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Arts briefs: A Musical Feast, choral tapestry and a story of a prison break

Five intriguing world premieres are on the menu for the May 18 edition of A Musical Feast at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. The five composers – presented through the University at Buffalo's Creative Arts Initiative – will enjoy the good luck of having their works performed by the Hayley-Laufer Duo, known for its emphasis on bringing contemporary music to world audiences.

Soprano Dorothea Hayley and pianist Manuel Laufer will performer new works by two current students at the University at Buffalo, Robert Azaretto and Ka-Shu (Kenneth) Tam, and former UB student Matthew Chamberlain. Also on the program are compositions from Colombian composer Camilo Mendez and Canadian Anthony Tan. The concert is part of the composers' spring residency at the university.

The audience will hear the artists' interpretations in a modern Lied style, setting poetry to music in a genre that was popular in 19th century Germany (Lied means song in German). While Franz Schubert is among the best known of the Lied composers of that period, today's composers have gone in their own unique directions. Azaretto's work is described as a "reordering" of a piece by Mahler; Tam's work is compared to a modern Chinese opera. Zen Buddhism informs Tan's composition while Chamberlain's pitch and rhythms are built using algorithms. Finally, according to press materials, Mendez "turns the whole ensemble into a marvelous machine by having the duo play inside the piano."

Not surprisingly, Laufer described the program as "a fun challenge."

The concert, which concludes this Musical Feast season, is at 8 p.m. May 18 in the Burchfield's auditorium. Tickets are $20 general and $10 for students and Burchfield Penney members. Call 878-6011 or visit burchfieldpenney.org.

A family affair with Harmonia

The Harmonia Chamber Singers also are trying something new for their concerts this weekend. When music director Norman Zogaib leads his chorus, they will be joined by Michael Zogaib, the director's son, who will be playing double bass. The junior Zogaib, a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, has been playing since he was 8 years old and won several youth music competitions, but this will be the first time he has performed in public with his father's singers. Norman Zogaib is choral director at Hamburg High School.

The singers will be performing A British Choral Tapestry, including works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Orlando Gibbons and the Beatles. Concerts are at 7:30 p.m. May 17 at First Presbyterian Church (21 Church St., Lockport) and at 4 p.m. May 19 at Westminster Presbyterian Church (724 Delaware Ave.). Tickets are $15 through harmoniacs.org or at the door.

Authors share story of prison break

Communities throughout upstate New York were on high alert in June 2015 when two convicted murderers escaped from the isolated Clinton Correctional facility in the state's northeast corner. The search continued for Richard Matt and David Sweat for three weeks, at times focusing on Matt's hometown area of Western New York. Matt was eventually shot and killed when confronted by law enforcement while Sweat was recaptured. The escape and its violent end prompted Matt's daughter, Jamie Scalise of Wheatfield, to look more deeply into the life of the father she had barely known. The result is a book, "He's Out!," written with former Buffalo News sportswriter and editor Bob DiCesare, about Matt's life, his crimes and his escape, accomplished with the help of prison worker. Scalise and DiCesare will talk about the book, subtitled "The True Story of Infamous Prison Escapee Richard Matt," from 1 to 3 p.m. May 19 at Dog Ears Bookstore & Cafe (688 Abbott Road in South Buffalo). The event is free; books will be available for purchase and signing. More information is at dogearsbookstore.org.

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