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Bret Michaels rocks the Rapids Theatre tonight

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Bret Michaels returns to Western New York for a show tonight in Niagara Falls       Associated Press

Bret Michaels just can’t seem to stop himself. Already one of the most prominent survivors of the “hair metal” decade as lead vocalist with Poison, Michaels is now also a revered “reality television” star, a spokesman for the American Diabetes Association and a solo artist. He’ll be marking Poison’s 25th anniversary this summer with a coheadlining tour alongside Motley Crue, but it’s not like Michaels to sit around dormant until that tour commences. He’s got some time to fill, so naturally, the road beckons.

Michaels and his band will appear at the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main St., Niagara Falls) at 7 p.m. today (Dec. 15). Buffalo’s own Hit and Run will open the all-ages show. Tickets are $37.75 (box office,

-- Jeff Miers

Incredible Mozart, listen now

Xmas-musicThis weekend at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is presenting "A Classical Christmas." And on the program are two excerpts from Mozart's Vespers, K. 339. This is incredible music and you almost never get the chance to hear it live.

Soprano Sebnem Mekinulov will be singing the "Laudate Dominum" ("Praise the Lord"). I am trying to come up with adjectives to describe this piece and you know me, I am the queen of adjectives, but I am coming up short.

Here is a clip of Kiri Te Kanawa singing it. You can go back and forth forever about the merits of different recordings but what I like about this one is, it is luxuriantly slow. I like this piece slow. Too many performances rush it.

Incredible, that moment when the chorus comes in. Then when the soprano returns for the final "Amen."

Speaking of the chorus, a bonus of the concert is that the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus is also teaming with Mekinulov in the "Magnificat" that ends the Vespers. Again, a rare chance to hear this live.

Magnificent music. Here it is in an exhilarating performance from the famous Frauenkirche in Dresden. You will want to turn the volume up for this one.

What joyous music -- and a great video, too! They sort of whirl you around the streets of Dresden and give you a wonderful look at the church. Plus, that looks like tenor Jonas Kaufmann!

On a lighter note the concert also includes music from "Der Schneeman" ("The Snowman") a ballet by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Korngold was a child prodigy and wrote this music when he was 11. Here is a piano roll that lets you hear Korngold himself playing this music! So charming. And on the piano it sounds kind of like jazz.

So much to look forward to this weekend! "A Classical Christmas" takes place at Kleinhans Music Hall at 10:30 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday. Info is online, or call 885-5000.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman


Jackie Evancho performs Christmas concert tonight in Shea's

Jackie Evancho is just 11, but she has the rich pipes, the expression and the self-possessed qualities of a much more mature singer. She is also a show-biz veteran, appearing on “America’s Got Talent” and singing at the National Tree Lighting ceremony last year in Washington, D. C. She knows how to handle a mic, and to reach high notes many listeners have called unbelievable.

See her for yourself -- and reassure yourself that she is not lip-synching -- at Shea’s Performing Arts Center this week. Jackie will be performing a Christmas concert. It promises to be a wonderful way to appreciate her gifts. Her album “O Holy Night” was a best seller, and Christmas songs bring out the pureness of her tone.

Evancho presents her concert “Heavenly Christmas” at 7:30 p.m. today (Dec. 15) in Shea’s. Tickets are $35-$95. For more info, call 847-1410.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Guess the Christmas Top 10

CarolingASCAP has come out with its Top 10 list of most-played Christmas songs.

You can probably guess all 10 of the songs. With which, here is a game that is fun to play. Before you look at the list, take a piece of paper, or a blank screen, and try to guess the 10 on your own and list them, in order of popularity, with No. 1 being the most-played, and on down.

Then look at the list and see how you did.

I think I would have guessed the No. 1 song. But then I did not know enough to play the game.

You do not have to guess the artist but you get bonus points if you guess the most popular version of your songs. Make your guesses and the ASCAP list will follow -- along with the mind-bogglingly huge number of times each song has been played on radio stations between Oct. 1 and Nov. 28, 2011.

Ready, set? Guess.

La la la la la.

If it does not distract you too much you may listen to this glistening Carmen Dragon arrangement of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." So beautiful! So Old Hollywood! Hint: This song is not on the list.

All set?

The envelope, please.

1. "Sleigh Ride" - played 64,317 times
Written by Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish
Most popular artist version performed by Leroy Anderson

2. "Winter Wonderland" - played 54,741 times
Written by Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith
Most popular artist version performed by Eurythmics

3. "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" - played 50,796 times
Written by Mel Tormé, Robert Wells
Most popular artist version performed by Nat King Cole

4. "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" - played 49,509 times
Written by Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne
Most popular artist version performed by Dean Martin

5. "Jingle Bell Rock" - played 47,100 times
Written by Joseph Carleton Beal, James Ross Boothe
Most popular artist version performed by Bobby Helms

6."It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" - played 46,492 times
Written by Edward Pola, George Wyle
Most popular artist version performed by Andy Williams

7."Do You Hear What I Hear?" - played 41,633 times
Written by Gloria Shayne Baker, Noël Regney
Most popular artist version performed by Whitney Houston

8. "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" - played 39,885 times
Written by Meredith Willson
Most popular artist version performed by Bing Crosby

9. "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" - played 38,395 times
Written by Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin
Most popular artist version performed by The Carpenters

10. "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" - played 37,266 times
Written by Johnny Marks
Most popular artist version performed by Gene Autry

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Miers and Simon's Critics' Corner video chat

News Arts Editor Jeff Simon and Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers answered your questions about books, movies, television, music and more directly into the camera. Please allow extra time for the large video file to load.

Blue October to perform in Rapids Theatre

Alternative rock band Blue October will perform at 8 p.m. April 11 in the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main St., Niagara Falls).

Tickets are $27.50 advance and $30 day of show and go on sale at noon Dec. 16 through the box office, at Record Theater and Terrapin Station,  online at or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.

For more information, call 205-8925 or visit

Powerful Performer: Cory Branan at Mohawk Place tonight

Cory Branan 3
Cory Branan performs tonight in Mohawk Place.

Cory Branan is an anomaly within the world of the contemporary singersongwriter.

First off, he claims to never play a song the same way twice, a trait that places him closer to the company of improvisational artists than it does to your average singer-songwriter, who comes up with an arrangement of his song, nails it down and sticks with it, more or less, until the end of his life and/or career.

Secondly, Branan came to folk-based music not via the more common channels, but through an obsession with metal, and in particular, Black Sabbath. In fact, Branan played guitar in a Sabbath cover band for a bit, according to his bio.

How all of this leads one to emerge with a unique take on the Southern singer-songwriter tradition is unclear, but what undeniably shimmers in the light is the fact that Branan is an irreverent, unconventional, and therefore, powerful songwriter and performer.

Branan performs at 8 p.m. today (Dec. 13) in Mohawk Place (47 E. Mohawk St.). He’ll be joined by guest openers Dave Hause (of Loved Ones) and Shane Sweeney (of Two Cow Garage). Tickets are $8 advance, $10 day-of-show (Ticketmaster, at the door).

-- Jeff Miers

The Buffalo Chamber Music Society welcomes the Brentano String Quartet this evening

Brentano Quartet
The Brentano String Quartet performs this evening.

The Buffalo Chamber Music Society is welcoming the Brentano String Quartet this week. The group is named after the influential Brentano clan that was a big influence on Beethoven’s life -- Beethoven’s mysterious “Immortal Beloved” is said to have been Antonie von Birkenstock Brentano, the Viennese noblewoman who married into the family.

Known for its accomplishments and rich sound, the Brentano String Quartet has collaborated with such musical luminaries as soprano Jessye Norman, pianist Richard Goode and pianist Mitsuko Uchida. It is the first-ever string quartet in residence at Princeton University.

On their visit to Buffalo, the Brentanos are playing three old masters and one new one. The night starts with Haydn’s Quartet in D Minor, Op. 103, and also includes Schubert’s famous “Quartettsatz,” or quartet fragment. The night ends with the lovely String Quartet by Claude Debussy.

The new master is Louis Andriessen. The quartet will play his “...miserere...,” composed in 2006.

The concert takes place at 8 p. m. today (Dec. 13) in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall. Admission is $20 at the door. For information, call 462-4939.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

News Book Club live chat: James Joyce's "The Dead"

The News' Charity Vogel is hosting the monthly Buffalo News Book Club live chat with guests Vincent O'Neill from Irish Classical Theatre and Laurence Shine from Buffalo State. This month's News Book Club selection was James Joyce's "The Dead."

A Denver diary: some reflections on the mile-high city

For the past four days, I've been exploring the art, culture and urban experience of Denver, a vibrant city brimming with cultural attractions of surprising depth and breadth. 

Though Denver has twice the population and three times the physical area of Buffalo, its successful efforts to re-brand itself from an outpost in flyover territory to a must-visit cultural destination over the past 15 years include some very salient lessons for Buffalo's accellerating efforts to do the same.

On my arrival Thursday, my first order of business was to explore some of the city's large and growing trove of public art. I'll cover this much more in my forthcoming story, but suffice it to say that Denver's public officials and citizens alike have embraced public art as a vital part of their daily lives and as a rallying point around which to build a sense of community. Here are a few highlights, just the tip of the iceberg here, of what Denver's sprawling public art collection has to offer:

"I See What You Mean," Lawrence Argent.

Continue reading "A Denver diary: some reflections on the mile-high city" »

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