John Berry

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THURSDAY, MAY 1, 2014 – 7:00 PM
Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center

Using his tenor voice as a spiritual tool, John Berry is a moving, inspiring performer that has the power to touch the hearts of both his loyal fans and newest concert-goers.

John recorded and marketed six albums on his own Clear Sky Records label. His regional popularity and those early discs eventually attracted him attention on Music Row. Capitol Records signed him in 1992 and it was then that he had a string of hits including “I Think About It All The Time,” “Change My Mind,” “Kiss Me In The Car,” “What’s In It For Me,” and the #1 Grammy-nominated single “Your Love Amazes Me.” In 1995 he received the Horizon Award and a nomination for Top Male Vocalist by CMA. His performance of the title track CD, O Holy Night, led to his most enduring legacy.

John Berry wants you to listen to him in a whole new way.

Mention his name to just about any country music lover and the response will likely be, “What an awesome vocalist!” For he is noted for the intense passion he has brought to such hits as “Your Love Amazes Me” and “Standing on the Edge of Goodbye.” John Berry’s wide-ranging tenor voice remains an instrument of stupendous power. But it’s not what he wants you to notice on his new Those Were the Days CD.

“This is not about how long can a note be held,” says Berry. “This is not about, ‘Let me show you what I can do.’ This is about the songs. This is about what these songs have got to say. This is about me communicating these messages. Having a conversation, and Let me tell you a story”.

“I was very conscious of that when I recorded this album. I grew up with a real gospel background, a lot of church music. In that kind of music, you sing the notes as long as you can sing them, before you go on to the next one.

The collection’s first single, “A Woman Like You” is already attracting attention with its clever lyric, chopping rhythms and rocking mood. On a song like the sexy, up-tempo “Somethin’ Somethin,'” John Berry is clearly phrasing his vocals in a more conversational manner. He draws you into the message of the ballad “If That Ain’t Love” with gentle persuasion. He is lilting on the jaunty “We Were There,” broken hearted in the power waltz “Fool’s Lullaby” and wistfully resigned in the ballad “Just Married.”

Throughout the album, he shifts the tones and colors of his voice to best convey each of its songs. Berry is remarkably restrained in the sweet story tune “The Balloon Song,” yet muscular in the soaring, melodic choruses of “You Still Own Me.” The power ballad “Day and Night” has vividly picturesque lyrics that he allows to shine. And he revels in the nostalgia and drama of the CD’s title tune, “Those Were the Days.”

In addition to being one of the strongest collections of songs he has ever assembled, Those Were the Days is one of the best-produced albums John Berry has ever made. Its tracks have striking instrumental clarity and ear-opening audio dynamics. Again, this is a result of the star rethinking his approach to recording. Instead of tapping into Nashville’s pool of established producers, Berry went looking for someone with a fresh approach. He hired one of Music Row’s hidden sonic geniuses, Kerry Kurt Phillips, to produce Those Were the Days.

Phillips is known for penning such award-winning songs as “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair” (George Jones), “Pickup Man” (Joe Diffie), “Do You Want Fries with That” (Tim McGraw), “She Let Herself Go” (George Strait), “Almost Home” (Craig Morgan), “Down on the Farm” (Tim McGraw), “Drinkin’ Bone”(Tracy Byrd) and “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox” (Joe Diffie). Although John Berry had never met the songwriter, he knew he wanted to find a hit song.

“We had a mutual friend who told him I was looking for some songs,” Berry recalls. “Kerry Kurt said, ‘Sure, send him my way.’ He couldn’t have been nicer. We were looking for something special. The morning we were going over to see him, my manager, Terry Oliver, my wife Robin and I joined hands and prayed for God to send us a song. We left Kerry Kurt’s that afternoon with 18 songs that (would just lay you out) were amazing.

“His demos of his songs sounded so good. I said, ‘Who in the world produces your demos?’ He said, ‘I do it myself.’ I said, “I’d like for you to work on this record with me if you’d consider doing it.’

“One of the things that attracted me to his demos is how real and natural the instruments sounded. It was such an earthy, organic sound. And yet it was so completely contemporary and fit today’s country-music market. I told Kerry Kurt that’s what I wanted.

“He brought ‘Those Were the Days,’ ‘Day and Night’ and ‘If That Ain’t Love’ to us. And then he put that producer’s hat on and said, ‘I’m going to find songs from some (other) friends of mine.’ And he did. So I feel so fortunate and very blessed to have not just a great guy to work with producing the record, but someone who could open up the top drawers of the songs on Music Row.”

John Berry is no stranger to great songs. Nor is he a novice in the recording studio. Born in South Carolina and raised in Georgia, he began playing guitar at 13, performing shows at age 14 and making records at age 19.

Between 1979 and 1990 he recorded and marketed six albums on his own labels. Those early discs and John Berry’s strong regional popularity attracted attention on Music Row. Capitol Records signed him in 1992. Berry’s co-written “A Mind of Her Own” and “Kiss Me in the Car” introduced him to radio audiences in 1993. Then “Your Love Amazes Me,” “What’s in It for Me” and “You and Only You” thrust him to stardom in 1994. “Standing on the Edge of Goodbye,” “I Think About it All the Time” and “If I Had Any Pride Left at All” were all major hits the following year.

But it was his stunning performance of the title track of the 1995 CD O Holy Night that led to his most enduring legacy. John Berry began doing a Christmas tour that year. This year will mark his 12th consecutive holiday concert series. He has also issued three more Christmas-music collections.

Berry took “Change My Mind” into the country-music top-10 in 1996. “She’s Taken a Shine” became an even bigger hit, a number 1, in 1997. He switched to Lyric Street Records in 1999, then to the Ark 21 label in 2000. In 2002, he returned to making records for his own company. Songs and Stories, a double CD issued that year, led to another concert series that continues to this day. On the “Songs and Stories” shows, he performs solo in intimate theater settings.

In 2003, John Berry issued his I Give My Heart collection and its critically applauded wedding anthem “Will You Marry Me.” The disc also contained his versions of such classic love songs such as “Time in a Bottle,” “If,” “Love Look What You’ve Done to Me,” “Faithfully,” “Lady” and “Let’s Stay Together.” I Give My Heart inspired still another popular annual concert series, “The Love Tour.” These are full-band shows scheduled just before and after each Valentine’s Day.

Now Those Were the Days marks John Berry’s return to mainstream country music. It is on his Clear Sky Records label, as are Celebrate This Christmas (2005), Hits (2006), O’ Holy Night Live, I Give My Heart, and Songs and Stories. These days, it is common for country artists to succeed with their own labels. John Berry was doing it long before any of his peers.

“This is a rebirth of sorts and I’m into that.”

An Evening with Hal Linden

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TUESDAY, APR 1, 2014 – 7:00 PM
Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center

Hal Linden spices up the stage with a dose of nostalgia and a dash of legendary star quality.

With a 65-year career in the entertainment business, Hal Linden is best known for his portrayal of the police precinct captain in the hit television series, Barney Miller, for which he earned multiple Golden Globe and Emmy nominations. In 1957, he made his Broadway debut in the musical Bells Are Ringing opposite Judy Holliday and has continued to perform in more than 20 Broadway and off-Broadway productions including Pajama Game, A Christmas Carol, Chicago and Cabaret. In 1971, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role in The Rothschilds.

Backed by a 7-piece band, Linden performs some of America’s greatest songs and Broadway hits. You will get decades worth of knowledge and talent and an entire concert filled with an assortment of poise, entertainment and timeless melodies.

Hal Linden is an American actor, singer and musician whose career spans more than 65 years with memorable roles on stage, television, in film and a cabaret-style variety show that he tours nationally. Linden is perhaps best known for his portrayal of police precinct captain Barney Miller in the hit television series of the same name that aired on ABC from 1975-1982, earning multiple Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for his work.

Linden made his Broadway debut in 1957 in the musical “Bells Are Ringing” opposite Judy Holliday and subsequently toured with the national company. He later starred in the 1962 Off Broadway revival of Cole Porter’s 1930s hit “Anything Goes.” To date, he has performed in more than 20 Broadway and Off Broadway productions. His numerous stage credits include “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” “Subways Are for Sleeping,” “The Apple Tree,” “The Pajama Game,” “The Sisters Rosenswieg,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Tuesdays With Morrie,” “I’m Not Rappaport,” “Something More,” “The Education of Hyman Kaplan,” “Three Men on a Horse,” “Chicago,” “Cabaret,” “The Gathering” and “The Rothschilds,” for which he won the 1971 Tony Award for Best Actor In A Musical.

His outstanding stagecraft led to roles on both the big and small screen. His feature film credits include: Bells Are Ringing (1960), “When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?” (1979), “Starflight One (1983),” “Out To Sea” (1997) with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, “A New Life?” (1988) with Alan Alda, and “Time Changer” in 2002.

There is no doubt however, that audiences know Linden best from his many roles on television. He hosted ABC’s “FYI,” a sixty-second information series, (similar in format to the network’s popular “Schoolhouse Rock”), which aired three times a day in the early 1980s and for which he earned two Emmy Awards. Linden garnered a third Emmy in 1984 for his portrayal of a rabbi in “The Writing On The Wall,” for the CBS series Schoolbreak Special.” He hosted the popular ABC children’s series “Animals, Animals, Animals” in the 1970s. The show, produced by ABC News, earned numerous Emmys and the Peabody Award.

After Barney Miller, Linden starred in several more series for network television: “Blacke’s Magic” (1986), “Jack’s Place” (1992-93) in which he played a retired jazz musician, and “The Boys Are Back” (1994). He’s had numerous guest appearances on some of television’s most popular shows including: “Hot In Cleveland,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Will and Grace,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “The Nanny,” “The King of Queens,” “Touched By An Angel” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

More recently, Linden has spent considerable time traveling the country with his show, “Hal Linden In Concert.” The set is an entertaining combination of songs and theatrical musings highlighting memorable moments from his life and career. The Grand Rapids, Mich., Press calls it, “…an evening of visual variety that was all first-rate.” The Toronto Star noted, “The term ‘class act’ could have been coined for Linden. Hitting all the right notes, smack in their resonant middles,” and the Milwaukee Journal commented, “A poised performance worthy of one of the great entertainers of his era.”

In 2011 he released his first CD, titled “It’s Never Too Late.” The disc, a labor of love that Linden recorded over a period of three decades, includes 14 tracks that range from classic pop to jazz standards, Broadway and feature film tunes and favorites from the American Songbook.

Linden was born Harold Lipshitz, in New York City on March 20, 1931. He graduated from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan and later studied music at Queens College, before graduating from City College of New York. A classically trained clarinetist, (he joined the musician’s union at 15), Linden played in dance bands with Bobby Sherwood, Ray McKinley and Sammy Kaye, before being drafted into the Army, where he sang and provided entertainment for the troops. He had long dreamed of leading a Big Band of his own, where he could play his clarinet, sing and make records, but when he returned from his stint in the Army, he realized that the Big Band era was winding down and opted instead to pursue a career in acting. He enrolled at New York’s American Theatre Wing where he trained in voice and drama. He continued to study acting under mentors Paul Mann and Lloyd Richards as well as voice training with John Mace and Richard Dorr. Linden was married for 52 years to his wife Frances, until her passing in 2010. They have four children.

Linden serves as spokesman for the Jewish National Fund.

Back on Broadway

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THURSDAY, MAR 13, 2014 – 7:00 PM
Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center

Exciting, impressive, touching, wildly entertaining, fresh, fun and funny are just some of the things people are already saying about Back on Broadway.

Following in the fancy footsteps of the critically acclaimed and audience favorite, On Broadway, Matt Davenport Productions’ all new show delivers an exciting evening of non-stop show stoppers!

The multi-talented cast of ten brings to life the most popular scenes and songs from the new Broadway classics as they learn “How to Succeed on Broadway!” Dazzling costumes, colorful and quirky scenery and an orchestral sound accompanies the triple-threat performers in full production numbers from shows like The Producers, Ragtime, Legally Blonde, Mary Poppins, Avenue Q, Jersey Boys 9 to 5, The Addams Family, Mama Mia and more!

Back on Broadway also brings you the hits from award-winning recent revivals like Anything Goes, South Pacific, Evita and Hello Dolly!

Back on Broadway – It’s your favorite moments from musicals all in one performance!

Transit Authority

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TUESDAY, JAN 28, 2014 – 7:00 PM
Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center

Performing an exciting and powerful tribute to the musical group Chicago, Transit Authority is a high- energy band delivering deliciously satisfying tunes from one of the most successful rock groups in history.

Transit Authority’s 8-piece powerhouse band consists of some of the Midwest’s most talented and seasoned musicians. With lush harmonies, scorching guitar work, one of the best horn and searing rhythm sections, every show is a spot-on tribute to some of Chicago’s greatest music of all time. Performances will showcase hit songs like “Saturday In the Park,” “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is,” “Old Days,” “Wishing You Were Here,” “If You Leave Me Now,” “Colour My World” and many more from the band’s five #1 albums and 21 top-ten singles.

Enjoy a non-stop journey of Chicago’s greatest hits as Transit Authority keeps you dancing and singing all night long!

Take Me Home: The Music of John Denver

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TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2013, 7:00 PM.
Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center

After a wildly successful Live on Stage event in Midland during the 2012 season, demand has been very high for the return of Jim Curry to the Permian Basin. Live on Stage Permian Basin is proud to announce the return of “Take Me Home: The Music of John Denver.”

Jim Curry began his music career writing and performing the opening song, “The Time of Your Life” for his senior play. The song was then voted to be the 1975 class song and Jim was awarded a Rotary Scholarship to study music in college. Even at this early stage in his life Jim’s natural voice resembled that of singer/songwriter John Denver. Embracing the similarities, Jim continued to sing and specialize in the songs of John Denver, sharing John’s positive messages of love, humanity and environmental awareness.

The untimely death of John Denver’s in 1997 was a tragedy that was felt the world over. Such a void in the musical world left John’s ardent fans demanding that his music survive. CBS television responded by producing a made for TV movie: “Take Me Home, the John Denver Story” in which Jim landed an off-camera role singing as the voice of John Denver. This experience inspired Jim to produce full–length John Denver tribute concerts.

He’s not your usual “Vegas style” impersonator. In fact, he is not an impersonator at all. Jim sings, in his own natural voice, a tribute to the music in a way that has to be seen and heard to understand the pure honesty of his amazing performance. His looks and his voice are simply a pleasant coincidence that captures the true essence of John Denver’s music. Curry’s heartfelt delivery rolls out into the crowd as multi-platinum hits like “Rocky Mountain High,” “Annie’s Song” and “Calypso” fill the room.

Jim believes that John Denver’s words still ring true in these difficult times of war and environmental crisis. John Denver grew rapidly into a mega celebrity when the world was looking for some hope in the late 60’s and his lyrics in songs like, “Take me Home Country Roads” gave America a new lift abroad as well as at home. People all over the world found pride in the natural wonders of the earth and love for John’s message of caring for our planet and each other. Jim delivers these songs in the same spirit, with the same heartfelt care and desire to make a difference. As the concerns of global warming and other environmental issues reach today’s youth, Curry sees a growing number of younger listeners. Curry says, “These songs blend the images of our natural earth with a love for each other as people. The care you give to someone you love is the best care. Making that connection to our earth and to each other is the goal.”

Jim has created the ultimate tribute experience and has emerged as the top performer of John Denver’s music today. He often performs with John Denver’s former band members. Curry’s tribute is the first and only full-length John Denver tribute in a Las Vegas Casino and is a sell-out favorite at the Silverton time after time. Curry has taken his show on the road to Performing Arts Centers and Casinos in the US and Canada and out to sea as one of the most popular shows on the Holland America Cruise Line.

On October 2007, the 10th anniversary of John’s passing, Jim brought a landmark concert to the stage in Aspen Colorado. It included many of John Denver’s former band members, some of them for the first time in a tribute show. Bass player Dick Kniss (who also tours with Peter Paul and Mary) Songwriter, guitar and dobro player Steve Weisberg (who penned many John Denver’s recordings) Banjo player Jim Connor (a former member of the New Kingston Trio and author of the hit song “ Grandma’s Feather Bed”) Legendary guitarist James Burton (Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson and John Denver) and in what would be one of his last major performances before his passing, singer/songwriter John Stewart of the famed Kingston Trio. The bold and dynamic thinking of Curry continues to produce historical concert engagements and bring icons of the music industry together into powerful shows.

Jim’s latest efforts are to take his tribute show to a new level by adding symphony orchestrations back into live performances of John Denver music. When John Denver wanted to add a full orchestra to his live shows and recordings, he teamed up with Grammy Award winning arranger, composer and conductor Lee Holdridge. Lee’s symphony arrangements, along with John’s songs became the trademark sound of many of John’s hits. Jim Curry and Lee Holdridge have now brought the rebirth of the timeless songs of America’s troubadour back in a full-length live concert of John Denver’s greatest works.

Whether Jim is performing with a symphony orchestra, with his talented band, or all by himself, his compelling voice, combined with dramatic images of nature is an unforgettable show that will truly fill up your senses.

Exile

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TUESDAY, SEPT 10, 2013 – 7:00 PM
Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center

Classic rockers turned country rebels – Exile is reunited and stirring up some musically entertaining madness … just like they did 25 years ago.

In 1978, Exile reached their pop peak with #1 single “Kiss You All Over,” but it was their shift to country music that brought the most success. With six Country Music Association nominations, it’s safe to say the shift was a success. The band topped the country charts with numerous #1 hits including “Woke Up in Love,” “Give Me One More Chance,” “Crazy For Your Love,” “She’s a Miracle,” “Hang On to Your Heart,” “I Could Get Used to You,” “She’s Too Good to Be True” and the list goes on.

In 1963, the year before the Beatles scored their first American hit, a group of kids calling themselves “The Exiles” climbed onto an outdoor stage in the small midstate town of Richmond, Kentucky and proceeded to make musical history—not just with their songs, but with their longevity as well. 50 years later, that same band—Exile—is still rockin’ with a mix of original and seminal members. Nations have had shorter life spans.

Nowadays, J. P. Pennington, Les Taylor, Sonny LeMaire, Marlon Hargis and Steve Goetzman can look back on a career arc that embraces 11 No. 1 country and pop hits, two gold albums and fans by the hundreds of thousands. Best of all, Exile is still touring, and continues to create and record brilliant new music. That fact became evident in September 2010 with the band’s digital release of the EP “People Get Ready” on Big Horse Records, distributed by GMV Nashville. AirPlay Direct distributed the EP to radio (July 4, 2012), featuring as the lead single the J. P. Pennington/Sonny Lemaire/Shane Minor-penned “Bread On The Table.”

After watching from the wings as the band performed on the Grand Ole Opry, fellow country star Trace Adkins approached Exile with the proposal that he and they join forces to re-cut a new version of the band’s international breakthrough hit, “Kiss You All Over.” GAC videotaped that historic session for the network’s “Hit Exchange” series. The episode was broadcast multiple times, beginning in December 2011. The song is included on Adkins’ 2013 release “Love Will…”

Following the band’s debut in Richmond City Park – which, as founding member Pennington recalls was “upstaged” by a fist-fight in the crowd – The Exiles steadily moved on to regional and then national fame. In 1966, pop music godfather Dick Clark tapped the band for his “Caravan of Stars,” a touring company headlined by the likes of The Rascals, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Freddy Cannon, Bryan Hyland and B. J. Thomas.

In 1973, after shortening the name to “Exile,” the band continued to pursue and secured record deals in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. However, they were not able to produce a breakout single that could launch the band to super-stardom. Then, in 1978, it happened, thanks to a three-and-a-half-minute surge of heavy breathing called “Kiss You All Over.” The song rocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart and stayed there four weeks.

From then on, it was a blur. The band appeared on Midnight Special and Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert and toured with Fleetwood Mac, Boston, Heart, Aerosmith, Dave Mason, Seals & Croft and other rock luminaries. Now the guys from tiny Richmond, Kentucky, were pounding out music on giant stages throughout the U. S., Europe and South Africa.

But one hit does not a career make. A series of albums and a few personnel switches failed to re-ignite Exile’s pop fire. Fortunately, the band had been noticing the artistic changes taking place in country music, how it seemed to be opening itself to rock and pop influences following the Urban Cowboy craze. “Going country” certainly wasn’t a stretch for Pennington, whose mother, Lilly Mae Ledford, was the pivotal figure in the Coon Creek Girls, an “old-time music” band that once played at the White House to entertain President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the King and Queen of England.

Through their manager, Jim Morey, Exile attracted the attention of Nashville super-producer Buddy Killen. A deal with Epic Records soon followed. The move was perfect fit…the No. 1 hits began pouring out, every one of them written by Pennington and LeMaire. The first, “Woke Up In Love,” topped the country charts in 1984.

Over the next three years, Exile reigned with “I Don’t Want To Be A Memory,” “Give Me One More Chance,” “Crazy For Your Love,” “She’s A Miracle,” “Hang On To Your Heart,” “I Could Get Used To You,” “It’ll Be Me,” “She’s Too Good To Be True” and “I Can’t Get Close Enough.” When it came to light-the-candles-and-warm-the-brandy love songs, Exile was country music’s answer to Barry White.

By the late 1980s, though, the band was suffering from road-weariness. So, one by one, the members peeled off in different musical directions. After a hiatus of several years, during which Pennington and Taylor headed and toured with various permutations of the band, the original members of Exile’s country incarnation reunited in 2008 for what they believed would be a one-time benefit show. But the audience response was so encouraging—and the music still sounded so darn good—that Pennington, Taylor, LeMaire, Hargis and Goetzman decided to regroup and do it all over again.

After 50 years, they certainly know what they’re doing. And the new crowds they’ve attracted know it, too.