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Spivey Hall concert season begins this weekend

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The 2007-2008 Spivey Hall concert season promises to bring classical, jazz, and world music to the Southern Crescent from as far away as Korea, Russia, and South Africa.

This year, Spivey Hall also will play host to several emerging artists, according to Sam Dixon, executive director of Spivey Hall.

"We have fantastic international artists who are known around the world," said Dixon. "I guess it's the new faces that make this season different."

The opening celebration will take place at Spivey Hall this Saturday, Oct. 6, at 8:15 p.m., featuring a concert by Russian pianist Polina Leschenko.

Born into a St. Petersburg, Russia family of musicians in 1981, Leschenko will make her Atlanta debut at the performance hall this weekend.

"[Leschenko] has tremendous musicality and talent, and even though she is not world famous yet, I believe that she will be before long," said Dixon.

The pianist declined to be interviewed due to concerns about her English ability, according to a representative from Arts Management Group, Inc., the New York-based managing firm in charge of Leschenko's North American publicity.

Dixon, however, said that the virtuosity of Leschenko -- the young protégé of Martha Argerich, an Argentinean musician known as one of the world's greatest living pianists -- speaks for itself.

"I really believe in this woman's skill," Dixon said. "She can play anything. She has technical ability that is mind-boggling, but she is also a poet. I think it's really exciting to discover new talent like that."

Other well-known talent will be making their way to Spivey Hall for the first time, one of those groups is Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

The long-standing, Grammy award-winning, South African a cappella group is best known by Americans for their work on Paul Simon's landmark album, "Graceland" as well as a series of 1990s commercials for LifeSavers candy.

While the members of Ladysmith Black Mambazo have changed over time, the group's bandleader, Joseph Shabalala, has led the group since its inception in 1960. These ambassadors of South African culture will perform on Friday, Feb. 1 at 8:15 p.m.

Another group of performers making their first appearance at Spivey Hall is Imani Winds. Since 1997, the Grammy-nominated, predominately female, African-American wind ensemble has expanded the repertoire for the woodwind quartet, according to Dixon.

"The woodwind quartet repertoire is there, but it is not huge," he said. "They are pushing the boundaries of the woodwind quartet. They create things for themselves."

During their Feb. 8 performance, the group will commission the world premiere of a new piece by Atlanta composer, Alvin Singleton.

On Feb. 16, Spivey Hall will host its Spivey Memorial Concert, a performance given every year to honor Walter and Emilie Spivey, the founders of Spivey Hall. Giving that concert will be Israeli-American violinist Gil Shaham. As a teenager, the violinist catapulted to international fame after stepping in for music legend Itzhak Perlman during a concerto with the London Symphony.

Other returning musicians include jazz pianist Freddy Cole, whom last month was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, The Romeros, a San Diego-based family of traditional Spanish musicians, and world-renown pianist, Emanuel Ax.

For more information on the concert series, go to www.spiveyhall.org.