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Broadway Star to Open Friends of Good Music Concert Season

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Award-winning bass-baritone Michel Bell and pianist Catherine Matejka will open the 2018-19 Friends of Good Music concert season at St. Bonaventure University’s Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28.

Bell has assembled a special program aptly titled “America in Song.” He will be singing highlights from “Porgy and Bess,” “Show Boat,” and “Civil War” as well as popular American songs and spirituals.

In addition, Bell will offer a fascinating glimpse into his multi-faceted career during an artist’s talk the day before the concert. The talk, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, at the Quick Center.

Bell reached wide popularity when he ended the last century on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, singing to more than 600,000 people, including the president and the first lady, at “America’s Millennium,” the New Year’s Eve 2000 celebration. The concert was seen on live television by millions of viewers around the world.

A native of Fresno, Calif., Bell is especially known for his portrayal of Porgy in Gershwin’s

“Porgy and Bess,” which he performed in the United States, Austria, Germany, France, Norway, Japan, Egypt, Eritrea, and in the ruins of Pompeii, Italy.

On the Broadway stage, Bell received a Tony nomination for the role of Joe in Harold Prince’s milestone production of “Show Boat.” He has received the Jefferson Award (Chicago), and the Ovation Award (Los Angeles). The Philadelphia Inquirer said Bell’s singing “rumbles through the theater like an earthquake,” while USA Today dubbed him “a major vocal discovery.”

Bell toured with “Show Boat” throughout the United States and made his debut in London’s West End with the show at Prince Edward Theatre. Back on Broadway, he starred in the Frank Wildhorn musical “Civil War” at the St. James Theatre, for which he won the Outer Critics Circle Award. Most recently, he appeared on Broadway as the vocal soloist in “Riverdance: The Musical” at the Gershwin Theatre, and was part of the “Riverdance World Tour,” performing in the Far East, Europe and North America, including a stop at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo.

Bell has appeared on the telecast of the Kennedy Center Awards ceremonies and in the PBS telecast of “Some Enchanted Evening: Celebrating Oscar Hammerstein II.” He can also be heard on the original cast recordings of “Show Boat” and “Civil War,” as well as on his solo CD “What a Beautiful Day,” a collaboration with pianist Catherine Matejka.

Matejka has performed internationally as a piano soloist, accompanist, and conductor. She served as pianist and conductor on productions of “Porgy and Bess” throughout the United States, Japan, Germany, Norway, Egypt and Eritrea. She was also music director and conductor for the national tour of the Harold Prince production of “Show Boat,” and conducted the Toronto, Chicago, and Broadway companies.

She conducted the world premiere of Fabio Luisi’s “St. Bonaventure Mass” on the St. Bonaventure campus in 2017, as well as its New York City premiere at The Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum. Michel Bell performed as the recitant in those performances.

“The charismatic Michel Bell, together with pianist Catherine Matejka, will get the 2018-19 performance series off to a rousing start,” said Ludwig Brunner, executive director of the Quick Center. “This is a unique chance to hear this Broadway veteran without paying Broadway ticket prices.”

Subscription tickets for the entire season are still available. A basic subscription, which includes one ticket to each of six concerts, is $102 at full price, $84 for senior citizens and St. Bonaventure employees. Extended subscriptions are also available: seven concerts for $112 at full price, $92 for senior citizens and SBU employees; and eight concerts for $122 at full price, $100 for senior citizens and SBU employees.

Single ticket prices are $20 at full price, $16 for senior citizens and SBU employees, $5 for students.

For subscriptions, single tickets and information, call The Quick Center at (716) 375-2494.

For each Friends of Good Music performance, The Quick Center will open its galleries one hour before the performance and keep them open throughout the intermission. Regular gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Museum admission is free and open to the public year round. For more information, including a schedule of the entire Friends of Good Music 2018-2019 season, visit www.sbu.edu/quickcenter.

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