Only have a minute? Listen instead
By GEORGE COX
Coming on the heels of Elton John’s international farewell tour, the legendary rock star’s legacy is alive and well and heading to Harlingen. Bennie & the Jets, an Elton John tribute band, will kick off the Harlingen Concert Association’s new season of five performances that feature a variety of musical genres.
Decked out in costumes reminiscent of John’s flamboyant stage performances, Greg Ransom leads the tribute performance on piano and vocals. Bennie & the Jets will perform some of the superstar’s biggest hits on Nov. 14 at the 800-seat Christian Fellowship Church Auditorium at 901 N. Loop 499 in Harlingen.
Four more concerts will make up the remainder of the 2023-2024 season, ranging from opera to folk to country music, as well as a special Christmas concert.
“Our mission is to bring music to the community that they may not otherwise be able to see,” said Sharon DiSantis, co-president of the HCA. “We try to have a range of music, so we mix it up.”
Established in 1933 as the Rio Grande Valley Civic Music Association, the HCA has evolved over the years to stay current with musical tastes and build bonds with the community.
In the early days, concerts featured the music of performers like the Von Trapp Family Singers, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Guy Lombardo. More recently, tributes to 1970s rock and artists like Patsy Cline and the Everly Brothers have headlined shows.
In 2021, the HCA began awarding scholarships for area students pursuing careers in the arts. Concert performers also participate in community outreach programs in local schools.
“It’s just that as we evolve, we are always looking for ways to enrich the community,” DiSantis said. “We have awarded three $4,500 scholarships to students pursuing careers in the arts.”
Local students also have opportunities to interact with the visiting performers.
“Sometimes it’s a mini concert done at the school, and sometimes it’s a master’s class.” DiSantis said. “We have done both of those at schools in Harlingen and San Benito.”
The scholarships and outreach programs are funded primarily through the sale of raffle tickets by the HCA. In addition, proceeds from the sales of tickets and sponsorship packages help cover the costs of performers and other concert expenses.
DiSantis said local students and their parents are welcome to attend the shows at no charge.
After Bennie & the Jets launch the new season, the lineup continues with “Jingle Bells” on Dec. 5, featuring holiday favorites performed by Rio Grande Valley artists Leslie Blasing on vocals accompanied by cellist Jen Mulhern.
A Sounds of Silence Tribute show on Jan. 11, 2024 will transport the audience to the Greenwich Village folk music scene of the 1960s and 1970s. Musicians Steven Delopoulos and Johnny Phillips serve as tour guides through the musical worlds of Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, John Denver, Cat Stevens and more.
The tone switches with the third concert of the season on Jan. 30 with operatic superstar Barbara Padilla, an award-winning opera and classical crossover soprano.
Influenced by her upbringing in Guadalajara, Mexico, and her personal journey as a cancer survivor, Padilla’s performance emphasizes uplifting classical and popular music.
The final concert of the season on March 5 gets down with a rousing tribute to country music star Garth Brooks entitled Key of G Live, a show featuring A.J. Bisto on lead vocals and guitar backed up by a six-piece band.
For more information on the HCA and to purchase individual and season tickets, as well as sponsorships, visit harlingenconcert.com or call 956-392-9757.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of performances.