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Tuned in to 2011 ; Let the Buffalo News critics be your guide to what's fresh and exciting in our arts and music scene.

In covering their beats for The News, critics Colin Dabkowski, Mary Kunz Goldman and Jeff Miers are immersed in the arts and let us know what's happening now, as well as what will be noteworthy in the future. Here, they share with readers some of the people, places and events they're most excited about in 2011.

>Art

In the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the titans of 20th century painting have their hallowed places on the building's white walls. Minimalism, conceptual art and a huge range of contemporary art, from the ephemeral work of James Turrell to the monumental etchings of Ingrid Calame, is constantly entering the collection.

But until lately, the gallery's holdings in video and media art have been comparatively slim. That's been changing over the past several years, and now the gallery's growing video and media art collection is ready for its closeup. In "Videosphere: A New Generation," a highly anticipated exhibition opening in July, the museum will show off work from its growing permanent collection of media art. Among the artists whose work will be on display are Buffalo-born Cory Arcangel (now a darling of the art world based in Brooklyn), whose work deals with reanimating old computer and video game devices and coding. The show will also feature work by Jeremy Blake, Bruce Nauman, Kelly Richardson and other important media artists.

Fresh off a compact, fascinating entry in the regionwide show Beyond/In Western New York, local artist Kyle Butler is poised to make an even bigger impression on the local art scene this year. He'll have a show of all new work at Nina Freudenheim Gallery -- typically a venue for more established heavy-hitters of the local and national art scenes -- in the spring (Freudenheim says April or May). Butler's work, which ranges from deftly rendered painting and drawing to large-scale installation pieces, has dealt with issues linking architecture and social control.

>Theater and dance

On stages from Buffalo United Artists to the Irish Classical Theatre Company, 26-year-old John Kaczorowski -- high school teacher by day, thespian by night -- has been making his mark on the local theater scene since 2009. With his performances in BUA's "In Gabriel's Kitchen," a key role in MusicalFare's "My Fair Lady" and a bit part in the Irish Classical Theatre's recent production of "The Dead," this guy has proven he has formidable chops and an enormous range -- both vocally and emotionally.

And this year, with major roles in MusicalFare's April production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and BUA's "Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins" (opening Jan. 21), Kaczorowski's time in the spotlight seems to have arrived. Because the fall season isn't yet planned out, Kaczorowski doesn't know what roles he'll take on after the summer break, but says he intends to audition for plenty. And in a theater community that could use some new talent in the ranks of young men, Kaczorowski couldn't have arrived at a better time.

After its two initial outings in 2009 and last year, the Buffalo Dance Festival is ready to come into its own. The brainchild of Configuration Dance Founder Joe Cippolla and John Lehrer (namesake of locally based company LehrerDance), the collaboration is meant to draw attention to a dance scene in Western New York that is growing not only in terms of quantity, but quality. The daylong event features performances by both dance companies as well as a number of invited dancers and other local troupes. The festival is planned for July 30 and it's sure to be a must-see. Mark your calendars now.

-- Colin Dabkowski

>Classical Music

The classical music scene revs up in late January and sweeps us on into June. Here are things to watch and listen -- for.

*We have a pride of pianists starting with a concert by Jeremy Denk on Jan. 21 at Slee Hall on the University at Buffalo's North Campus. It's an unorthodox program. Half of it is Bach's "Goldberg" Variations, and the other half consists of etudes by the 20th century composer Gyorgy Ligeti. Denk is a fascinating pianist with an engaging personality. He is a good, if infrequent, blogger. His concert in the Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series was terrific. He also came to Buffalo in collaboration with violinist Joshua Bell.

Lang Lang is playing Rachmaninoff's Second with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on Jan. 29. Here is an artist who could be termed controversial. He has mighty chops and has turned out some beautiful performances. But his superstar status is backfiring and he has been accused, with reason, of flashiness on stage and in his appearance, and his dippy memoir, "Journey of a Thousand Miles," did not help. In short, there's only one way to judge him -- see him in person. This one night only event should be packed.

Catch a rising star! Up-and-comer Charlie Albright, 23, is giving a free recital at Kleinhans Music Hall's Mary Seaton Room on Feb. 6, courtesy of the Buffalo Chamber Music Society. Albright is a senior at Harvard who has performed with the Seattle Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony. His program remains to be announced -- but judging from his reviews and awards, it should be impressive.

*Lent probably should not be a time for rejoicing, but it's hard not to rejoice in Buffalo's Harmonia Chamber Singers, for taking Giovanni Palestrina's shining, beautiful Pope Marcellus Mass on tour. The group is singing the Mass on several occasions including March 12 in St. Joseph's University Church and March 13 in SS. Peter & Paul Church in Williamsville. In addition, there will be a special performance at 4 p.m. March 6 in St. Louis Church, as part of a Tridentine Solemn High Mass. It should be exciting, going back in time and experiencing the Mass as it was in Palestrina's day. This event is a rare treat.

Harmonia's companion chamber group, Vocalis, has an interesting pair of concerts scheduled for March 18 and March 20, when Vocalis presents a concert of a cappella works from around the world. "Passport to Song" presents music from the Renaissance to the present day, both sacred and nonsacred, from Germany, Japan, Spain, Iceland, Ireland, England and Africa, in 11 different languages. Vocalis' concerts take place 7:30 p.m. March 18 at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Williamsville and 4 p.m. March 20 at St. Stanislaus Church.

It's great to have ambitious choral groups, and there seems to be nothing these two ensembles cannot tackle. Their concerts have become a sign of spring.

*Nickel City Opera is forging forward in June with a production of Verdi's "Il Trovatore" at the Riviera Theatre. Company founder and artistic director Valerian Ruminski also has a few other tricks up his sleeve, including a possible Puccini performance aboard the USS Sullivans at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, sometime this summer. With public arts funding in jeopardy, arts groups are having to look at thinking outside the box. Nickel City Opera certainly does, and it's always entertaining to see what lies around the corner.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

>Clubs

A scene can't flourish without the right clubs. Duke's Bohemian Grove Bar (253 Allen St.), now the third point in the Allentown live music triangle with Nietzsche's and Allen Street Hardware -- is likely the most exciting new opening in Buffalo clubland of the past 12 months or more. The club has modeled itself, somewhat, on CBGB, the New York City venue credited as the birthplace of East Coast punk rock, a la the Ramones, Blondie and more. More pertinently for Buffalo, the owners are aware of the legacy of McVan's, which was our own late-1970s punk/alt-rock Mecca. Toward that end, DBGB hosts weekly residencies for artists, which is a smart (and generally overlooked) way of building a scene around an establishment and a band. Now you can see, for example, the funk-jam-experimental outfit Rhubarb at Duke's each Wednesday evening and Kevin and Corey of Sonic Garden have been hosting several Thursdays a month. Part of the fun is not knowing just who might show up to "sit in" -- recently, Vinnie Amico of moe. checked in and played a whole set with the Sonic lads, before a rapturous crowd.

*There's been some griping about it on message boards and in chat rooms, but proprietor Dwayne Hall's plan to dramatically expand the capacity and rework the appearance of the Sportsmen's Tavern (326 Amherst St.) looks like an awfully good thing for both clubgoers and the section of Amherst Street in the Black Rock neighborhood the Sportsmen's occupies. The new blueprint has already been implemented and when work is completed sometime this year, the Sportsmen's will boast additional mezzanine levels, balconies, exterior decks and garage-style doors that will open for expanded viewing of the performance area. It's an ambitious undertaking, and one that deserves to be supported by anyone who cares about live music in our area.

*Forging the musical future of our city with champagne bookings on a beer budget, MNM Presents (www.mnmpresents.com) was launched in 2001 and has grown over the past decade into a vibrant and exciting independent promoter led by Mike Marshall. Keeping his finger on the pulse of underground music in various metropolitan areas around the country and in Canada, Marshall was savvy enough to get in on the ground floor of the various jam-band shootoffs that incorporate dance music -- jamtronica, and so forth -- and has helped navigate the chasm between DJ-based electronic music and the live band experience at venues like Soundlab and the Tralf. Expect much more of the same in 2011.

-- Jeff Miers

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