Cultural opportunities: Two concerts at Cultural Center will feature classical music and world-famous blues performer Guy King

By THERESA KEEGAN

The Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center (LBCAC) has become a harbinger of the arts, welcoming a diverse group of artists to our community. This upcoming week’s performances highlight that versatility.

On Sunday, Feb. 25, a Ukrainian pianist who helps traumatized children through music will take the stage with a violinist and a Chinese soprano singer to produce Lunar Lullaby and on Wednesday, Feb. 28, the internationally famous blues performer Guy King will kick off a series celebrating this all-American genre.

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Courtesy of Lyena Atonyicq

(L-R) Lyena Atonyicq, vocalist and pianist, lived and performed in New York before moving to California seven years ago. She is joined by soprano Diana Skavronskaya after the show.

“Pretty much we’re all foreign born, but we all moved here and live here,” Lunar Lullaby organizer Lyena Atonyicq said of her performers. “But music is international and has its own unspoken language of peace.”

She will be joined on stage with soprano Elaine Huang and violinist Xenia Deviatkina-Loh. The three women are creating a night of “enchantment and impact” according to Atonyicq, who hopes to raise funds for her nonprofit, Artomya.

They will feature some of her own compositions, as well as many classical pieces and some lively pieces by George Gershwin.

“Music is my life,” said Atonyicq. “It offers me a different perspective on the world. Many people travel the world and go to museums to learn about culture. To me, music is the same way. It opens your eyes to the world around us.”

She left her home country of Ukraine 24 years ago to pursue a music education in the United States. But it was her world travels in 2003 that solidified her focus on the healing power of music – especially for children.

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Courtesy of Lyena Atonyicq

(L-R) Lyena Atonyicq joined harpist Alisa Sadikova in New York

“Classical music heals your nervous system,” she said. “It raises your vibration and it regulates your auto immune system.”

While she spends time teaching students piano and voice in person, Atonyicq also offers online Zoom sessions. Getting parents involved is key to a program’s effectiveness she says. A goal is for the practicing to continue throughout the week.

“It’s a relationship when you teach students,” she said.  “Every child has difficult days, so I give parents very easy ways to calm them down.”

In addition to her trio, the Lunar Lullaby evening will also feature Laguna Beach’s own Eric Henderson. The gifted guitarist who has trained under Andres Segovia always presents an amazing show that pushes musical boundaries.

“The whole night should be fun – and delicious,” said Atonyicq. “I am bringing Ukranian cakes (known as Kyiv cakes) to share.”

When Guy King starts playing the blues at the Cultural Arts Center on Wednesday, he will be the inaugural act of a monthly blues series the center is offering. It will also be one of King’s first concerts since returning from a tour in Switzerland with his band earlier in the month.

The trio will be performing some of the songs King has written and composed, as well as other blues favorites.

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Courtesy of LBCAC

Chicago-based Guy King is a quintessential performer of the blues. He writes, composes and arranges many of his own pieces.

It’s a long way from his youth in Chicago when he’d read liner notes on his older siblings’ albums and be carried away by the music of Marvin Gaye and Eric Clapton and an ever-evolving line-up of musicians.

“Then the blues came in and swept me off my feet,” said King. “All the elements pulled together. I understood how they worked.”

With the innocence of youth, he decided he’d become a musician.

“I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” he said. But he practiced continually, and felt he was getting better. As others affirmed that he was good, and improving, he kept at it. Although his family was always musically inclined – his parents insisted all their children would learn an instrument – King didn’t receive formal training in mastering the blues. As a youngster, he sang with big bands, and he took naturally to performing.

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While he loved other people’s music, a transformation happened when he crafted a more holistic approach for himself.

“When I knew that I could do certain things with composing and arranging, I set out and developed the harmony,” he said. The opportunity to include strings and horn created an all-encompassing musical picture.

“When I would do all that, something would move me,” he said. “That’s when I feel ‘This is it. This is why I’m in it.’”

His career has had him performing throughout the world, he’s opened shows for B.B. King and Buddy Guy. For six years he was lead guitarist for Willie Kent’s band.

For his fifth and newest album Joy is Coming, King worked with Los Angeles-based songwriter David Ritz, and it has been released to critical success.

For his Laguna show, King will bring along a keyboardist and drummer and the trio will have six stops in Southern California before heading home to Chicago.

“I’m really looking forward to this show,” said King, “It seems like Laguna is a great place.”

For more information about these shows and for tickets, click here.


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