Thursday, February 26, 2015

Forever Freestyle in its 9th Year at Lehman Center

By Deardra Shuler

Producer Sal Abbatiello of Fever Records is once again bringing Latin freestyle music to the stage via his Forever Freestyle 9 show which takes place in the Bronx, at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, on Saturday, March 7th at 8:00 p.m. Tickets for the popular show go quickly so fans should get to the box office before the show is sold out. Featured this year, will be Latin freestyle artists: TKA/K7, Judy Torres, The Cover Girls, Noel, Lisette Melendez, Rob Base, Soave, Coro, Nocerra, George Lamond Sugar Hill Gang. Also featured is Lucho, DJ Solo and The Whiteboy DJ KYS. Hosts for the show are Speedy and producer Sal Abbatiello.

The Queen of Freestyle, Judy Torres, took the time on a 27 degree winter day to chat with me. “The Freestyle show is always lots of fun. The Bronx fans come out at Lehman Center, and performing with my fellow artists always feels like we are getting together for an annual party. There is nothing like performing in the Bronx. I was born in the Bronx and lived there until I was 25. I had some of my best and worst memories there,” said the singer who attended St. Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic school then eventually went on to Lehman College.

Ms. Torres reflected on the early days of her career. “I was obsessed about being a singer and I kept wondering why I hadn’t been discovered. I was a teenager but I performed in talent shows and occasionally in night clubs around my area, impatiently hoping someone would discover me. I was doing a gong show in a tiny club where the singers were supposed to sing badly but they all sang well. So, I decided to sing like Edith Bunker of the show All In the Family. A judge attempted to gong me but I was joking and the audience got that, so stopped him. After the show that same judge approached me stating he wanted to help me. He told me to give him 6 months to get me a paid gig. He advised me I needed original songs, so he introduced me to Micky Garcia who needed his songs recorded. I was given a song entitled Loves Going to Get You. One day, at an audition, I met a singer who didn’t like her song which was “No Reason to Cry.” I loved that song and she loved my song, so we switched songs. It took awhile for “No Reason to Cry” to pick up momentum because it wasn’t on the radio but eventually I signed with an independent label and then the song got air play. “No Reason to Cry” became my first hit single. I was 18. Later I went with Profile Records where I rerecord “No Reason to Cry” under a different mix and sound. I recorded another single called “Come into My Arms,” which did better than No Reason to Cry. Torres also recorded “Faithfully” which became a Number One hit. My career picked up. Bills got paid and I was able to help family,” said Judy recalling the excitement she felt when her song hit.

Many artists have sung, and written songs, that have impacted their lives. “Each song I sing has significance for me,” claimed the freestyle singer. “Come into My Arms” meant something to me because I co-wrote it and wrote it about someone who broke my heart. My mother told me to use music to help me feel better. I’ve noted that when going through some kind of angst, I write my best material. I think that is when I’m fully present in my feelings,” remarked Judy who in her free time goes into schools to talk with young people about self esteem and the damage caused by bullying. “I also do some acting when I am not singing and have recently started teaching Zumba classes in New Jersey,” mentioned the busy artist.

Ms. Torres recently married in October 2014 and now has a step daughter. “Marriage has been an adjustment but I love it. My step daughter is a wonderful girl and I love being a mother. I now have a family I didn’t think I was going to have,” remarked Torres who still hosts a show on WKTU from 3:00 to 8:00 pm on Sundays. Formerly her show featured mostly freestyle music but the station has since changed their format to top 40s.

Judy recorded a song in 2010 entitled “Stay” originally a county song told from the perspective of the other woman.

Freestyle is at the heart of Judy’s recordings and she is grateful to Sal Abbatiello of Fever Records for keeping Freestyle music alive. “Although Freestyle has unfortunately left the radio waves for the most part, it has a devoted fan base. Therefore, Sal who was instrumental in creating the freestyle movement, has kept it alive by providing the venues where and singers who, fans can support via his Freestyle shows. So, whenever Sal calls I am there and enjoy being part of it. I believe I speak for all the freestyle artists when I say that we are grateful for our devoted fans,” said Judy earnestly.

Ms. Torres will be part of the Freestyle Forever 9 at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, March 7th at 8:00 pm.  Lehman Center is located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West in the Bronx where interested parties can get tickets at the Lehman Center Box Office by calling 718-960-8833 or by going on line at  Lehman Center is accessible by #4 or D train to Bedford Park Blvd, and is off the Saw Mill Parkway and the Major Deegan Expressway.  Parking is $5.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

King of Pop "Invincible" Tribute Tickets on Sale at NJPAC

By Deardra Shuler

Michael Jackson’s death on June 25, 2009, sent shock waves throughout the world. “The Man in the Mirror” was “Gone too Soon.” We were grieved and “Sad” and knew there would be no other like Michael Jackson. Unusual, eccentric, exquisite and unbelievably talented, Jackson was an original and shining star. He was the “2000 Watts” that lit up the stage every time he performed. Some claimed he was “2 Bad,” but all agreed he was very, very good. In fact, Michael Jackson was amazing. Any others attempting to step into Mr. Jackson’s footsteps have to prove their worth by making their presentation nothing less than spectacular.

Now, I don’t “Wanna Be Startin Something,” or maybe I do! But I must say the closest I have seen to a duplication of Michael’s onstage performance are the performers in creator, producer, director, and Bessie Award winner, Darrin Ross’s tribute to Michael Jackson, entitled "Invincible: A Glorious Tribute to Michael Jackson." If you have never “Ben” to the show, you better “Ease on Down the Road”, and “Beat It” to the box office at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, located at 1 Center Street, in Newark, NJ, where tickets for INVINCIBLE: A GLORIOUS TRIBUTE TO MICHAEL JACKSON go on sale, Thursday, February 19th and then are open to public sale on Friday, February 20th.

Each year something new is added, with performances getting better and better. This year promises to be a musical, dance and light-work spectacular. The actual show is to be held at Prudential Hall on June 13, 2015. However, VIP tickets go on pre-sale Thursday, February 19th and on public sale Friday, February 20th due to the enormous popularity of the show. Fans can obtain tickets by calling the NJPAC box office at 888-GO NJPAC (466-5722) or can go on line at Purchasers who call the box office for show tickets and VIP tickets should mention the code MJLOVE since only 200 VIP tickets are available. The price for a VIP ticket is $100 and gets you the best seats, as well as an after show meet and greet reception, a personal photo with the artists and an exclusive sixth anniversary INVINCIBLE show poster.

I have witnessed fans getting so wrapped up in the dynamics of the show, they go crazy and "Shout" "We Love You, Michael!!!," indicating there is no "Xscape" from the excitement of the show which is a real Thriller. The multi-media live performance of this sixth anniversary exclusive is a moving extravaganza…so I suggest you get your tickets soon before they are all gone! In fact, if you enjoyed Michael Jackson’s Immortal World Tour, you will love the Invincible Tribute to Michael Jackson and know you simply "Got to Be There."

The producers of the show claim “Invincible” is the only show that brings back the spirit and the essence of seeing Michael Jackson Live again onstage. Impersonator Pete Carter is a master dancer who reenacts the unique dances for which Jackson was so famous when alive. In fact, the Invincible show features different talent who portray Michael at different stages of his dynamic career, showcasing the superstar’s greatest hits including “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Thriller,” "Smooth Criminal,” "Man In The Mirror" and “Slave To The Rhythm” via hologram recreation and so much more. This show has the only MJ impersonators in the world who can sing, dance and look hauntingly like Michael Jackson.

After seeing and listening to Live concert performer, Jeffrey Perez sing and Pete Carter dance in “Invincible: A Glorious Tribute to Michael Jackson,” fans have claimed they felt a “Euphoria” as if they were watching the King of Pop once again performing live in front of them. The world class dance company enthralls viewers in “Smooth Criminal,” et al, as does the Grammy Award winning, Harlem GospeLive vocalists, Vocal Percussion genius, Anointed S, master musicians and varied percussionists. There will be special guests yet to be revealed, who make this tribute to Michael Jackson nothing short of extraordinary. So, put Saturday, June 13th at 8:00 pm on your calendars and “Come Together” at NJPAC, so you do not miss “Invincible” the Michael Jackson Fan Extravaganza of the Season.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lehman Center Celebrates Valentine’s Day with Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México

By Deardra Shuler

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, the cost of flowers and candy will go higher.  People will look to take their love ones out to a nice dinner.  Babysitters will be called so married couples can spend some quiet time together.  Love costs.  However, if you want beauty and music combined, Lehman Center for the Performing Arts has renowned conductor and Musical Director, Enrique Batiz, directing the Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico this Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14th at 8:00 pm.  With tickets prices ranging from $35, $30 and $25, you can even take your children, ages 12 and under, for the special price of $10.
The Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico (Symphony Orchestra of the State of Mexico) was founded in 1971 through the initiative of the government of the State of Mexico and Maestro Enrique Batiz.  It was formed with the purpose of promoting unity and identification for the citizens of the state of Mexico through music.  And indeed the orchestra has become a cultural gem and a source of pride in the city of Toluca where it is based.  The orchestra features a wide range of music which includes traditional Spanish and Mexican music as well as the classics.  Music lovers can hear Verdi and Beethovan, and included within the Lehman Center program, the audience can enjoy “Three Spanish Dances” (Enrique Granados), “Noches en los Jardines de Espana” (Manuel de Falla) and Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68 (Johannes Brahms).
Led by acclaimed conductor and musical director Enrique Bátiz, the performance will feature rising star piano soloist Irina Chistiakova. The Symphony Orchestra of the State of Mexico is noted for its endeavor to carry its musical message to all the corners of its country and municipalities of its state.  In fact, Enrique Batiz, the Orchestra’s chief conductor, musical and artistic director, who has the double heritage of Mexican and Polish, has been repeatedly honored and is considered one of the most famous conductors in Latin America.  Born in Mexico City, Batiz began playing the piano at 8 years old.  He attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and then continued his studies at Julliard School of Music in New York City.  He began touring extensively in the United States in1964 as a pianist, and from 1965-1971 toured throughout Europe both as a soloist and featured performer with major orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic and the London Symphony.
In 1971, Maestro Bátiz founded the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México and was its conductor and musical director for 12 years (1971-1983) before moving to the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra for seven years (1983-1989). In 1990, he returned to the Orquesta Sinfónica, where he continues to this day.  The enthusiastic conductor has guest conducted over 500 symphony orchestras worldwide and has a musical catalogue that ranges from classical to contemporary music.
Joining the Orquesta Sinfonica del Estado de Mexico on stage February 14th, is the renowned Irina Chistiakova.  Ms. Chistiakova was born in Moscow, Russia, and in 1996 was admitted into the piano program at the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatoire for Music. A child prodigy, she began performing Chopin as a soloist at the conservatory’s Grand Hall. By the age of eleven, she had already played concert halls throughout Russia, Germany and France and had won awards as both a soloist and in a duet with her older sister Galina, also a talented pianist, including a Double Laureate in the Russian “New Names” Competition. In 2000 Irina was the star of  the Irene Langemann film “Russlands Wunderkinder” and was also featured in Langemann’s follow-up film “The Competitors: Russian Children Prodigy 2.” She won many prestigious awards and piano competitions, even a gold medal.  Irina graduated with honors from the Moscow State Conservatoire in 2013 and when she is not touring and recording, she is doing her postgraduate studies there and at the University of Arts in Berlin, Germany.  As a result of her musical brilliance, Enrique Bátiz invited her to become a regular guest soloist with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México.
Interested parties can purchase tickets by calling the Lehman Center box office at 718-960-8833 (Monday through Thursday, 10am–5pm), or through online access at Lehman Center is located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West in the Bronx, NY and is accessible by the #4 or D train to Bedford Park Blvd. and is off the Saw Mill River Parkway and the Major Deegan Expressway.  Parking is $5.