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Festive in Flushing

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Presenting a diverse range of performances and cultural opportunities has been the mission of the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts ever since it was founded in 1979. With Flushing Town Hall as its home, the organization has celebrated the borough’s deep roots in jazz, while always expanding its boundaries to include the many cultures that Queens now calls home.

This holiday season, FCCA is playing host to pathbreaking musical performers, culinary adventures and lessons in Queens’ architectural history. From a string quartet that shows off a dash of rock n’ roll flair to an evening spent in what is being termed a “cheese-lover’s paradise,” the organization is giving audiences the chance to venture into new territories while never straying too far from home.

The month’s offerings kick off Friday night at 7:30 p.m. with a concert by Brooklyn Rider, a group that has been called “the future of chamber music” by Strings Magazine. Having performed in settings that include the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass., Carnegie Hall and in the recording studio alongside such performers as mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and Iranian kamancheh (a bowed string instrument that looks like a cross between a banjo and a violin) player Kayhan Kalhor, these guys are far from the standard definition of a string quartet. Appearing as part of the Five Boroughs Music Festival, they will be playing a diverse program that includes Philip Glass’ String Quartet No. 3, “Mishima”; Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1, “The Kreutzer Sonata”; Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor, Op. 95; and Brooklyn Rider member Colin Jacobsen’s BTT, a tribute to the New York downtown music scene of an earlier era that included Glenn Branca, John Lurie, Meredith Monk, the Velvet Underground, the Ramones and many more. Tickets are $25, $15 for Flushing Town Hall members and $10 for students.

Another evening of cross-cultural music is taking place on Friday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m., when Gamelan Son of Lion takes to the stage. Formed in 1976 as gamelan composer’s collective, this group has placed the gamelan, a bronze percussion instrument indigenous to Indonesia, in settings that bridge the world of American experimental music and the distinctive rhythms of Balinese and Indonesian music. People coming to this show will hear an evening of transcendental sounds that will take them far outside the boundaries of day-to-day urban existence. Tickets are $16, $10 for members and students.

A group of young peformers will be in the spotlight on Sunday, Dec. 18, at 2 p.m., when folk dances from across Mexico are on the bill. The Calpulli Collective offers programs in Staten Island and New Jersey as well as at studios in Long Island City and East Elmhurst, training both children and adults in the regional dance and music traditions of Mexico (contact them at calpullidance.org). At Flushing Town Hall, they will play music on the accordion and guitar in addition to dancing. Tickets are $15, $12 for members, $10 for students. All proceeds from the event support Calpulli’s next year of donation-based community programming.

If you’d rather play the music yourself, Flushing Town Hall has something for you. On Wednesday, Dec. 7, the Monthly Jazz Jam will give aspiring hep cats an opportunity to hone their skills next to a house band that includes saxophonist Carol Sudhalter, tenor sax/flute; Joe Vincent Tranchina, piano; Eric Lemon, bass; and Sylvia Cuenca, drums. All are welcome, regardless of instrument (singers as well). Those who don’t play are still welcome to come and listen. Tickets are $10, free members, students and jamming musicians.

For people whose peforming skills lean more toward storytelling than music, the Moth StorySLAM is their chance to let the creative juices flow. The event, Monday, Dec. 19. at 8 p.m., is open to anyone who has a true story to share on the night’s posted theme (details on this month’s theme are to come). When the doors open, storytellers put their names in The Moth Hat for a chance at a five-minute slot on stage. Ten featured stories are scored by teams of judges selected from the audience who pick the StorySLAM winner.

History and architeture buffs can sign up for the Holiday Historic House Tour on Sunday, Dec. 11, from 1 p.m - 5 p.m. The tour will take participants to seven sites in Flushing and Corona, with a trolley provided to get them from place to place. In addition to the historial information provided, each stop will offer special activities and refreshments. Tickets are $20, $15 in advance, $5 for children. Visit hhht2016.eventbrite.com for online tickets.

And if you’re one of those hardy souls who can never get enough holiday shopping, that’s on the Flushing Town Hall schedule, too. The Holiday Market, also Dec. 11, will set up shop in the Flushing Town Hall gallery. Flower arrangements, handmade dolls, greeting cards, crocheted clothing and Indian delicacies will all be on display to tempt both gift-givers and those who’d like a little something nice for themselves. There’s no charge here—unless, of course, you count the items you’ll almost surely purchase.

For pure indulgence, one last item on the Flushing Town Hall December schedule may well take top billing. The Great Northeast Cheese Fest, Saturday, Dec. 10, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., will offer varieties of cheese from dozens of artisanal creameries from across New York state. Whether you’re a fan of sharp cheddar or super-rich triple cremes, as long as you love cheese, this is an evening sure to make you happy, no matter what holiday you’re preparing for.

For more information about any of these events, go to flushingtownhall.org.

Updated 12:21 pm, December 1, 2016
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