Wide range of styles featured at A.C. music fest

Choral Arts of Southern New Jersey, which includes executive director Brad Zabelski, performs as part of the Third Annual Atlantic City Music Festival.

People attending the Third Annual Atlantic City Music Festival don't have to worry that they will hear the same kinds of music featured inside casinos.

The three-day festival in Dante Hall Theater spotlights choral music, swing, bebop as well as a classical composition that children can appreciate.

"We wanted to participate in the expansion of the arts in Atlantic City, so we partnered with Richard Stockton College to bring in a wide variety of types of music to the city. Every year, we bring in things that are exciting, different - things that haven't been seen before," said Paul Herron, the Bay-Atlantic Symphony's executive director for the past seven years.

Choral Arts of Southern New Jersey will sing a program of contemporary choral composers accompanied by the Bay-Atlantic Symphony String Quartet 8 p.m. Thursday. The group was formed in 2011 by the choir executive director Brad Zabelski and its artistic director Jack Hill.

"It's all very recent stuff. It's not like 300-year-old music. It has been written in the 20th century and the 21st century," said Zabelski.

They will sing the songs of internationally recognized choral music composers such as Eric Whitacre and Ola Gjeilo.

"The first half of the program is essentially choral pieces with piano or a capella, and then, in the second half, we bring out the string quartet. The highlight of the program is the Ola Gjeilo piece, which is the second to last piece, and that's string quartet, plus piano, plus choir with a soloist as well. That's the heaviest piece," said Zabelski, a Mays Landing resident.

George Rabbai subs for the principal trumpet with the Bay-Atlantic Symphony when necessary, but his "Night of Swing 'n BeBop" at 8 p.m. Friday gives people a chance to hear how he really plays the trumpet when given the freedom to express himself.

"It's a wonderful chance for me to shine in the jazz idiom... With the orchestra, they don't even know me as a jazz musician," Rabbai said. "I have a lot more experience playing jazz in small groups. I was with the Woody Herman orchestra for years. I toured with Woody Herman. I played with Rosemary Clooney as a sideman. I've played a lot of jazz through the years."

Rabbai and his all-star quintet will be performing the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Horace Silver as well as great standard tunes by Broadway's classic songwriters and compositions made famous by jazz trumpeters Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown, Clark Terry and Miles Davis. Rabbai, who conducts the jazz band and teaches jazz trumpet as an adjunct instructor at Rowan University, will play with alto saxophonist Dick Oatts, pianist Tom Lawton, bassist Matt Parrish and drummer Dan Monaghan.

Acclaimed Dominican actor/director Carlos Espinal will be interpreting "Peter and the Wolf" in English and Spanish in this country when he provides the narration while the Bay-Atlantic Chamber Orchestra plays Sergei Prokofiev's musical symphony for children at 3 p.m. Saturday.

"I think it's an excellent idea to take children to classical music, and also to do it during Hispanic Heritage Month, bringing new possibilities to the community with art and culture. In fact, musical is the universal language that unites all cultures," Espinal said. "The kids love it. They have fun. They get interested in music and follow the story. The most important thing is that children come to know the instruments of a symphony orchestra and become familiar with the sounds."

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If You Go

The Third Annual Atlantic City Music Festival, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday at Dante Hall Theater, 14 N. Mississippi Ave., Atlantic City. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 children 14 and younger. Seating on a first-come, first-served basis with the hall opening one hour prior to performance time. Call 609-347-2162 or visit stockton.edu/dante

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