(UNION, NJ) -- Kean University in Union, NJ is hosting three exceptional music programs during the month of February. Rapidly gaining a reputation as a cultural hub in the metropolitan area, the university boasts state of the art recital halls, three theatre venues and five art galleries. A string quartet, an a Capella troupe from South Africa and internationally acclaimed musicians highlight the month's offerings.
On February 20 at 3:00 pm, the O'Connor Quartet, lead by Grammy winning violinist Mark O'Connor performs their classical crossover concert of bluegrass selections. Joined by Kelly Hall-Tompkins on violin, Gillian Gallagher on viola and Patrice Jackson on cello, the group provides a spectacular journey through recent American music.
A product of America's rich aural folk tradition as well as classical music, Mark O'Connor's creative journey began with a pair of musical giants: innovating folk fiddler Benny Thomasson, and French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. Between these marvelous musical extremes, O'Connor absorbed knowledge and influence from the multitude of musical styles and genres he studied. His first recording for the Sony Classical record label, 'Appalachia Waltz', was a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer.
As one of New York City's most in-demand violinists, Kelly Hall-Tompkins's dynamic career spans solo, chamber, and orchestral performance as a member of the Florida-based Ritz Chamber Players. She has performed extensively with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and New York Philharmonic and is a member of the NJ Symphony.
Gillian Gallagher is already making a considerable name for herself as a chamber musician, having collaborated with eminent violinists, pianists, flutists and the Tokyo String Quartet. The gifted young cellist Patrice Jackson was awarded first place in the Senior Laureate Division of the nationally renowned Sphinx Competition, and has performed with the Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Omaha, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Grand Rapids, Nashville, Hartford, Chautauqua, Colorado and Mississippi Symphonies, as well as with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The concert will be performed in the Gene and Shelley Enlow Recital Hall, Kean University's masterful performance facility specifically designed for acoustic music. Home to the only Fazioli 10 foot grand piano in the region, this stunning performance space is alluring and dramatic for performers and audiences alike.
Next in Enlow Hall on February 27 at 3:00 pm is the renowned Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Having won multiple Grammy awards, with the power of gospel and the precision of Broadway, the members of the ensemble are the undisputed kings of mbube, South African a Cappella singing. The group first rose to fame through their landmark collaboration with Paul Simon on his Graceland album, and has performed with artists as diverse as Dolly Parton, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.
Assembled in the early 1960s in Durban, South Africa by Joseph Shabalala (who continues to lead the group), their mission is clear: "To bring this gospel of loving one another all over the world," said Shabalala. However, he's quick to point out that the message is not specific to any one religious orientation. "Without hearing the lyrics, this music gets into the blood, because it comes from the blood," he continued. "It evokes enthusiasm and excitement, regardless of what you follow spiritually."
In addition to their work with Paul Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has recorded with numerous artists from around the world. Their film work includes an appearance in Michael Jackson's Moonwalker video and Spike Lee's Do It A Cappella. They provided soundtrack material for Disney's The Lion King, Part II as well as Eddie Murphy's Coming To America, Clint Eastwood's Invictus, Marlon Brando's A Dry White Season, Sean Connery's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and James Earl Jones' Cry The Beloved Country. Their performance with Simon on Sesame Street is legendary and is one of the top three requested Sesame Street segments in history.
Tickets for both the O'Connor Quartet recital and Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert are $40.
The strength and hope inspired by spirituals -- the music of mourning, comfort, and the celebration of the African Diaspora -- is presented as a tribute to Black History Month on February 27 at 3:00 pm in the university's intimate concert venue, Kean Hall. Spirituals features Richard Hobson (baritone), Robbin Gordon-Cartier (harp) and Allison Brewster Franzetti (piano) in a stirring and beautiful performance.
Richard Hobson is acclaimed for the strong dramatic persona he brings to his performances, appearing throughout the USA with companies including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, The Dallas Opera, Baltimore Opera, Mississippi Opera, Shreveport Opera, and Michigan Opera Theater. In his Italian operatic debut, he was heard as Amonasro at the Teatro Strehler (Milano, Italy) in the new Franco Zeffirelli production of Aida.
Robbin Gordon-Cartier graduated from Montclair State University Magna Cum Laude with her summers spent in Dublin, Ireland, studying at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She performs with the New Philharmonic Orchestra of New Jersey, is the President of the North Jersey Chapter of the American Harp Society. A multiple Grammy nominee, Allison Brewster Franzetti has received international acclaim from critics and audiences alike for her stunning virtuosity and musicality, both as a soloist and chamber musician.
Admission to Spirituals is $15. Tickets for all events can be purchased by calling the Kean Stage box office at 908.737.7469 or on-line at www.keanstage.com. Kean University is located at 1000 Morris Avenue in Union, with Enlow Hall immediately across the street on the east campus at 215 North Avenue, Hillside. For further information, visit the university website at www.kean.edu.