Catasauqua Press

Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Patricia Risley Patricia Risley
Eric Gombert Eric Gombert

Soloists, Allentown Band, in multicultural ‘Arts at St. John’s’ concert

Friday, September 27, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

A multicultural program featuring outstanding soloists will mark the Allentown Band’s concert, 3 p.m. Sept. 29, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 37 S. Fifth St, Allentown as part of the “Arts at St. John’s” series.

A Curtis Institute trained trumpet player, an Allentown mezzo-soprano who has performed internationally and St. John’s cantor highlight the program that includes selections from eight different countries, says Ronald Demkee, conductor of the Allentown Band.

“It’s going to be a very nice program with a lot of varied styles,” says Demkee. Countries represented in the program include Czech Republic, Russia, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Isle of Man.

Demkee says the concert will feature the St. John’s organ played by St. John’s cantor Eric Gombert.

“We like to take advantage of any place that has a great instrument,” Demkee says of the church’s Skinner organ which has four manuals and 87 ranks. “We find the organ works well with the band. It’s really another wind instrument.”

The band and the organ will play Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.” The audience can really appreciate the contrasting sounds of the organ and band, says Demkee.

The organ also is heard for Haydn Wood’s “Mannin Veen (Dear Isle of Man- A Manx Tone Poem).” Demkee says four Gaelic songs from the Isle of Man highlight the organ’s “big, powerful sound.”

Demkee is excited to have James Vaughen, a student at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, join the band for Hayden’s “Trumpet Concerto.”

“Any time you can get a Curtis student, you know you’re getting a quality musician,” Demkee says.

The young musician has a connection with the Allentown Band.

A 2017 graduate of the University Laboratory High School, Champaign, Ill., Vaughen studied with Ronald Romm, who performed with the Allentown Band in last year’s “Side-by-Side Concert” at Miller Symphony Hall.

Vaughen has performed as co-principal trumpet of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Youth Symphony Encore Chamber Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra. In 2015, he was featured on the “From the Top” radio program, broadcast nationally on NPR stations. In 2017, he was chosen as a National Young Arts Winner in Classical Music.

“I’m anxious to hear him,” Demkee says,

Demkee also praises mezzo-soprano Patricia Risley, whom he calls a “world-class singer.”

Demkee says Risley will demonstrate her versatility by singing contrasting styles of pieces.

First, she will sing two operatic pieces, “Vilyia” from “The Merry Widow” by Franz Lehar and “O mio babbino caro” from “Gianni Schicchi” by Giacomo Puccini.

In the second half of the program, Risley will perform a medley of Barbra Streisand favorites, including “People,” “Memories,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and “There’s a Place for Us.”

Risley, of Allentown, has sung at some of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, including Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Teatro Real (Madrid), Bayerische Staatsoper (Munich), Opera de Monte-Carlo, Innsbruck Opera, The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera, Dallas Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Colorado, Glimmerglass Opera and Utah Opera.

Locally, she has sung with The Allentown Symphony, The Allentown Band, Satori and The Camerata Singers.

Demkee says the 40-member band will be showcased when it plays “Russlan & Ludmilla Overture” by Mikhail Glinka.

“This piece is a real tour de force,” Demkee says. “It shows the technical proficiency of the band.”

He also is excited to have the band return to St. John’s for its “Arts at St. John’s” series. The band has been performing in the long-running music series for the last four years.

“This a great space,” he says of the church. “We really like playing there. It has beautiful architecture and the acoustics are fantastic. It’s a wonderful concert venue.”

There is no admission charge to “Arts at St. John’s” concerts. Free-will donations are accepted. Information: