MLK Commemorations: In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 19, lots of activities are planned around the Valley. Examples: The annual Phoenix MLK Breakfast will be held from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Friday, January 16, at Phoenix Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams, and on Civic Plaza Deck. This year's theme is "Community Spirit: Giving the Gift of You." Tickets, available at the Phoenix Civic Plaza Box Office and at Dillard's, are $35 each. (262-7272, 503-5555.) An "International Cultural Education Faire," featuring ethnic and cultural displays from all over the world, follows the breakfast on the Plaza Deck; admission to the faire is free. A candlelight ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, January 18, at Symphony Hall is likewise free. Tempe's Essential Theatre performs an evening of improvisational "playback theatre" called Stories of Struggle in honor of Dr. King at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 17, at Phoenix College's John Paul Theatre, 1202 West Thomas. Tickets are $12. (897-6711.) Arizona State University West, 4701 West Thunderbird in Glendale, hosts a variety of free events beginning with a campus march on Tuesday, January 20--which includes a re-creation of the "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered by faculty member Charles St. Clair--and continuing through Friday, January 23; call 543-3421 for other events.
Merle Haggard: Known as the "Okie From Muskogee"--though actually born to an Okie family in Bakersfield, California--Haggard is one of the true legends of country music. He did time in San Quentin for attempted burglary, was inspired to perform professionally when he saw Johnny Cash play there, and was later pardoned by then-governor Ronald Reagan. Although his signature tune has become a right-wing anthem, it is said to have been intended ironically--it suffered much the same fate that later befell Springsteen's "Born in the USA." In any case, it's only one of the many great songs of this redoubtable honky-tonk man, who will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, January 16, at the Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. Scotty Freel and the Lickety Split Band opens. Tickets are $22.25 and $35, available at the theatre or at Dillard's. 267-1600, 503-5555.
Bebe Miller Company: This dancer and choreographer, who made a hit with Gammage Auditorium audiences when she soloed there two years ago, returns to that venue with her racially and ethnically mixed troupe at 8 p.m. Friday, January 16, at Mill and Apache in Tempe. Tickets, available at Gammage box office or at Dillard's, are $12, $18 and $24. But dance buffs for whose blood that's too rich have a cool alternative: From noon to 1 p.m., you can bring a brown-bag lunch to Gammage and watch Miller's company rehearse, gratis. 965-3434, 503-5555.
Paul Galbraith: This world-renowned Brit strums classical (Bach, Brahms, Haydn, Schubert) on an ax of his own design. Inspired by the Renaissance instrument known as the Orphereon, Galbraith's guitar has eight strings on a slanting bridge, allowing for greater range and sound quality. He's also added an acoustical box for the guitar to rest on while he plays it vertically, almost like a cello. Both the instrument and the player have won effusive praise from the likes of the Guardian, London's Sunday Times and Classical Guitar Magazine, which called Galbraith "the best guitarist of his generation." He takes the stage at 8 p.m. Friday, January 16, at Kerr Cultural Center, 6110 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. Tickets, available at the Kerr box office or at Dillard's, are $13 or $15. There's also a "Coffee at Kerr" at 10:30 that morning, at which Galbraith will discuss and demonstrate his techniques over morning refreshments; this event is free, but reservations are required. 965-5377, 503-5555.
The Harry James Orchestra: The late maestro's band plays on with this show, immodestly but perhaps not unjustly called a "Big Band Salute to the Music That Won World War II." Conductor Fred Radke leads the gang in "Sleepy Lagoon," "I Had the Craziest Dream," "It's Been a Long, Long Time," "Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe" and that great ode to unquestioning optimism, "Accentuate the Positive," which, out of the wartime context, sounded so oddly sinister as the theme of the film L.A. Confidential. Vocalists will include the Lancers, and Marilyn King of the King Sisters. There are two performances, at two different venues: first at 8 p.m. Friday, January 16, at Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 North Arizona Avenue, then at 2 p.m. Sunday, January 18, at the Sundome, 19403 R.H. Johnson Boulevard in Sun City West. Tickets are $16, $26 and $32 for the Chandler show, $11, $18 and $20 at the Sundome. 786-2680 (Chandler Center), 975-1900 (the 'dome), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
New Year Swing Jam With Frankie Manning: Frankie must have been swinging so hard that he didn't notice that New Year's is over already. The 83-year-old hoofer, veteran of the 1920s dance troupe Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, teaches his moves starting at 7 p.m. Friday, January 16, at Horizon High School, 5601 East Greenway Road in Scottsdale. It's followed by a dance party at 9 p.m. featuring Indigo Swing. Manning's classes and dances continue throughout Saturday, January 17, and Sunday, January 18. $125 gets you the whole weekend, space permitting; individual classes and dances are $15 and $10, respectively. 223-9493.