First Sunday Christmas Show Featuring the Independence String Ensemble

Rescheduled to Saturday December 21, 2019 at 3:00PM

208 DeKalb St, Norristown, PA 19401

The Independence String Ensemble will present an annual glamorous and glittery Christmas show at the Centre Theater in Norristown. The program will be packed with the classic Christmas tunes as well as compositions by contemporary composers, such as Michael Shingo Crawford—a returning artist on the First Sunday Concert Series. His Paprika Dreams for violin and cello is featured on this concert. The performance also brings to the stage a piece by Pulitzer Prize winning composer, Jennifer Higdon. Her Nocturne, will be performed by Steve Kramer on cello and Michael Shingo Crawford at the piano. Fasten your seatbelts!

Admission is free, and donations are appreciated. For more information, contact the Director of Music, Steve Kramer at 610-710-6100.

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Artist Biography – Independence String Ensemble

Established by cellist Steve Kramer and composer and violinist Michael Shingo Crawford, the Independence String Ensemble is a newly founded group which presents the highest-class performances, educational outreach, and master classes. The core ensemble, consisting of award-winning internationally acclaimed artists based in the United States, generates a string quartet and its subsets, which perform all styles and genres from the early renaissance to contemporary. The musicians collaborate with a wide range of artists, including pianists and wind players, who are accredited from the nation’s finest institutions.

Independence String Ensemble’s performance experiences have reached prestigious clients and the world-renowned concert halls, among them, Radio City Music Hall, Kimmel Center, MGM Grand, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Art Museum, Franklin Institute, Novo Nordisk A/S, Datwyler, and Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board.

Artist Biography – Jennifer Higdon

Pulitzer Prize and two-time Grammy-winner Jennifer Higdon (b. Brooklyn, NY, December 31, 1962) taught herself to play flute at the age of 15 and began formal musical studies at 18, with an even later start in composition at the age of 21. Despite these obstacles, Jennifer has become a major figure in contemporary Classical music. Her works represent a wide range of genres, from orchestral to chamber, to wind ensemble, as well as vocal, choral and opera. Her music has been hailed by Fanfare Magazine as having “the distinction of being at once complex, sophisticated but readily accessible emotionally”, with the Times of London citing it as “…traditionally rooted, yet imbued with integrity and freshness.” The League of American Orchestras reports that she is one of America’s most frequently performed composers.

Higdon’s list of commissioners is extensive and includes The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony, The Atlanta Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Minnesota Orchestra, The Pittsburgh Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well such groups as the Tokyo String Quartet, the Lark Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, and the President’s Own Marine Band. She has also written works for such artists as baritone Thomas Hampson, pianists Yuja Wang and Gary Graffman, violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Jennifer Koh and Hilary Hahn. Her first opera, Cold Mountain, won the prestigious International Opera Award for Best World Premiere in 2016; the first American opera to do so in the award’s history. Performances of Cold Mountain sold out its premiere run in Santa Fe, North Carolina, and Philadelphia (becoming the third highest selling opera in Opera Philadelphia’s history).

Upcoming commissions include a chamber opera for Opera Philadelphia, a string quartet for the Apollo Chamber Players, a double percussion concerto for the Houston Symphony, an orchestral suite for the Made In America project, and a flute concerto for the National Flute Associations’ 50th anniversary.

Higdon received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, with the committee citing the work as “a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity.” She has also received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, The Independence Foundation, the NEA, and ASCAP. As winner of the Van Cliburn Piano Competition’s American Composers Invitational, Higdon’s Secret & Glass Gardens was performed by the semi-finalists during the competition.

Higdon has been a featured composer at many festivals including Aspen, Tanglewood, Vail, Norfolk, Grand Teton, and Cabrillo. She has served as Composer-in-Residence with several orchestras, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Fort Worth Symphony. She was honored to serve as the Creative Director of the Boundless Series for the Cincinnati Symphony’s 2012-13 season. During the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years Higdon served as the prestigious Barr Laureate Scholar at the University of Missouri Kansas City.

Most recently, Higdon received the prestigious Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University which is awarded to contemporary classical composers of exceptional achievement who have significantly influenced the field of composition. Beginning in 2018, Higdon will complete two residences at the Bienen School of Music as the Nemmers Prize recipient. Also in the 2018-19 season, Higdon will be in residence at University of Texas, Austin, as part of the Eddie Medora King Award.

Higdon enjoys more than 200 performances a year of her works. Her orchestral work, blue cathedral, is one of the most performed contemporary orchestral works in the repertoire, more than 600 performances since its premiere in 2000.

Her works have been recorded on over 60 CDs. Higdon has twice won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition: first for her Percussion Concerto in 2010 and in 2018 for her Viola Concerto.

Dr. Higdon received a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Bowling Green State University, an Artist Diploma from The Curtis Institute of Music, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Hartt School and Bowling Green State University.

Dr. Higdon currently holds the Rock Chair in Composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her music is published exclusively by Lawdon Press.

Artist Biography – Michael Shingo Crawford

Michael Shingo Crawford is a Philadelphia-based composer and violinist interested in exploring narrative through his music, creating representational works that correspond to concepts and concrete events and objects. This often involves working with musical processes that generate material and symbolic structures. His work is inspired and informed by literature, visual art, dance, and his Japanese heritage.

Michael holds a Master’s in Music Composition from Temple University, where he studied with Emiliano Pardo-Tristan, Jan Krzywicki, and Adam Vidiksis. Within these two years, he received twenty-four premieres of his works, presented by performers including the PRISM Quartet, Sound Energy Trio, and Philadelphia Orchestra Musicians. His opera scene, Maximum Capacity, produced in collaboration with writer Traci Williams, was performed by ENAensemble as part of their Serial Opera Project in April 2019. His interest in collaborations has also brought him to work with choreographers in projects that brought together live musicians and dancers. In 2018, OWLchestra performed First Snowfall, his commissioned piece for string orchestra and piano. He was also selected as a finalist in the 2017 Costello Competition for Harp Composition.

As an active violinist, Michael performs regularly with ENAensemble in addition to freelancing. For both 2018 and 2019, he was concertmaster of Temple Composers Orchestra, a chamber orchestra dedicated to performing Temple student compositions. While at Emory, he served as concertmaster of the Emory University Symphony Orchestra and was the winner of the 2015-2016 Concerto and Aria Competition with his performance of the Barber Violin Concerto. He is also an arranger and performer of soundtracks. Over the summers, he has attended the Dalí Quartet International Music Festival, Philadelphia International Music Festival, Fresh Inc Festival, Eastern Music Festival, National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute, and Franklin Pond Chamber Music College Festival. He currently teaches private violin lessons at Music & Arts Lawrence Park.

During his undergraduate studies at Emory University, he studied composition with Richard Prior and John Anthony Lennon and violin with Shawn Pagliarini. He presented an honors composition recital in his senior year, where his music was performed by the Vega String Quartet, Elena Cholakova, and Emory’s student and alumni musicians. He was a recipient of the Louis B. Sudler Prize in the Arts, a prestigious award presented to the graduating senior who demonstrated the highest proficiency in one or more of the performing or creative arts at Emory.

Michael has wide-ranging interests beyond music. As a freelance photographer, he specializes in portrait sessions and headshots for musicians and has also worked with weddings, events, and product photography. He is equally at home in graphic design and publicity work, and has extensive experience organizing and promoting musical events.



The International Contemporary Composers Music Festival of North America

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It my most sincere pleasure hereby to announce that my collaboration with composers from around the world and performing contemporary music by Nimrod Borenstein, Jennifer Higdon, David Finko, Ben Steinberg, Daniel Dorff, Sidney Grolnic, Eleonor Sigal, Andrea Clearfield, Eugene Magalif, Cynthia Folio, Michael Shingo Crawford, Victor Frost and many more as well as compositions by Scandinavian composers, these master-minds inspired me to develop and soon launch:


Look out for more information on the Centre Theater’s website and apply to have your works performed, premiered or world-premiered.

More updates to be announced very soon!

Director of Music

Steve Kramer

First Sunday | Gangspil and Daniel Lamas

The Centre Theater welcomes two groups of performing artists on the next First Sunday Concert. Opening the concert is New York City based violist Daniel Lamas performing together with Steve Kramer. They will feature music for viola and cello by Bach, Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Hindemith.

Following intermission, listeners will be delighted by the award-winning band, Gangspil. Kristian Bugge on fiddle and Sonnich Lydom on accordion and harmonica will take the audience through a journey of traditional Danish music.

Admission is free, and donations are appreciated. For more information, contact the Director of Music, Steve Kramer at 610-710-6100.

Artist Biography – Gangspil

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In 2016 after releasing their first album, Gangspil received the “Tradition Award” at the Danish Music Awards (Danish Grammy). Right now their second album is about to be released and excitements are running high! This lively trio performs old dance tunes and songs from every corner of their Scandinavian home country. From rural islands like Læsø to the metropol Copenhagen, including a few of their own compositions. Expect everything from wild polkas and jigs to lyrical waltzes, fiery reels and happy hopsas, plus the exotic “Sønderhoning” dance tunes from the famous Island of Fanø, and long forgotten songs from all over the country. An unforgettable live experience spiced up with humor and stories from their many years on the road.

Artist Biography – Daniel Lamas

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An artist with an innovative and versatile spectrum; Chilean-American Violist, Daniel Lamas leads a multifaceted career as a performer, educator, and scholar. Daniel has taken on a project to present a recital containing works from female composers in the hope of opening up the doors for these composers to share their art with the world.

As principal violist, he has held positions with the Orquesta de Camara de Valdivia (CHL), Musik landschaft westfalen philharmonie (DE), Penderecki Festival amongst many others as a freelance violist in New York City. As a chamber musician, Daniel has performed in masterclasses/performances at the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center and various festivals abroad. As a soloist, Daniel has presented concerts in Chile, France, and the United States, including an acclaimed international debut with the Orquesta de Camara de Valdivia.

Passionate about education, influenced by the methods of both Ivan Galamian and Karen Tuttle; Daniel has built a methodology for not only teaching the instrument, but for creating a complete artist. In New York City, Daniel runs a successful Private Studio, where he works with students as young as four to older amateur adults whose love for the art is in itself the greatest reward! Daniel has been invited to a guest lecturer and worked with students from Florida International University, Universidad Austral de Chile, Krakow Conservatory and the Juilliard school.

Fascinated by the “non-conventional”, Daniel seeks to explore works by unknown or relatively unknown composers from all eras and to commission new works, expanding the viola repertoire. Daniel frequently premiers works by young composers and has commissioned works by Romanian composer Daniel Manoiu, Chinese-​Canadian composer Yun Fei Jiang, Argentinian composer Nicolas Repetto. In April 2016, Daniel gave the world premiere  of the “Tirana” Viola Concerto written for him by American composer Derek Cooper.

Daniel studied at the Paris Conservatoire (CNSMDP), under Antoine Tamestit; and at the Manhattan School of Music with Daniel Avshalomov, Karen Dreyfus, and Patinka Kopec.

Daniel plays a viola made by the Polish maker, Lukasz Wronski, who is based in New York City.





First Sunday | Independence String Ensemble

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On November 3rd at 3:00pm, the Independence String Ensemble presents a concert on the First Sunday Concert Series at the Centre Theater in Norristown (208 DeKalb St, Norristown, PA 19401). The violin and cello duo is performing an exciting program which includes works by Bach, Beethoven, Handel-Halvorsen, Mozart, Frank Sinatra, and more! Admission is free, and donations are appreciated. For more information, contact Steve Kramer at 610-710-6100 or visit the ensemble’s website at

Read about the event on the Times Herald website by following this link.

The Rachmaninoff Duo

Director of Music, Steve Kramer and his internationally acclaimed ensemble, The Rachmaninov Duo, with Alexander Ramirez at the Piano, will perform masterworks by German, French and Russian composers and local Philadelphia composers.

  • Presented By: Steve Kramer, Classical Musician
  • Dates: July 7, 2019
  • Address: Centre Theater, 208 DeKalb St, Norristown, PA 19401
  • Time: 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
  • Price: Free, refreshments served. Donations greatly appreciated.

Coming next month …

Our Vote, Our Voice Flyer 4-4-19

Please take a moment to tell Norristown Council members that these are the types of events we host, at no charge, because it is the right thing to do for the community. If an amusement tax is levied on local venues, chances are good we may no longer be able to do this.

“I contend that for a nation (municipality) to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

– Winston Churchill