Milford man heads concert series at Stratford church

Milford resident Michael Jovovich and his friends will kick off the 2015 Rose Window Concert series at First Congregational Church of Stratford, 2301 Main Street, on Sunday, Jan. 11, at 3 p.m. It will be the tenth “Michael and Friends” Rose Window concert.

“I always look forward to this concert and I'm happy to be performing with some of my favorite musicians and vocalists,” said Jovovich. “I feel we have grown together, the audience and the group each year adding a new dimension in entertainment and enjoyment that can only be felt and experienced by the familiarity of friends.”

Dr. Joe Utterback will headline a talented group of musicians. Jovovich and Utterback have been working together for the past 16 years as choir member and choir director at First Congregational Church of Stratford. They have performed together at Yale's Battell Chapel. The “house” band, fronted by  Utterback, includes musicians: Tony LaVorgna on saxophone and clarinet, Eric Nyquist on guitar, Brian Coralian on percussion and Nick Macri on bass. There will be a special guest performance by Frank Farrow III.

“This concert is the springboard for the new year and it starts a very busy season for me,” Jovovich said. “Directly after this concert, the group will head to the recording studio to work on my next CD. And we have upcoming concerts at Stamford's Curtain Call Theatre and the Trumbull Arts Commission, Priscilla Place, and some additional ones yet to be announced.”

Jovovich has been acting, dancing and singing on stage since the age of 12 but he still prefers the concert experience. He has worked with such luminaries as Paul Newman, Beverly Sills, Isaac Stern, Celeste Holm, Anthony Quinn and Fred Hellerman.

Regionally, he is well known for his work with the Playhouse on the Green, the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, the Boston Post Road Stage Company and the Westport Artists workshop, but his talent has taken him as far abroad as Ireland and Sweden. Members of the First Congregational Church of Stratford hear him most Sundays as the tenor soloist in the church choir.

Utterback, American jazz pianist, is a prolific and prodigious composer of jazz-influenced compositions. He has created more the 390 works for piano and organ which have been performed in over 70 countries. He also loves performing, and among other gigs, he has enjoyed tickling the ivories in the lobby of the Empire State Building many Christmas seasons and performs annually at the Tony Awards Gala.

Utterback has held several church music positions and is currently in his 18th year as music director at Stratford's First Congregational Church and he has been on the faculty of Sacred Heart University for nearly 20 years. Utterback's latest CD, “Souvenirs,” includes three original songs and many choice pieces from The Great American Songbook.

There is no admission charge for the concert but a freewill offering will be taken to defray the costs of the performance. A handicapped entrance is available. Any questions should be directed to the First Congregational Church of Stratford, 203-378-2644.