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May 11, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, downtown, BID, music, notify.

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There’s so much happening in downtown Batavia, Shannon Maute says, that she needs to start her own podcast to discuss it all.

Maute, the Business Improvement District’s executive director, is eager to share ideas she and the BID Promotions Committee have been kicking around lately. She wants to provide a venue for them to mull suggestions and figure some things out for downtown’s ongoing success.

“We hope to have it ready to go by mid-June. We are open to anyone coming on. We want to hear from everyone who has an idea, or a thought, and I’ll even take suggestions,” she said to The Batavian. “We will discuss our events, our plans for downtown and promote businesses as well as individuals. We want to have fun with it and get Batavia involved. If we can solve some issues along the way that would be fantastic.”

She teased that the group has some ideas “ready to go,” but you will have to “listen to find out what they are.” Maute plans to promote the podcast in the near future.

Extra nights of music ...
One idea will be implemented beginning in July. Since concerts on Friday nights have had such a positive result, BID members have decided to bring on some Thursday nights as well.  Concerts on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. are scheduled for June 30, July 28 and August 25 at Jackson Square. Musical groups are yet to be announced for those.

The Downtown Batavia Friday Night Concert Series is to kick off with Old Hippies on July 1, Skycats on July 8, Don Newcomb Band on July 15, Ohmes Band July 22, Creek Bend July 29, Ghost Riders on Aug. 5, The Bluesway Band on August 12 and capped off with Mitty and The Followers on Aug. 26. These concerts are all free and are set for 7 to 9 p.m.

An inaugural Italian Fest has been scheduled for August 6, complete with a strolling accordion player, pasta, cannoli and other Italian treats, decorations and a Mediterranean vibe, Maute said.

New faces on BID board ...
She is excited about a resurgence in community gatherings and about some new faces on the BID Board. Derek Geib has been elected president of the board, with fellow businessman John Roche as vice president; and Carrie Lawrence and Shelly Wolanske are new board members.

Maute recently shared how the intrusion of COVID-19 changed her priorities.

“Two years to reflect is a long time, but I learned what is important, and what is important to me is my family, friends and my community,” she said during the annual BID breakfast. “I am so proud to live in this cute little city with a very big heart.”

Awards were given to “the amazing” Gavin Townsend for Volunteer of the Year, and Business of the Year went to “the outstanding Islands Hawaiian Grill.”

“They earned those awards with all their hard work, commitment, and positive attitude, as well as their great love for our community,” Maute said.

Special awards were given to Beth Kemp and Leanna DiRisio for Volunteer of the Decade.

With incoming president Derek Geib, former president Don Brown was acknowledged for his sage and consistent advice and for being a great help to Maute, she said.

“I am pretty lucky to work with such a great board. Each and every one of them brings something great to the table,” she said.

Top photos: Shannon Maute, executive director of Batavia Business Improvement District; and new BID President Derek Geib, left, and Vice President John Roche.

Photos by Howard Owens. 

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Award recipients Gavin Townsend for Volunteer of the Year

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Kourtney Kunichika, owner of Islands Hawaiian Grill for Business of the Year.

 

May 9, 2022 - 10:09pm

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It began as an ax-throwing event at Eli Fish Brewery on Main Street and morphed into an indoor and outdoor carnival with live music, magical entertainment and assorted carnival-type food, Sydney Carli says.

And the first-ever Eli Fish Brewery Carnival was born.

The City Council approved the event Monday. It is set for 4 to 10 p.m. on June 11 at the brewery and in Jackson Square.

“I’m really excited; it should be a really fun day,” Carli, the event manager, said Sunday to The Batavian. “We’re trying to get pop-up tents for people to sell their crafts and art. It would be awesome to get as many as we can; it’s for anyone who wants to sell their stuff.”

Ax-throwing made the cut, so to speak, in the line-up of activities, and that will be available at the brewery, 109 Main St., Batavia. Craft vendors, a dunk tank and fortune-teller, corn dogs, Italian sausage, Sage Farms maple cotton candy and “delicious frozen maple drinks,” a return of Matty’s Pizza, plus a fun magician book-ended by live bands, including Jim E. Leggs Trio Noah Gokey. The trio, named after a popular phrase coined by Kramer in the TV comedy Seinfeld -- "Jimmy legs" --  is described as "somewhat of a hybrid band ranging from a Latin-infused take on Nat King Cole's Nature Boy to updated arrangements of The Beatles, Steely Dan and Sting. The musicians offer an upbeat, fun and varied mix of Jazz, R&B and Pop that will lift your spirits, their website states. Noah Gokey is an eclectic indie rock band billed as a diverse blend of sounds from folk, blues, country, and jazz to reggae and heavy metal. 

“It’s a really cool opportunity to have a carnival, go and have some drinks, listen to music and see magic acts,” Carli said. “It’s an awesome day where people can come and eat, drink and have fun.”

Craft beers and Eli Fish food, plus the maple treats, will be available for purchase. GLOW Out is also having an event that day, and she is hoping that people will head over to the square to finish their Saturday at the carnival.

(GLOW OUT! plans to host a parade and festival from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 11, beginning on Alva Place and ending in the Batavia City Centre parking lot. For more information, call GO Art! at (585) 343-9313.) 

Tickets for the carnival will go on sale soon at EventBrite.com, Carli said. For vendors interested in reserving a spot, email [email protected]

May 9, 2022 - 5:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee Chorale, arts, music, entertainment, news.

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Life is a journey, and where we wind up often depends on the roads we choose, hence among the most memorable words ever written come from Robert Frost, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood ..."

Paths taken, and those not taken, is the theme of the next Genesee Chorale program to be performed at 4 p.m., Sunday, May 15, at Elba Central School, 57 South Main St., Elba.

In the performance, the Chorale tells the tale of the Traveler in the coming of age story of the "Prodigal Son," the traveler in the Monomyth, the "Hero’s Journey Quest Story." The traveler appears in stories of discovery and adventure. The traveler also trods the journey within, reflectively traveling a path to find love, peace, and spiritual fulfillment in the "Winding Road of Life."

Musical selections for this performance also include some well-known favorites like "The Impossible Dream" and "You'll Never Walk Alone," recognizable hits from "The Greatest Showman" and "The Lion King," as well as new choral works by John Rutter, Ysave Barnwell, John Leavitt, and others. 

"This concert will take the audience on the journey of life," said publicist Janine Fagnan, "from when we first step out onto life's path, through all the moments and experiences that it can throw at us until we finally come home and can reflect on the journey."

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased from any Genesee Chorale member, on the website at geneseechorale.com/box-office, or at the door. 

This program is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council. 

Photo: File photo from 2018

May 7, 2022 - 4:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Marc Berger, music, arts, entertainment, news.

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Marc Berger performed music of the American West today at the Richmond Memorial Library.

May 5, 2022 - 10:26pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Frank E. Owen, music, arts, notify.

It was the spring of 1927 when a “very unique”assembly program took place at Batavia High School, Patti Pacino says.

Frank E. Owen had just begun as music director, and he asked students to “sing with me.” Not only did they sing, but the school newspaper described it as something to behold, all due to Owen’s incredible influence, Pacino said.

“Because of his strength and excellence, a score of music groups have grown here,” Pacino, a city resident and councilwoman, said during the Batavia City Schools board meeting Thursday. “I’m here to represent hundreds of alumni, asking you to allow us to honor the man who started here at Batavia High School by naming the BHS auditorium after Frank E. Owen, as a show of respect and thanks.”

The board previously had a discussion about the merit of naming a piece of school property after someone notable. Most board members voiced support of the idea and Board President Alice Benedict opposed it. Owen had been suggested for the high school auditorium, and the public was invited to weigh in on the decision. His prominence has been recognized with a Musicians of Note Award in 2019 and a scholarship in his name for seniors pursuing a degree in music.

Upon his arrival, Owen formed and inspired a girls and a boys glee club, bands, an orchestra, a drumline, musical theater shows and a host of aspiring musicians throughout his time to present day, Pacino said. She wasn’t alone in her zeal to see Owen honored in this way. Melzie Case, a Batavia Middle School music teacher, and middle school band director Sean Williams each endorsed Owen as an appropriate candidate for the auditorium name.

Although Case had never met Owen — he was music director from 1927 to 1964 — she’s had a sense of who he was.

“I can feel Frank E. Owen’s work and spirit in our music department today,” she said. “(Naming the auditorium after him) will allow us to honor all past, present and future musicians.”

Williams first gave a brief history lesson on other well-known city icons, such as VanDetta Stadium named as a “fantastic testament” to the positive accomplishments of Coach Daniel VanDetta. Williams then turned to Owen. “This man graced us for 27 years,” Williams said. He added that it would be only fitting to honor him as so many athletic coaches and athletes have been recognized with the Athletic Hall of Fame.

The board required no more discussion when it came time to vote. The move was approved by a vote of yes from Barbara Bowman, Jennifer Lendvay, Michelle Humes, John Marucci and Chezeray Rolle, and the lone no vote from Benedict. Benedict had previously said she wasn’t against Owen but did not agree that pieces of school property should be named after a particular person. 

She announced the board's next move after the vote.

“We will be dedicating the auditorium to Frank E. Owen,” she said.

May 4, 2022 - 3:36pm
posted by Press Release in Musicians Of Note, batavia, Batavia HS, music, arts, education, news.

Press release:

Musicians of Note, an event honoring past Batavia High School graduates who have made an impact in music, will host its 3rd annual ceremony on Friday, May 13, 2022, in the Batavia High School Auditorium at 7:00 pm. 

Honorees will be recognized with a video presentation and performance ensembles to celebrate their achievements. A plaque featuring their accomplishments will be displayed on the new Musicians of Note wall at Batavia High School. 

This year’s five recipients of the 3rd annual Musician of Note Award include: 

Lyle Mark: Class of 1938,  

  • US Navy, WWII, Leader of Mellville, Rhode Island Naval Base Dance Band
  • 27-year career as music director for Elba Central School
  • A 34-year member of Genesee Symphony
  • A more than 50-year member of Batavia Concert Band
  • Private music instructor and mentor to area students and musicians

Beth Ann Lambein Hooker: Class of 1963  

  • Julia E. Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, BS Music Education-Voice Major, graduated 1967
  • Taught Grades K-12 Vocal Music Oak field-Alabama, Baldwinsville & LeRoy, New York 33 Years (1967-2000)
  • Methodist Church Youth & Sanctuary Choir Director (16 Years)
  • Directed/Produced/Appeared in 132 Theatrical Productions over 54 years (1968-2022)

Mark Hoerbelt: Class of 1986

  • Baritone In All-State Chorus (1985)
  • Area All-State Chorus and Orchestra (violin) (1983-1985) 
  • Teacher at Alexander High School/Middle School (2005-present) 
  • Music minister at Resurrection Parish (1999-present)
  • Genesee Chorale conductor (2000-2005) 

Jacqueline Siegel McLean: Class of 2002

  • Choir Director at Newfield Central School District (2006-2010)
  • Choir Director at LeRoy Central School District (2010-present)
  • Golden Apple Award Recipient 2018
  • LeRoy Musical Artistic Director of Stars of Tomorrow, award-winning musical program (2010-present)\
  • Proud music educator of several Conference All-State, Area All-State, and All-County students  (2006-present)

Cindy Baldwin: Retired Music Teacher BCSD 1984-2011

  • Batavia String Teacher (1984-2011)
  • Department Chair (2001-2011)
  • NYSCAME President (2006-07)
  • RPO String Educator Of The Year (2008)
  • Active Performer (1964-present)

Tickets for the May 13 event are on sale in the Main Office at Batavia High School for $10. You may also email Jane Haggett at [email protected] to reserve your tickets, which will be available at the will-call table the night of the event. 

April 30, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in ABBAmania, music, arts, entertainment, news, Batavia Downs.

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ABBAmania, Canada's top ABBA tribute band, played Batavia Downs on Friday night, with a Cher tribute artist opening the show.

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April 30, 2022 - 12:27am

Press release:

We are honored to be partnering with Batavia Downs gaming to host the first of its kind fundraising concert that will benefit our local UMMC Hospital (Rochester Regional Health), our new YMCA, Strong Memorial Hospital and research at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Now in its fifth year as a concert venue, Batavia Downs has been averaging about 3000 to 5000 concertgoers per show as part of their Rockin The Downs Concert Series. Although our Concert is not part of this series and tickets must be purchased separately, we are hoping to draw the same kind of crowd with our Nationally recognized headliner Bruce In The USA and local guests including 97 Rock’s Dave “DJ” Jickster and Comedian Nick Marra. As an added bonus from our friends at Batavia Downs everyone that buys a ticket will receive a $15 free play. . “Wouldn’t it be amazing if a bunch of the concertgoers went back inside at the end of the night and won lots of money, with their free play”?

This concert will be the largest event that we have ever attempted and we are very excited to bring so many people together for yet another fun fundraising event. Sponsorship opportunities include special seating, tickets to the show, $30 of free play, signage, verbal promotion, and shout-outs during the concert. For more information about our three sponsorship tiers, visit RickyPalermoFoundation.

Tickets are selling nicely so if you want to look into joining our concert you can go to my site www.RickyPalermofoundation.org OR go to EVENTS while looking at the Batavia Downs concerts. You could also look for our QR code, which will also guide you to the information needed to buy tickets.

Special thanks to Batavia Downs CEO Henry Wojtaszek, Concert Manager Ryan Hasenauer, Kathy Paradowski and so many others who have been great to work with.

March 30, 2022 - 5:51pm

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Downtown Batavia will be booming with live music once again this summer, organizer Paul Draper says.

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the annual Ramble event will resume on July 2 at Jackson Square.

“We’ve partnered with GO ART! this year to help us not only grow the entire event but also bring more of a presence to the ‘arts’ side of the festival,” Draper said to The Batavian Wednesday. “We are very excited about the partnership and are looking forward to bringing them into the fold.”

The event’s name has been tweaked to The Batavia Ramble Explore Art & Music Festival. Downtown Batavia is to be filled with art displays, family-friendly activities and, of course, a line-up of hometown bands for a Saturday full of live music.

There are sparse details on the GO ART! and Batavia Ramble Facebook pages, but both promise updates as they become available. Executive Director Gregory Hallock was not available for comment. GO ART! staff posted about the long-awaited return:

“It’s going to be an incredible festival with a ton of great bands, artists, vendors and food. Applications for vendors/bands/artists will be available soon!”

Batavia Ramble has posted an application for bands, with the fair warning that slots are filling up fast for this year.

For more information, go to: facebook.com/thebataviaramble

January 19, 2022 - 9:46am
posted by Leslie DeLooze in music, concerts.
Event Date and Time: 
February 17, 2022 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm
“Music at St. Mark’s,” a free monthly concert series at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1 East Main St., LeRoy will begin on Thursday, February 17 at 7:00 pm.  The first one-hour concert will feature guitarist Andrew Flory, a doctoral student at the Eastman School of Music, who has also studied in Scotland and Spain.  Masks required.  The program is funded by a Restart NY grant through GO ART!  More information at www.stmarksleroy.org or 585-768-7200.  
January 16, 2022 - 4:08pm
posted by David Reilly in chuck berry, music, arts, entertainment, news.

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Everyone who attended college, especially those who went away to school, has at least a couple of good stories. You know, stories that you told your parents years later prefaced with, “It's a good thing you didn't know this back then but...”. Or stories that you told your kids once they were grown to prove that you were cooler or crazier than they thought you were.

One of my stories(I don't have that many) involves a weekend my senior year at St. John Fisher College in Rochester when I met some famous musicians. Unfortunately for me , even though in retrospect they were funny, my interactions proved that I was definitely not cool.

Blues Bonanza
In the spring of my junior year, some friends of mine produced what is still probably the best “Blues” show ever in Rochester. Held at the Nazareth College Auditorium it included the legendary Son House, the iconic Muddy Waters Blues Band, The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Miles, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band with Elvin Bishop and David Sanborn, and the Junior Wells Blues Band.

My friendship enabled me to score front row tickets to each of the 2 nights, but I was not involved in any of the production. It was such a great event though that 50 years later 3 of us who were there in 1968 went back to Nazareth on the anniversary to reminisce.

The following autumn the same friends had another big show at Nazareth planned and this time I wanted to be a part of putting it on. I was assigned to “Publicity”. This boiled down to me going around the downtown Rochester area and asking bar owners to put a poster in their windows. Not exactly exciting but a job that had to be done.

Grunt work I guess you'd call it.

As a reward for doing that and probably because I was one of the only ones with a car, my next task was to pick up 2 of the musicians at the airport for the first night's show.

All That Jazz
The group that night was a well-known jazz ensemble -- The Charles Lloyd Quartet. It consisted of leader Charles Lloyd on saxophone, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Ron McClure on bass, and Keith Jarrett on piano.

I knew little or nothing about jazz music then, but over the years I learned that these were some of the biggest names in that genre. Fortunately, now in their 70s and 80s, they are all still playing.

So, on Friday afternoon off to the Monroe County Airport, I went in my cranberry 1961 Chevy Biscayne to transport Ron and Keith to Nazareth for the soundcheck. I felt a little nervous, but not really having any idea of their stature in the jazz world, not too much.

I don't know if they were expecting a limo or some better kind of vehicle, but if so they were kind enough not to say so. We put McClure's upright bass in my trunk and off we went.

Apparently, I was more nervous than I had thought though. On the way there it had been raining. But , as I drove the two musicians the sun had come out. I was trying to make conversation when one of them said, “Hey could you turn off your windshield wipers? It's kind of annoying.” I hadn't even noticed they were on and hoped they didn't notice how beet red my face had turned.

Everybody Hasn't Heard About The Bird
Then at some point during the trip, I don't recall how it came up, but I mentioned the phrase, “...gave him the bird”, the colloquialism for the 1 finger salute given to people you are mad at. Except, neither Keith nor Ron had ever heard it called that. They said, "Gave him the what?” I could almost feel them exchanging odd glances at each other behind my back. But, at least it made for an interesting discussion the rest of the way. Hey, maybe I taught them something.

The concert that night was stellar and I felt good about broadening my horizons to a kind of music with which I had not been familiar . My date was a young lady from Batavia (who I have not seen for 50 years) and I probably tried to impress her by pointing out the two musicians on stage who had been in my car that afternoon. I left out the windshield wiper incident though.

If He Walks Like A Duck
The next night's headliner was the “Father of Rock and Roll” Mr. Chuck Berry. I would have been ecstatic to drive him from the airport, but Chuck had a very unique way of going on the road to perform.

The promoter would pay for his plane ticket and Berry would fly into town by himself bringing only his guitar. He would rent a car at the promoter's expense and drive himself to his hotel and the venue. No tour bus or big production with a trailer and “roadies” for him.

According to his contract, the promoter would be responsible for hiring a capable local band with bass, drummer, and rhythm guitarist to back him up. Chuck would show up for a soundcheck and rehearsal before the show and that was it.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the warm-up at Nazareth that afternoon and it was an experience to see Berry put the band through its paces. It was fairly easy actually. He would say, “ Key of G, 1,2,3 and away we go...”. But he had specific cues to guide them like when he stomped his foot they would pause and when he stomped it again they'd start back up. He had them go through some of his basic songs like Johnny B. Goode or Reelin' And A Rockin', corrected them on a few things, seemed satisfied, and let them go with, “See ya tonight”.

They must have been a very capable band because Berry was known to be somewhat difficult with his backups at times, including some famous musicians. There is a 1988 documentary about him titled “Hail! Hail! Rock And Roll!” which shows how hard he could be to work with specifically with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

Before that night's show, a friend and I inhaled a substance that was illegal back then but mostly legal now. It was the first time for me (it never became that big of a deal for me going forward) and let's just say that we were in a “jovial state of mind” for the festivities.

Chuck put on a very entertaining show going through many of his hits and showing why just about every rock guitarist who came after him borrowed his licks and paid him homage by their imitation. He did his patented duck walk move a number of times and had the crowd right in the palm of his talented hand.

Nuns Night Out
Being in a “jovial state of mind” really added to one song that Berry did. He did a humorous double entendre tune called “My Ding A Ling” ( Google the lyrics) which involves an audience sing-along with different parts for the men and ladies.

As this concert was held at the Catholic Nazareth College, a number of the nuns who lived on campus must have decided to have a night out for themselves and attend. There were a bunch of them all sitting together in one row and good sports all they sang along with everyone else.

Well, it was funny enough to see a row of nuns singing, “ I wanna play with my ding a ling'', but our “jovial state of mind” put us over the edge into side-splitting laughter.

After the concert, there was the usual “after show” party. Ours wasn't held in a ritzy club though. It took place in the apartment of some of the students who had worked on the show. It was located above a bar on Monroe Avenue in Rochester known as the Cobbs Hill Grill. Today it's still operating as Jeremiah's, known for their chicken wings which weren't even invented back then.

Party Like It's Almost 1969
So, college student apartment 1968 style: probably minimum furniture of the used variety. A bookshelf made from concrete blocks and boards may be holding Kurt Vonnegut novels, Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, a book of Lawrence Ferlinghetti poetry, and so on. Hanging beads separate one room from another. Possibly a big wooden spool from a utility company that had once held wire now used a table. On the table would be a Chianti bottle used as a candle holder coated with melted wax and a couple of overflowing ashtrays. A stereo system with good-sized speakers and some Bob Dylan vinyl spinning on the turntable.

People came in from the show in twos and threes. Chatting, smoking one thing or another, drinking beer or wine, talking loudly over the music. Someone said they heard Chuck was coming to the party. “Nah. Chuck Berry here? No way man.”

A group of us were hanging out in the kitchen when there was a knock at the door. Someone yelled out, “It's open!” and in walked Chuck Berry. Our mouths dropped open because 1. it was Chuck Berry and 2. he was accompanied by a Nazareth girl who I bet has a way better story to tell than me.

We were all trying very hard to be cool and nonchalant in Chuck's presence. You know like the guy who pretty much-invented the rock and roll guitar wasn't standing right there.

It's Not The Real Thing
Then out of the blue came one of the greatest uncool moments of all time. Chuck asked, “Hey man, anybody got any coke?”

One of the girls replied, “ There might be some in the refrigerator.” And I in my infinite naivete chimed in, “ Or if not , I'm sure they have some downstairs at the bar.”

Chuck looked at us with a look like, as my mom used to say, we all had 3 heads. “Man”, he scoffed. “ You ain't even in the right ballpark.”

“Oh!”, we all realized together. “That coke!” You could almost see us facepalming ourselves in unison. SMH as we would have commented today by texting.

I don't remember exactly, but I don't think Chuck stayed at our party much longer. All these years later I wish I could find that Nazareth girl( now in her 70's if living) and find out where the rest of the night led them.

Now, since “that coke” wasn't really a big well-known deal until the 70's I guess we could be forgiven for our cluelessness. Also, since I had just finished the third of my 4 summers working for Coca-Cola in Batavia, one could see why the kind that came in a bottle would be fixed in my brain. But still... it was embarrassing.

But, on the positive side, it was in reality a good thing we didn't have what Chuck wanted. And over the years I have told that story many times and never failed to get a laugh out of those who heard it.

Chuck passed away a couple of years ago at the age of 90, but he is still one of my favorites and I listen to his songs all the time. When I hear the lyrics to “Reelin' and a Rockin' that says, “Looked at my watch, it was 10:28, I gotta get my kicks before it gets too late”, that night in 1968 flashes in my mind.

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January 3, 2022 - 2:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Invictra, music, arts, entertainment, video.

The Le Roy-based heavy metal band Invictra has released a new single and video to go with it.

December 1, 2021 - 3:04pm
Event Date and Time: 
December 17, 2021 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

Join us Friday, December 17th during our 20th Annual Wonderland of Trees, sponsored in part by Tompkins Bank of Castile and WBTA, to be serenaded by groups of musicians from the Genesee Symphony Orchestra. On Friday, December 17th from 6:30-8:00 various members of the GSO will bring the holiday spirit to the Holland Land Office Museum. December 17th will feature a flute quartet. Tickets to the concerts are $5 or $4 for museum members. Tickets are limited to 20 people due to space. Masks are required. The concert originally scheduled for Friday, December 10th has been cancelled.

December 1, 2021 - 2:54pm
posted by Press Release in Batavia Downs, Rockin' the Downs, music, arts, entertainment, news.
Video Sponsor

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced the lineup for their fifth Rockin’ the Downs concert series, presented by Pepsi, which will take place outside on the racetrack, with ten Friday dates, starting in June and running into August.  

Kicking off the series on Friday, June 17th will be a double bill of rock with Tommy DeCarlo and Rudy Cardenas.   Tommy has been the lead singer of Boston since 2007 and performs all of Boston’s hits from the ’70s and 80’s including More Than a Feeling, Peace of Mind, Hitch A Ride, and more!  Opening the show will be Rudy Cardenas, a season 6 American Idol finalist and who will perform a full set of Journey’s classic hits.

Next up, on Friday, June 24th, Batavia Downs welcomes Canadian Rock Band Finger 11 Originating in Burlington, Ontario in 1990, the band has gone on to release 7 studio albums.   The Juno Award-winning rockers will be performing hits such as One Thing, Paralyzer, and others.

Friday, July 1st will see Get the Led Out perform at Batavia Downs. This group of professional musicians are passionate about their love of the music of Led Zeppelin, making it their mission to bring the studio recordings of the Mighty Zep to life on stage.  These musicians were fans first and strive to do justice to one of the greatest bands in rock history by touring all across the US and Canada.  Songs performed by the band will include Led Zeppelin hits like Black Dog, Immigrant Song, Stairway to Heaven and more!

Returning to Batavia Downs on Friday, July 8th is Theory.  Hailing from Delta, British Columbia, the band also known as Theory of a Deadman has turned their hard rock/alternative sound into nine top 10 hits on the US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, including four number one tracks in Bad Girlfriend, Lowlife, Rx (Medicate) and History of Violence.

Performing on Friday, July 15th is another double bill of great music, this time with Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone. Peter Noone is a multi-talented entertainer, who achieved international fame as Herman, lead singer of the legendary Sixties pop band Herman’s Hermits.  His classic hits include: I’m Into Something Good, Mrs. Brown, you’ve Got A Lovely Daughter, I’m Henry VIII, I Am. 

 Earlier that evening The Grass Roots will take the stage having originated in the Mid-60s and charted with such hits as; Midnight Confessions, Let’s Live for Today, Sooner or Later, and Temptation Eyes.  The current Band Line up of Mark Dawson, Dusty Hanvey, Larry Nelson, and Joe Dougherty rocked Batavia Downs last summer with an inspired performance. 

On Friday, July 22nd, Batavia Downs welcomes back Southern Rock legends Molly Hatchet.  Originating in Jacksonville in 1978, the band has gone on to release 14 studio albums.   They’ll be performing hits such as Flirtin’ with Disaster, Dreams I’ll Never See and Whiskey Man.  Opening for them will be American Southern Rock Band Blackfoot, who will be playing such hits as Train, Train, and Highway Song.

Rocking the stage on Friday, July 29th is the legendary band, 38 Special.  After forming in Jacksonville in 1974, they have currently achieved over $20 Million in sales.  Their signature blast of Southern Rock is unmistakable with such arena-rock pop smashes as Hold On Loosely, Rockin’ Into the Night, and Caught Up in You.

America’s top Pink Floyd Show, The Machine returns to the Batavia Downs stage on Friday, August 5th.   For over 30 years they have extended the legacy of Pink Floyd, while creating another legacy all their own. Over the years, The Machine has touched the hearts and souls of many with their stellar musicianship, dramatic lighting and video performances.  Last year’s performance at Batavia Downs was well received by one of the largest crowds of the summer.

Making his Batavia Downs debut on Friday, August 12th is Mike DelGuidice - Recording Artist/Singer/Songwriter who is currently on tour with Billy Joel.

Mike DelGuidice now lives a dream come true. In October of 2013, Billy Joel was so impressed with Mike's singing, Joel personally hired Mike to join his band. 

And now you can see Mike on tour with Billy Joel all over the US & world in major arenas and stadiums including every month at the iconic Madison Square Garden.  Mike and his band play all of Billy Joel’s big hits.  They will also perform a few astonishing renditions of other classic rock hits,  plus some of Mike’s own original work.

Closing out the series on Friday, August 19th  is the Dire Straits Experience.  With former Dire Straits member Chris White, this stellar collection of professional musicians has been paying homage to one of the greatest songbooks of all time with tours across the world.  They will be playing all Dire Straits’ major hits, in all their ambition, grandeur and aching beauty.  These songs are once again presented live for the fans that that have kept them alive.

“We are looking forward to hosting what we feel is the best Concert Series Line-up we’ve ever had,” said Henry Wojtaszek, President, and CEO for Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel. “We’re appreciative to the folks at Pepsi for being our headline sponsor this year and excited to welcome back charities like Make-A-Wish Western New York & Volunteers for Animals who raise funds for their organizations through the chair rental and guitar raffle.”

Tickets for all ten concerts will be available at www.BataviaConcerts.com only beginning on Thursday, December 2nd at 10am.

Tickets this year will be $15 for General Admission, $30 for VIP, $50 for Premium and debuting this year, limited tickets for $75 will guarantee a front row spot.  All tickets can be redeemed at Player’s Club at any time in the three days following the concert for $15 Free Play to be used on one of Batavia Downs Gaming’s 800+ gaming machines.

Season Tickets are also back and will also go on sale for General Admission, VIP, and Premium Sections.  A Season pass for General Admission will be $100 (a savings of $50) and purchasers will receive a $50 Free Play Voucher valid to be used within one month of purchase.  Season Passes for VIP tickets are $250 (a savings of $50) with the purchaser receiving $100 in Free Play Vouchers. A Premium Season Pass is $450 (a savings of $50) with the purchaser receiving a $150 in Free Play Vouchers.  Season passes may only be purchased online.

For the month of December until Christmas, tickets purchased online for the General Admission section will be only $10.  Concert goers will still receive $15 in Free Play on show day with this ticket.

Suite Packages for the Hotel at Batavia Downs are available for $500 and include 10 Lawn Tickets.  To book a suite package, contact Sara Tenney at 585-344-6155.

Concerts are held Rain or Shine.  Additional information may be found at www.BataviaDownsGaming.com.

November 5, 2021 - 3:54pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, GSO, batavia, GCC, music, arts, entertainment, notify.

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As the 75th anniversary of Genesee Symphony Orchestra quickly approaches, the planning of its concert this weekend has been anything but rushed.

In fact, Conductor Shade Zajac has been thinking about the event for the last few years.

“I’ve been so looking forward to this particular season for so long, not for any personal reason. I just want the orchestra to be celebrated, for people to know that this incredible thing exists,” Zajac said during an interview with the Batavian. “I am not the same guy I was when we started … and the orchestra is not the same. GSO will always be part of my history and part of my family.”

The 75th celebration concert titled Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Genesee Community College’s Stuart Steiner Theatre, 1 College Rd., Batavia. 

Years in the making ...
Zajac, whose first season was in 2016, has been mulling the 2021 musical season “for a lot of years now,” he said. He had discussed it with Co-President Roxie Choate and had several ideas amidst a pandemic that had canceled many public events. 

“It was touch and go whether or not we would actually be having a season,” he said. 

Once venues began opening up, Zajac and staff plunged ahead with mapping out an agenda of nostalgic and meaningful pieces. History has been the focus of the orchestra’s return to the stage, exactly 75 years to the date it first debuted as Batavia Civic Orchestra. 

A letter in Richmond Memorial Library’s archives demonstrates just how delicate GSO’s formation really was. Zajac stumbled upon it, he said, while scouring the vast relics for concert ideas. It was fairly early on after the orchestra’s 1947 founding, and it was an ominous musing about whether it was worth it to carry on.

“Do you want the Civic Orchestra to continue? If so, will you work for it?” the letter began. “It will be a sad loss to the community to end the orchestra. It seems better, though, to end it quickly than to drag on to a slow death.”

Written by then-President Virginia Trietly, the letter ended with a hopeful encouragement to “muster up enthusiasm — lasting enthusiasm” that would allow the group to survive longer than 11 years. It’s safe to say that community members rallied to carry on and endure the next several decades.

“And here we are 75 seasons later. Yeah, through this horrible pandemic where many orchestras haven't been able to do a thing, and we've been fortunate enough to continue to make music. That's a really incredible thing,” Zajac said. “And it's a testament to the musicians, of course, to all the people that have worked on the board of directors and also to this community that continues to support us through tough times, and through great times. Without all of these components … we wouldn't be having this conversation.” 

As for the music, a concert lineup is chock full of classical compositions, a guest performance, and a piece of freshly crafted work. Mikhail Glinka’s “Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla” is not unfamiliar to orchestras, as it has been performed “many, many, many times” by GSO and others, Zajac said.

“Because it's just a complete fireworks spectacular showcase for the orchestra,” he said. “It’s breakneck fast, and then it gets even faster at the end. It’s a statement to start a program with that piece.”

“Prelude to Act III, Dance of the Apprentices, Final Prelude and Intermezzo,” from Cavalleria, was featured in the very first orchestra performance. Zajac discovered the musical score in library archives labeled with the group's original name. Considered a “classical repertoire,” the prelude is “just gorgeous,” he said.

“I really wanted to do something different, something from the very early season … the librarian gave me the score. And the coolest thing is, stamped on the cover is the Batavia Civic Orchestra, which is, of course, the name before,” he said. “So that is a cool find. And that's a really great piece.”

Then and Now ...
Guest soloist Mia Fasanello will also become part of the orchestra’s history by performing a concerto 75 years after her own grandfather, Sebastian Fasanello, played one during the first concert. No stranger to the GSO, Fasanello won its Young Artist competition for her oboe performance and was a featured soloist with the group for “Concerto for Oboe and Strings” in 2017. Currently studying with the Juilliard School, Fasanello’s talent prickled the judges’ ears from the very first tuning note.

“Oboe is a really tricky instrument to play. And for such a young person to have such a mature sound, it was a no-brainer that she had to be the winner,” Zajac said.  “So it's really great for us to have her come and perform, and to work with us in this collaboration. And it just plays into the whole idea that this is a generational thing.”

From the past of a musician’s grandfather, the concert also includes the present with a “world premiere” of Nancy Pettersen Strelau’s original piece, “A Simple Beautiful Idea.” 

Zajac wanted someone connected to the orchestra to compose a piece for the celebration but wasn’t initially sure who that should be. He chose Strelau for her role as his teacher, mentor, and sounding board throughout his education at Nazareth College School of Music. She even nudged him into applying for the conductor position when it became vacant in 2015. 

“I owe so much to her, she’s an incredible human being; she’s always been there,” he said. “It’s a really beautiful piece … the idea of back when they first wanted this orchestra, how daunting it must have been. It’s a very special piece to me.”

A majestic and lively “Hungarian Rhapsodies no. 2” ends the lineup with a melody often heard during popular cartoons Tom and Jerry, and Bugs Bunny. Don’t be surprised if your mind conjures up a sneaky little rodent wreaking havoc during portions of the song, Zajac said. 

The program includes proclamations from state Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Genesee County Legislator Rochelle Stein; and a display that highlights “certain aspects of our history,”  said GSO librarian and second chair clarinet Joanne Tumminello. A GSO calendar will be available for purchase to support the orchestra and provide a cherished collection of photos across the decades, she said. 

A member since 1995, Tumminello has been in charge of gathering and preserving tidbits of time in the form of news articles, photos, videos and other materials. This year has brought with it a sense of celebration to the wide assortment of members young and old and from all walks of life, she said.

“It’s definitely brought excitement to the orchestra,” Tumminello said. “It has brought us together.”

Shirts with the new GSO logo — selected from entries of a prior logo contest — have been made for members to wear during rehearsal, she said, noting that the 75th will be removed for next season and beyond. That’s a sign that “we can endure anything,” she said.

“The community has a love of history and enjoys supporting us, and that tells us to keep going,” she said. 

Zajac emphasized that although he may be the “face” of the orchestra, it takes the whole body of musicians, board of directors and community support to make a concert, and this celebration, happen. One musician in particular has become part of the 27-year-old conductor’s future: his wife Nicole. Before they were married, she filled in as a pinch-hitter for a vacant French horn seat. The late Bob Knipe, heavily active in the GSO and local music scene, had also “invited her to come and play” in the group. She eventually became a permanent member of GSO.

“I was in the thick of my first season with GSO and knew I needed a sub for Horn. And she turned me down, and we kind of kept talking,” he Zajac said. “And then as that particular concert approached, we needed an extra horn player last minute. So she stepped up, played, and then they kept inviting her back.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Tickets are $15 adults, $10 seniors and free to students with a student identification card, and may be purchased at Holland Land Office Museum, YNGodess or online at www.geneseesymphony.com.

Photos: File photos from previous seasons' rehearsals.  All photos by Howard Owens. Top photo, S. Shade Zajac in 2019.  Videos below from 2019.

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November 1, 2021 - 12:40pm
posted by Press Release in kent ewell, O'Lacy's, music, arts, entertainment, news.

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Press release:

Kent R. Ewell, Proprietor of O’Lacy’s Irish Pub has fulfilled one of the items on his “bucket list” by recording a CD titled Another Round for my Friends. This is a compilation of 15 original songs all written by Kent himself. On Monday, November 15th there will be a CD/Listening Party at O’Lacy Irish Pub, 5 School Street, Batavia, NY from 6pm-9pm. This is open to the public.

Being a local business owner in downtown Batavia for almost 25 years, giving back to the community has always been incredibly important to Kent. The CD will be sold for $15 each with 50% of each sale ($7.50) being donated to Crossroads House, a local comfort care house here in Batavia.

The CD was engineered by Kirk McWhoter of McWhoter Records, Attica NY. The CD will also be available online with 50% of each sale being donated to Gateway House, a local comfort care house in Attica, NY.

October 10, 2021 - 11:04am
posted by Joanne Beck in Batavia Downs, music, arts, entertainment, news.

Western New York Singer Marsha McWilson was 6 years old when she learned the ropes of performing. Her brother Roger was choirmaster at a large church, and he was a stickler for accuracy.

 “I had to hit every note and look presentable … he groomed me,” McWilson said during a phone interview from her home in Niagara Falls. “It hit me when I picked up the mic, and everyone started clapping.”

That prep in St. John’s AME Church paved a musical path for her to follow, she said. She attributes the 100-voice choir, led by Kathy Jordan Sharpton (former wife of Al Sharpton), and pianist Bruce Parker, and related teachings for her gradual rise in the music industry. 

McWilson plans to dazzle spectators during her first appearance at Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel. The show goes on at 7 p.m., Oct. 14 at 8315 Park Road.

Expect glitz, glamour, a combination of jazzy blues, country, and Motown, plus assorted diva costumes. A full band, backup singers, and everything from Etta James and Tina Turner to Patsy Cline and Aretha Franklin will be featured.

“I’m bringing Vegas to Batavia,” she said. “Tell ‘em just get ready.”

The licensed beauty salon owner knows many facets of the industry, so the audience will get the full package of presentation, she said. Is there a connection between her beauty business and entertaining? Well of course there is, she said.

“That’s the biggest part of everything; I have the foundation already,” she said, adding a bit of snap to her voice. “I am the total package. I sing, write, produce, do hair, make-up and pick the clothes.”

The concert will be dedicated to her sister Vanessa, who succumbed to COVID, and to her high school music teacher and longtime friend, Marva Frails, for whom McWilson just sang during her funeral this past Thursday. Frails taught her young student the ABCs in music, which are the words Every Boy Does Fine and FACE to cover the musical notes on a staff. Frails also instilled the importance of being on time and not complaining, which McWilson intends to honor.

“She taught me so many things,” McWilson said. “I’m going to stop complaining.”

After losing many friends and family members to COVID, the energetic vocalist penned a song, “Rona Mae Blues,” which can be heard on her website. Accompanied by son Cameron Connor, she genuinely sings the blues with lines such as “If only I knew it was going to be the last time I saw you” and “You tore our lives apart.” Of all the uncertainties of the pandemic, she knows one thing for sure: “You won’t believe about coronavirus until your family dies,” she said. “My sister died Christmas Day. She didn’t think she had the virus.”

It’s hard to imagine McWilson being down, given her vibrant personality, but she has definitely walked through the blues, she said. Losing six family members in a short period of time, struggling with obesity, and knocking on doors that just wouldn’t open for her could have beat her down for good. But she got back up with a mission to benefit others, she said. She advocates getting the Covid vaccine and has an undying trust that she can do all things “through Christ who strengthens me.” As for those venues that wouldn’t book her, she believes, for being a black entertainer, she knows that better objectives are in her future. 

“It’s not about the money; the message I have is to uplift them,” she said. 

McWilson recalled seeing her brother Larry on the living room floor after he had died from a heart attack. Her brother Maurice tried to nudge her into reality.

“He said that if I didn’t change my life, it could be me,” she said, noting that other siblings had died of heart attacks. “I prayed, and I walked. I called it the mind, body, and soul program. I began to get up every day and walk around Hyde Park and I prayed that God would help me.”

She prayed for help to lose weight, gain inspiration to write and sing songs and forge a path toward a successful musical career. Two hundred pounds lighter, she hit a local pinnacle as the first black female inductee for the 2020 Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame and has performed in jazz and blues festivals, at Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, fundraisers and for a yearly 10-day Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage cruise.

Had she not lost weight, McWilson knows she would have missed out on so much, including flying because she couldn’t squeeze into an airplane seat and giving birth to long-awaited “miracle” children. As one of a dozen siblings, she had a tight-knit family, though McWilson has been determined to do the work all by herself, she said. She was told that her gospel couldn’t be played on the radio and that she would never be able to fly in an aircraft. She found a way. 

“I’m morphing through the pain … pain is what gets us through life,” she said. “My mother inspired me to go after what I want. She had 12 kids and none of them got in trouble. She’s my role model.”

Her favorite genre is Gospel, though she admits “the blues is getting me to the green.” She has appeared in three movies and sees herself doing more television work. Actually, her visual is much more specific than that.

“I see myself winning Grammys and Emmys … being so wealthy that I’ll be a blessing to help someone else,” she said.  

For more about McWilson, check out her website at www.marshamcwilson.com. Concert tickets are $10 and may be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/marsha-mcwilson-tribute-performance-at-bata... 

Photos submitted by Marsha McWilson.

October 7, 2021 - 10:01am
posted by Press Release in music.
Event Date and Time: 
October 14, 2021 - 7:00pm to 10:00pm

Marsha McWilson, the first black female inducted into the Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame, will be singing at the Casino in Batavia on October 14th at 7 pm. $10 tickets are available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/marsha-mcwilson-tribute-performance-at-batavia-downs-gaming-hotel-tickets-170476676328 She'll be singing some of her originals, as well as hits from Aretha, Tina, Gladys, and other notable divas. 

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