Johnstown Independent

Johnstown Opera House

'Concert for Kids' designed to entertain, engage audience

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Johnstown Historical Society and local performer Mary Miller are working together to bring a holiday show for children to Johnstown.

"We thought it would be cool to do something for the kids for the holidays," Miller said. The result is a 4 p.m. Dec. 15 Concert for Kids at the Johnstown Opera House, with musician, singer/songwriter and storyteller Joanie Calem, who has taught and created music with children of all ages since 1983. The show is free, but in the spirit of the season, drop-off boxes will be available at the concert for donation of a new, unwrapped toy, or canned/nonperishable food item or both.

"People are strapped (this time of year), and they want to do something for their kids," said Miller, adding that she is pleased that the concert could be presented for free.

Calem said her performances are designed to engage the audience.

"All my shows are interactive and participatory, so we will be singing a bunch of familiar holiday songs and a bunch of songs of holidays around the world that are very easy to learn quickly and sing along with quickly," she said. "We will also have a few participatory stories that we will do and at least one puppet show, if not two."

Calem said the program is for all ages.

"It's certainly something of fun for anyone who loves to sing and loves the winter holidays," she said.

According to Calem's website, her show is a concert of fun-filled folk songs from all over the world, encouraging participation through "zipper" songs -- those the audience could help create by suggesting alternative lyrics that could be "zipped" into the song, through movement instructions in the song itself and through story songs that could be acted out spontaneously.

"(There's) something for everyone in this multigenerational experience," she said.

According to her site, Calem grew up in the United States in a family who enjoyed travel and song.

"We sang old folk songs, jazz standards and whatever else we could think of as we drove along," she said.

Calem moved to Israel when she was 15 and completed high school at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem.

"I then continued my musical training in piano pedagogy, both in the conventional and the Suzuki systems and early childhood music and movement," she said. "I studied for many years with Anne Barlin, who is considered one of the 'mothers' of the dance therapy field and an experienced teacher of the Dalcroze system."

Calem maintained a private piano studio in her home for 15 years, as well as teaching preschool and early elementary music and movement classes in a number of local schools nearby, she said.

"I returned to the United States in 1998 with my family, and since then, I have led classes and family music programs in the greater Columbus area in a variety of schools and organizations," Calem said.

Miller said she's looking forward to the comedy.

"I think this is going to be really fun," she said. "I just want to give back to the community."

Miller said comedy shows that have appeared at the Opera House this year have "gone really well," and she hopes to organize more entertainment for the Opera House next year.

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