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Wanna Sing a Show Tune?

Maestro Paul Ferington will lead the BPO in a program of theater music on April 13 to benefi t the Give for Greatness.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and MusicalFare perform for Give for Greatness on Wednesday, April 13

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will perform a program of theater music at Kleinhans Music Hall, conducted by Maestro Paul Ferington, to benefit the Give for Greatness on Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 7pm. The suggested admission price? Five bucks!

Add that to your list of great things about Buffalo!

This concert has, in effect, been donated by the BPO, which found a week available for rehearsal in its schedule, and worked with Randall Kramer of MusicalFare Theatre to devise the program. which includes:

• Leonard Bernstein’s overture to West Side Story, adapted for symphonic orchestra by Maurice Peress, Bernstein’s assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic during the early 1960s.

• Selections from Fiddler on the Roof by composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, arranged for symphonic orchestra by Felton Rapley, performed by the BPO and local vocalists Jennifer Stafford, Ellen Horst, Paschal Frisina, and Tom Owen.

• The overture to Otto Nicolai’s 1849 opera, The Merry Wives of Windsor, based on Shakespeare’s play.

• W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” sung by Loraine O’Donnell with Randall Kramer at the piano.

• Selections from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s 1945 score for Carousel.

• “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, by Buffalo’s Harold Arlen.

• Selections by some of Buffalo’s foremost proponents of cabaret performance, pianist Chuck Basil and vocalists Kerrykate Abel and Katy Miner.

• Symphonic impressions from Meredith Willson’s 1957 score for The Music Man, an encore from the concert performance by the BPO last season.

• The overture to the 1975 musical A Chorus Line, composed by one-time BPO Pops Conductor Marvin Hamlisch. A Chorus Line was conceived, directed, and choreographed by Buffalo’s own Michael Bennett.

This is a celebration of the BPO and the arts in our community—and patrons are certainly welcome to donate more than the suggested $5 price if the spirit captures their enthusiasm! The Give for Greatness is an effort by Artvoice, M&T Bank, and WKBW Channel 7, along with numerous partners, to raise enough money to replace funding that was cut from the county budget for local cultural organizations. The campaign kicked off on Tuesday, March 8, with the Artvoice Mardi Gras celebration, and will continue until a May 5 Cinco de Mayo Party for the Arts closing event.

Give for Greatness is following a national trend of funding the arts through innovative means. While it is easy to demonstrate that the arts provide enormous public benefits, both socially and economically, in difficult financial times, when voters are even willing to cut schools and law enforcement, communities are faced with difficult decisions. The Give for Greatness is, in part, an effort to protect the arts—and, by implication, the local economy—from the fluctuations of politics.

Certainly, the arts play an important role in every community, but in Buffalo and Erie County, we take particular pride and enjoy substantial benefits from the broad and diverse range of cultural offerings available here.

Dan Hart, executive director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, explains that the BPO was delighted to step up to support the wide array of arts in our community.

“I knew Randy Kramer and had worked with him on projects before,” Hart says. “Give for Greatness seemed compatible with the goals of the BPO and our vision for greater Buffalo. We’re happy to help and we want to see small and mid-size cultural organizations in our community thrive. When there is more diversity and greater breadth, we are all better off.”

Hart explains that helping the smaller cultural organizations could even be seen as a matter of self-interest for the BPO.

“The BPO is 75 years old,” he notes, “and we need to think about how younger people in the region can become interested in symphonic music. They need to have a variety of opportunities to engage in music and the arts, whether it’s in our own programs, or in the schools, or the Community Music School, or in youth choir. This is reflected in our programming. Our schedule is not just classical music. We run the gamut, from classical to Broadway to Pops.”

Indeed, this Saturday the BPO will feature Buffalo’s own Michele Ragusa as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. A few days after the Give for Greatness concert, audiences can hear Copland & Barber, the next installment in the BPO/M&T Classics Series, featuring associate conductor Matthew Kraemer and a program of 20th-century music of the Western Hemisphere, with Jennifer Koh as the featured soloist in Samuel Barber’s 1939 Violin Concerto.

The BPO mission states the idea explicitly: “The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society, Inc. will provide a resident, professional, major symphony orchestra of artistic excellence and integrity to enrich the quality of life in Western New York through the presentation of live symphonic music and other musical events which will educate and entertain the broadest possible audiences within and beyond the Western New York region. The Society will develop and allocate its resources to ensure a stable, financially sound organization.”

The Give for Greatness advances that cause.

“We work together with the community at the BPO,” Hart says. “We always have.”

With 160 performers on the payroll, Hart notes that members of the orchestra not only work in the community but live here, pay taxes here, shop here, and raise their families here.

“There’s one block off Elmwood Avenue,” he notes, “where eight BPO families live. That contributes to the quality of life here. I can see the impact. When the BPO performs, every restaurant is filled, cars are parked all over the neighborhood, and the same is true of Theatre of Youth, or Shakespeare in the Park, or any of the many arts organizations here. There isn’t another business here that won’t say we all help each other. There is a spirit of cooperation and optimism here.”

Hart, who was born in Nebraska, raised in Peoria, Illinois, and has lived all over the United States, knows of what he speaks. A dedicated photographer who attended college on an arts scholarship, Hart is married to an artist, his wife, Barbara, who makes jewelry. The couple are known to frequent galleries large and small and to enjoy the full range of arts activities in the region. They have also raised a family here.

“Western New York is like nowhere else,” he says. “We love it here. And the Give for Greatness is a wonderful grassroots effort to enlarge the pie for everyone. I hope we can get the campaign started this year and keep it going—make it grow!”

Our arts scene, combined with our region’s other assets—including an impressive legacy of important American architecture, the richness of our local history, Lake Erie, and the spectacular vista of our doorway into Canada—holds the potential for greater development of tourism here, a reality that has not been fully exploited since Niagara Falls became the nation’s first major tourist destination in the 1820s. In those days, community investment began with a stairway built down the bank at Table Rock and the first ferry service across the lower Niagara River. This legacy continued when the Erie Canal terminus made Buffalo a Mecca for live entertainment, the birthplace of minstrel shows and a hub for quality vaudeville. Since World War II, the status of Buffalo has eroded in almost every possible way, but some of the institutions that our forebears established here, including a passion for live performance, endure and help maintain a good quality of life for the residents of Erie County.

On April 13, for just $5, music lovers can take in the magnificent 75-year-old Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, along with a variety of musical guests, and the grandeur of Kleinhans Music Hall, a national historic landmark and one of the greatest concert halls in the United States. Designed by Eliel Saarinen with his son, Eero Saarinen, in the late 1930s, funding for the beloved music hall was provided by the estate of Edward L. and Mary Seaton Kleinhans, owners of a local men’s clothing store that was familiar to generations of Buffalonians.

The vision of Edward L. and Mary Seaton Kleinhans continues to benefit this region today and underscores the benefits of investing in the arts.

In her role as co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, Louise M. Slaughter, member of the United States House of Representative from Western New York’s 28th Congressional District, observes, “Across America, cities that once struggled economically are re-inventing and rebuilding themselves by investing in art and culture—a proven catalyst for growth and economic prosperity. By creating cultural hubs, nonprofit arts businesses help cities define themselves, draw tourists, and attract investment. Federal support for America’s nonprofit cultural organizations must go on if we hope to continue enjoying the substantial benefits they bring.”

According to “Our Arts & Economic Prosperity,” a study published this year by Americans for the Arts, the funding for the nonprofit arts that Slaughter describes comes from a veritable mosaic of funding sources—a delicate balance of earned income, government support, and private contributions. Government funding from local, state, and federal tax revenues actually makes up the smallest share, but is nonetheless critical.

This is the spirit in which Delaware District Councilman Mike Locurto recently proposed reinstituting financial support for the arts by the City of Buffalo.

“I thought it was important that the city support the arts,” says Locurto, amplifying remarks he made earlier this week to the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance. “The arts matter as a quality of life issue in the city and as an economic engine. The Visitors and Convention Bureau launched the ‘This Place Matters’ video, which you can see on Youtube, and a large part of why this place matters is our terrific arts scene.”

Similarly, this week North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., arguing that a thriving arts scene contributes tremendously to the health of the community, proposed that city tax bills include an option for taxpayers to make a voluntary donation to the arts.

The Americans for the Arts study supports the assertion that the arts are an economic engine, describing the nonprofit arts and culture as “a growth industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism.” In discussing why New York City enjoyed its best year of tourism in its history last year, despite the recession, and became the nation’s number one tourist destination, Mayor Bloomberg insisted, “We invested in the arts! In surveys, nearly half of visitors say arts and culture are what bring them to New York.”

The Give for Greatness is using several methods to raise funding. In addition to events like the April 13 BPO concert, people can give directly online, by phone, or by mail. The 11 foundations that comprise the Fund for the Arts have already committed $430,000 towards our goal at the start of the campaign.

Donations are tax deductible. When giving online, donors receive an email statement for their records. When giving by phone, donors can also provide an email address to receive a statement. Gifts of $250 or more will be acknowledged with hard copy statements for tax purposes.

For further information about the April 13 concert, visit

For more information or to contribute to the Give for Greatness, visit

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