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Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest at WCR Center for the Arts

by WCR Center for the Arts

Mar 21, 2024

WCR Center for the Arts is pleased to announce that it will host three concerts for Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest 2024.

Grammy-nominated musician Simon Shaheen will return to WCR Center for the Arts. He will bring his Fusion Quartet as part of Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest 2024. The magical evening of Middle Eastern Music fused with Jazz will be held Saturday, April 6, at 8 p.m., at WCR, at 140 N. Fifth St., downtown Reading. Doors open at 7:15 p.m., and free parking is available on the same block at the Trinity Lutheran Lot.

A Palestinian born in the village of Tarshiha in Galilee, Shaheen’s childhood was steeped in music. His father, Hikmat Shaheen, was a professor of music and a master oud player. “Learning to play on the oud from my father was the most powerful influence in my musical life,” Shaheen recalled. He began his studies with his father at the age of five and, a year later, commenced studying violin at the Conservatory for Western Classical Music in Jerusalem. Shaheen continued his music education in the United States, receiving master’s degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University. In 1994, Shaheen received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor for traditional arts in the U.S. In addition to his work in traditional and classical Arabic music, Shaheen has participated in many cross-cultural collaborations, including performances with Sting, Quincy Jones, Bill Laswell, and The Klezmatics. He is also a professor at Berklee College of Music.

Today, Shaheen is one of the most significant Arab musicians, performers, and composers of his generation. He dazzles listeners as he deftly leaps from traditional Arab sounds to jazz and Western classical styles. His soaring technique, melodic ingenuity, and unparalleled grace have earned him international acclaim as a virtuoso on the oud and violin. Shaheen will bring three incredibly talented musicians to round out his quartet: Firas Zreik on Qanun, Naseem Alatrashon on cello, and Gilbert Mansour on percussion. Shaheen explained what we will experience, “One of the unique qualities of Arabic music, especially when we improvise, is to play the quarter-tones or microtones — those are the tones that appear in between what Western music perceives as a complete or half-tone. So, these microtones, which may be difficult for the Western ear to recognize, give the music a richness and beauty.”

Please join us at WCR Center for the Arts on Saturday, April 6, to be immersed in the rich beauty of Arabic music fused with Jazz. This is an evening of musical brilliance that should not be missed.

Tickets for the Simon Shaheen concert are $40 and can be purchased at

Special thanks to Najla and Nabil Muallem, and Elsayed and Catherine Elmarzouky for making this event possible.

Two concerts celebrating gifted jazz musicians who hail from Berks County will also be held at WCR Center for the Arts as part of Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest 2024. Doors open a half-hour prior to show time, and parking is available at the Trinity Lutheran Lot.

On Sunday, April 7, at 3 p.m., Grammy Award-winning guitarist David Cullen will share the stage with nationally acclaimed pianist Cliff Starkey and fill the beautiful, historic hall at WCR Center for the Arts with inspirational Gospel and sizzling Blues and Jazz music. Join us to hear Cliff work his magic on WCR’s vintage Steinway grand piano and delight in what Billboard magazine describes as David’s “Ferocious Fingerstyle.” Tickets are available here:

On Saturday, April 13, at 7 p.m., The Hot Club of Reading featuring guitarists Josh Taylor and Michael Nikolidakis, bassist Trey LaRue, Chris Heslop on sax, clarinet, and washboard, and jack-of-all-trades Ken Gehret. Hot Club will be joined by special guest Andy Roberts, who will play WCR’s superb vintage Steinway grand piano. Hot Club of Reading’s performance combines Gypsy jazz with hot jazz to create an acoustic amalgam that really swings. Tickets are available here:

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