremendous musical peaks and valleys.

The performance marked two firsts for Freeman: the debut of her first record “Prototype,” and her first performance with her backing band. Her songwriting on the five-track extended play CD features R&B tinged confessionals, sounding like a blend of Frank Ocean and Fleetwood Mac. 

“I finished the songs a year ago. The theme is of things I needed to say that were overdue,” said Freeman. “Songwriting got me reflecting on my relationships and other people’s stories.”

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Andre Watts performs with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Music Center at Strathmore and Meyerhoff Hall in Baltimore. COURTESY PHOTO BY STEVE J. SHERMAN  The beginning of pianist Andre Watts’s career was like a sunburst, introduced as a teenager onto the national stage to play with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.

Now, with a music career that has spanned more than 50 years, Watts is returning to an orchestra with whom he has played many times – the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Music Center at Strathmore as well as Meyerhoff  Hall in Baltimore on the weekend of Nov. 17 through Nov. 19.

“Mr. Watts has had a long and very popular association with the BSO, having first performed with the orchestra in 1973,” said Miryam Yardumian, interim artistic administrator. “He has appeared with the BSO a dozen times since.”

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Ladino singer Yasmin Levy collaborates with Klezmatics at Strathmore.   COURTESY PHOTO  The concert series currently playing out at the Music Center of Strathmore is celebrating global music and divergent cultures.

“The thematic thread through Strathmore’s 2017-2018 season is ‘Windows,’ concerts in which international artists share the sonic riches of their heritage and homeland,” said Joi Brown, vice president of programming. “This is our effort to showcase music that reflects different perspectives, places, cultures, and eras.”

However, the Nov. 7 concert highlights the musical diversity within one culture alone.

It pairs Israeli singer Yasmin Levy, who performs primarily in Ladino – Judeo-Spanish language – with the Klezmatics, an ensemble that sings classical klezmer music from Eastern Europe.

“I started to sing songs in Ladino, then modern, Spanish and flamenco and moved to Turkish and Persian songs and Brazilian tango,” said the Jerusalem-born Levy.

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Marin Alsop conducts the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. COURTESY PHOTO  The story of Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” has had a lasting cultural impact.

Many literary critics and authors consider the classic book by the 17th-century Spanish writer to be the first modern novel, with an immense influence on language that continues to the present day. Consider the expression “tilting at windmills” or the word “quixotic.”

“Don Quixote” and Cervantes’s dramatic life also have inspired other works in many artistic genres – including short stories, novels, ballets, operas, classical music pieces, plays, films, and of course, the hit Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha.”

Among the classical music pieces that have drawn inspiration from “Don Quixote” is the eponymous tone poem by Richard Strauss for cello, viola, and orchestra, which will be part of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s program for their Oct. 21 concert at the Music Center at Strathmore.

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Taharam group opens the Washington Jewish Music Festival. COURTESY PHOTO  When cultural organizations interact, they enrich the community.

AFI Silver Theatre, AMP Powered by Strathmore, the Music Center at Strathmore, and Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center – all Montgomery County arts groups – are serving as sites for the 11-day-long Washington Jewish Music Festival.

The Festival, the flagship of the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington D.C.’s year-round music program, starts formally on Nov. 2 with a group called Taharam, considered “Israel’s Stomp.” It continues through Nov. 12 with the silent film version of “Humoresque” and a performance by Nomadica, which performs music of Arabs, Roma, and Jews.

“The 19th Washington Jewish Music Festival’s lineup is a very exciting alchemy – it brings together some of the most prestigious, original and boundary-pushing artists from around the world working in the Jewish space, and encourages them to experiment in the nation’s capital,” said Festival Director Ilya Tovbis. “Additionally, we’re doubling down on highlighting and elevating the work and artistry of local D.C. musicians whose output spans hip-hop, klezmer, bossa nova, and cantorial repertoires.”

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Two local musical groups are celebrating classic rock music with their tribute to some of the heavy hitters of the past.

Celebrating  50 years of The Who , The Quadropheniacs channel their inner Keith Moon and celebrating 45 years of Black Sabbath the Disciples of Sabbath are biting the heads of the bats and channeling their inner Ozzy.

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DERWOOD- 25 has never looked so good. Many 25-year-olds spend their birthdays with friends, family, and booze. Outta the Way Café is no different. Patrons and well wishers crammed into the restaurant to enjoy live music by Seriously Wicked Good Cookin’ band and the restaurants signature wings.