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October 16, 2019
Easton has a Secret
We’ve got the scoop on one of the Lehigh Valley’s great cultural attractions: The Williams Center for the Arts is a jewel of a performing and visual arts center perched atop Easton’s College Hill, at the entrance of Lafayette College, where it stands as a welcoming sentinel for the region’s adventurous arts lovers. The Williams Center’s art gallery is known for its lively series of thought provoking exhibitions and related programming exploring a wide range of ideas, cultures, and time periods.
The theater is acoustically sublime and its intimate size means every seat is the best seat for enjoying performances by world-renowned classical and jazz musicians, cutting edge dance companies, acclaimed theater artists, and performers from every corner of the globe. “The same artists you’ll find at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, right here in your backyard,” says Hollis Ashby, executive director of the performance series. Longtime fans consider this venue the Valley’s best kept secret; the 19/20 season is the perfect time to discover the Williams Center for yourself.
Pulitzer Prize-winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the formidable Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra bring their exceptional talent to the 19/20 Williams Center jazz series on Nov. 3, but first the season opens on Sept. 13 with the exhilarating young vocalist Jazzmeia Horn, winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk Competition. The reigning monarch of the Hammond B-3 organ, Joey DeFrancesco, comes to town Mar. 7, followed on Mar. 28 by the Grammy Award-winning Pablo Ziegler Jazz Tango Trio.
The Sphinx Virtuosi, 18 of the nation’s top Black and Latinx classical soloists, make their Williams Center debut Oct. 18, and the venerable Orpheus Chamber Orchestra returns with Ukranian-born Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman as soloist on Feb. 1. On Feb. 26, the legendary Takács Quartet celebrates the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with work from each of the composer’s periods; and on Mar. 26, the Switzerland-based early music ensemble La Morra makes its only U.S. visit with music of the Italian High Renaissance.
The 19/20 season brings Ballet Hispánico with an all-Latina choreographers program on Oct. 25; the uncommonly beautiful sound of Zimbabwe’s a cappella quintet Nobuntu on Nov. 19; and the not-so-serious stylings of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, with their witty transmogrifications of classical, rock, pop, and film themes on Apr. 2. It all starts with a special treat on Sept. 19: Japan’s Reigakusha ensemble, purveyor of the ancient Imperial Court music gagaku, makes a rare U.S. appearance—and makes Easton its only stateside stop outside New York.
Dance and Theater
Wendy Whelan, “America’s greatest contemporary ballerina” (The New York Times), and cellist Maya Beiser perform an original work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang and dance legend Lucinda Childs on Nov. 6; and Philly’s groundbreaking Koresh Dance Company arrives Feb. 12. From the ridiculous to the sublime, theater offers a riotous night of Elizabethan tomfoolery with The Improvised Shakespeare Company on Sept. 25 and the mesmerizing, lo-fi stage alchemy of Manual Cinema in No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks on Feb. 22.
Don’t Miss the Art Gallery
This fall the Williams Center Gallery presents 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi and a full slate of related programming from film screenings to artmaking workshops. Jim Sanborn’s Looted? (spring 2020) includes exquisite 21st century high-end reproductions of Khmer artifacts. Indistinguishable from the centuries-old originals, Sanborn asks whether “contemporary antiquities” can fulfill the desire of collectors and thereby stop looting of heritage sites. All exhibitions and activities are free and open to the public.