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A musical homecoming for David Handel

On Sunday, the Amherst Symphony is welcoming home a celebrity. David Handel, the guest conductor, is a 1982 graduate of Williamsville South High School who has gone on to great things. The name “Handel” itself can’t help but bring music to mind, and Handel has lived up to it. After attending the University of Michigan, he became assistant conductor at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the hallowed hall associated with Mendelssohn.

He went on to build a name for himself in far-flung corners of the world. He was named music director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Bolivia. It was a problematic task – most of the musicians held other jobs – but Handel inspired the ensemble to such excellence that other continents came calling. Right now Handel has a high-profile job in Russia, where he is principal guest conductor of the Moscow City Orchestra. When he is not working somewhere else in the world, he and his wife, Chemena – a pianist from the former Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan – live in Florida.

Handel returns this weekend to conduct the Amherst Symphony, which is between music directors. His concert is called “Latin Beat,” and it includes Ginastera’s “Malambo” and “Los Trabajadores Agricolas” (from “Estancia”); as well as De Falla’s Dance No. 1 from “La Vida Breve”) and music from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.” A special treat is Franz Waxman’s “Carmen Fantasy,” a homage by the great film composer to Bizet’s colorful opera. The soloist is the distinguished Buffalo violinist Thomas Halpin.

Admission is free. The concert takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday in Amherst Middle School (55 Kings Highway, Amherst). Because of the music’s Latin themes, the orchestra will be welcoming two buses of young music fans from the Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy. Other children are invited to join them before the concert at 1:45 p.m. in the school gym for the Instrumental Petting Zoo.

Starting at 1:45 p.m., free shuttle bus service will be available from Amherst Senior High School. Call 633-4606.

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