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Connie Acher & Blind Drunk John, Gay Tastee

New York City gal Connie Acher is working her way back to you babe, and she’s bringing her latest sidekick, Blind Drunk John, with her. Acher will play a CD-release show at Valentine’s on Friday, in celebration of her newest, For the Love of It, on Flipped Out Records. We’ve enjoyed Ms. Acher during her many passes through the area, as she’s put on some fine shows at the dearly departed Loft, at the Lionheart and, most recently, with BDJ at the Hawaiian Rawkfest at Valentine’s sometime at the end of the summer. Acher accompanies her delicate folk-pop songs with electric and acoustic guitars and her dry-ice wit, and BJD joins in with various stringed instruments, and together they create an understated and thoughtful form of music.

Also celebrating the release of a new CD Friday night is onetime Beef frontguy Steve Gaylord, aka Gay Tastee—his newest, Gayest Hits, is a double CD out on Hoex Records. Gaylord brings with him drummer Gaven Richard (that’s Reeshard, folks) of the Kamikaze Hearts to help realize his unique view of the world through song.

Connie Acher & Blind Drunk John and Gay Tastee will play Friday at Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany), on the downstairs stage, following the Jonathan Richman show. They’ll begin the mega-release celebration at 11 PM, and tickets are $5. Call the club, 432-6572, for further information.

Ana Menendez

On Tuesday (Nov. 12), the New York State Writers Institute welcomes Ana Menendez—author of the Pushcart Prize-winning collection of short stories, In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd—to the Assembly Hall in the Campus Center at the University at Albany.

The collection, which New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani praised as a “bright debut that points to even brighter accomplishments to come,” chronicles the daily struggles of Cuban-American characters as they strive to “make a living, maintain dignity, preserve identity, cope with new surroundings, and find humor in modern Miami.” Interestingly, many of the stories were conceived while Menendez was living in India: “It was there that I was really able to understand the universality of loss,” she has explained.

Ana Menendez will speak at the Assembly Hall in the Campus Center at the University of Albany’s uptown campus on Tuesday (Nov. 12). The free reading begins at 8 PM. For more information, 442-5620.

Empire State Youth Orchestra

Helen Cha-Pyo makes her debut as conductor and music director of the Empire State Youth Orchestra this Saturday night with a concert at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Hired after an extensive national search, Ms. Cha-Pyo—who is also music director of the Riverside Church’s Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir in New York City, and has served as assistant conductor at Oregon’s Britt Festival—brings a wealth of conducting and performing experience to this venerable regional organization. Born in Seoul, South Korea, she had won a number of piano competitions before emigrating to this country—at age 11. Cha-Pyo studied at Julliard, and earned her degrees in conducting at Rochester’s Eastman School of Music. She helped originate the Riverside Music Education Program, which serves thousands of inner-city students in New York City, and has worked with Hong Kong’s Asian Youth Orchestra.

The ESYO fills its ranks from 60 public and private schools in the Capital Region and western Massachusetts. Its diverse programs—wind, string, and jazz ensembles, three percussion ensembles, a flute choir, the Inner City String Program—attract more than 300 students at any given time. For this concert, 90 students will be on stage to perform Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, Kabalevsky’s Colas Breugnon Overture, Stravinsky’s Scherzo a la russe, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D Major.

The Empire State Youth Orchestra will perform this Saturday (Nov. 9) at 8 PM at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (7 State St., Troy). Tickets are $15, $10 (students and senior citizens). Call the ESYO box office at 382-7581 or the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall at 273-0038 for reservations and information.

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