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Artistic excellence: S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series features a few surprises

Orpheus chamber
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Grammy Award winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra will take the stage at Wright Auditorium on Jan. 10 as part of the S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series.

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The Daily Reflector

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series will celebrate its 57th season with performances that members of its eastern North Carolina audience have come to expect – and some they haven’t.

It wouldn’t be difficult to predict that the series would feature a renowned orchestra, an award-winning musical comedy and a classical sextet. But an orchestra without a conductor? A completely improvised musical? And a concert that plays like a game of chamber music roulette? Those are among the surprises that will come to the stage this season.

The series will include seven performances, all from artists who have never set foot on the Wright Auditorium stage. Music, theater and dance productions will feature performers from across the state and across the globe.

“It’s a traditional, classical season in a lot of ways,” said Michael Crane, producing artistic director of the series. “Underlying all of them is a high level of artistic excellence.”

‘Broadway’s Next H!T Musical’

The series will open Oct. 11 with an improv comedy troupe performance that is billed as the “Tony Awards meets ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’’ Before the show, audience members are invited to write down made-up song titles that will be placed into a fish bowl on stage. Actors will select titles, which they will use to improvise songs. The audience will select the best presentation to win a fake award and to be turned into a full-blown, improvised musical.

“They’re going to fake the whole thing,” Crane said, laughing. “We’re hoping we get some creative minds (in the audience), and I think we’re going to have a blast with it.”

Sons of Serendip

This musical group of four friends won fourth place in the 2014 season of “America’s Got Talent.” The group includes former attorney Cordaro Rodriguez and former cello instructor Kendall Ramseur, both of Charlotte, along with former teachers Micah Christian and Mason Morton. The men, each a musician since childhood, met in graduate school at Boston University and have since recorded five albums together. The Nov. 29 performance will feature songs from their album “Christmas: Beyond the Lights.”

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which will take the stage Jan. 10, is a Grammy Award-winning 28-member ensemble that functions without a conductor.

“Nobody’s standing up in front with a baton. They’re just well rehearsed,” Crane said.

“It’s very democratic. They have a whole leadership style that it’s built on,” he said. “There’s a TED talk on how this system works and how it applies to business and other realms. It’s really fascinating.”

Crane considers securing a date with the sought-after Orpheus to be the performing arts series’ coup of the season.

“They’re only playing two places in the state; they’ll be here and they’ll be in Charlotte,” he said. “They’re at a level that we really think we’ll be attracting a Raleigh audience and beyond.”

For the Greenville performance, the orchestra, which has 70 recordings, will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27, featuring Spanish pianist Javier Perianes.

Mélange

The innovative sextet, which will take the stage Jan. 31, is known for allowing audience members to select its musical program. Members of the audience are chosen to pick the next piece from an extensive program organized by style, nationality and time period.

Mélange was formerly named Shuffle, a nod to the fact that its concerts feel much like the “shuffle” setting on an iPod.

“It’s everything from Piazzolla to Gershwin,” Crane said. “It’s a little bit of everything, and the audience kind of directs where the program goes and how it feels.”

International Guitar Night

Some of the world’s foremost acoustic guitarists will perform solos, duets and quartets for this event, which will begin at 4 p.m. Feb. 10. Featured artists include Italy’s YouTube sensation Luca Stricagnoli, who performs arrangements of heavy metal and rock songs on a three-necked instrument; French swing sensation Antoine Boyer; Flamenco master Samuel Rouesnel “Samuelito” and Turkish fretless guitarist Cenk Erdogan. In Act I, the musicians perform solos. In Act II, they collaborate.

Mexican Brass

Known for vibrant performances and showmanship, the quintet will perform Feb. 28. Considered Latin America’s most successful brass quintet, the group has performed 1,000 concerts on five continents.

“They are incredible players, so people should expect a Canadian Brass (type of) experience,” Crane said. “But they are also a little bit corny, so when they play a Baroque piece they’re going to put on the powdered wigs, and when they play the ‘Harry Potter’ theme song, they will have wizard hats. … We’re going to get people who come who aren’t expecting any of the antics.”

‘Rooming House’

On March 14, the Chicago-based dance-theater troupe Lucky Plush Productions will perform a new work, “Rooming House,” featuring a physically and psychologically complex game of “whodunit.”

This performance and residency is funded in part by a grant from South Arts Dance Touring Initiative in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

VOCES8

The series features one added attraction, VOCES8, an a cappella ensemble with repertoire from Renaissance polyphony to contemporary arrangements. The Nov. 15 performance will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

“The availability on their tour, since they’re from Britain, was really limited,” Crane said, explaining how the performance came to be scheduled the same night as an ECU School of Theater and Dance production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

To avoid having arts patrons competing for parking spaces on campus, the ensemble performance was moved to the church, located nearby on Fourth Street. But the logistical challenge might have an acoustical benefit.

“They sound heavenly anyway, but in that church, the acoustics are phenomenal,” Crane said. “It’s going to feel as if that was the right place for them all along.”

 

Performances for the S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series, unless otherwise noted, begin at 8 p.m. in Wright Auditorium on campus. Season tickets are $231 for the general public, with discounts available for ECU faculty and students. Single-event tickets are $15-$45 each ($25-$55 for Orpheus Chamber Orchestra). Tickets for the added attraction, VOCES8, are $25 for subscribers and $35 for others. Visit www.ecu.edu/srapas or call ECU Arts at 252-737-5444.

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