Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Feb. 23)

Options include an art song festival at Fresno State; and new theater productions in Reedley and Hanford

Here’s roundup of promising openings this weekend:

Focus on vocals

Art Song lovers, unite. Maria Briggs, a voice professor, has organized the first Fresno State Art Song Festival, which she’s calling “On Wings of Song.” The festival features a number of master classes and guest instructors. Here are three public highlights:

• On Friday, Feb. 23, Briggs offers a recital (7 p.m., Wahlberg Recital Hall).

• On Saturday, Feb. 24, there will be a student showcase recital and presentation of the “best singer” award (4 p.m., Concert Hall).

• Also on Saturday, guest faculty artist Vladimir Chernov of UCLA will give a recital (6 p.m., Concert Hall).

Briggs says that she started the festival because that while there are several opera programs locally, there is no current platform to showcase and enjoy the Art Song.

Continue reading “Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Feb. 23)”

Jennifer Koh returns to Fresno Philharmonic with recipe for a flavorful Bernstein ‘Serenade’

Virtuoso violinist is helping to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth

Jennifer Koh played with the Fresno Philharmonic way back in 1996, so you’d forgive her for being a little hazy in the memory department when it comes to details. That was more than two decades ago, when the youthful talent was busy whipper-snapping her way into the elite ranks of the world’s concert violinists. Throughout the course of her significant career, she’s played lots of places.

It might come as a surprise, then, that as she returns to play with the Fresno Philharmonic on Sunday, Feb. 25, Koh’s recollections are crystal clear about one particular detail from her Fresno visit. Not to be too dramatic about it or anything, but it changed her life.

jennifer koh
Jennifer Koh returns to play with the Fresno Philharmonic on Sunday, Feb. 25. Photo / Juergen Frank

The music director of the Fresno Philharmonic at the time was Maestro Raymond Harvey. During rehearsal week, he invited the young Koh — a college student finishing up at Oberlin whose resume included making her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11 and winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1994 — to dinner at his Fresno High School-area home. He cooked a marvelous gourmet dinner for her, as he was known to do.

She was impressed. “How do you cook so well?” she asked.

Then she admitted to him that she was a complete klutz in the kitchen. How bad a cook was she at the time? Think of her at a level of starting-a-fire badness. (That really happened once when she tried to cook a steak that was frozen. She didn’t know she had to defrost it first.) Koh might have been a virtuoso violinist, but her culinary skills were seriously out of tune.

Continue reading “Jennifer Koh returns to Fresno Philharmonic with recipe for a flavorful Bernstein ‘Serenade’”

DIY Duchamp: In Fresno Art Museum’s ‘Trashique,’ a new cycle of artistic inspiration

Pattie Wilkinson expands her artistic horizons with her take on Duchamp’s ‘Bicycle Wheel.’ Plus: You can win a pair of tickets to one of the biggest social events of the year

Pattie Wilkinson didn’t think she had much in common with Marcel Duchamp when she picked him as her inspiration artist for “Trashique 2018,” the swanky Fresno Art Museum fundraiser that has emerged in recent years as a clever juxtaposition of fashion show, art history lesson, dazzling social event and recycling pep rally.

Wilkinson, who has had a long career designing trade-show displays and as a consultant in the arts and crafts industry — and is an experienced crafter herself — grew up learning to make practical things such as clothes and Christmas gifts. (She came from a family of modest means.) Duchamp, on the other hand, the famed French painter and sculptor, is known for his contributions to Cubism and his groundbreaking contributions to conceptual art. One of his best known pieces involved taking a commonplace urinal, titling it “Fountain” and in 1917 submitting it to an art exhibition. It was a moment that rocked the art world.


Win two tickets to “Trashique 2018,” which for the first year is being held in an airplane hanger. To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling us the most surprising thing you ever found in the trash. (Or, if you don’t have a good Dumpster Diver story, just tell us why you want to go.) Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22.


But thanks to “Trashique,” an event featuring glamorous (if not always practical) fashions made from recycled materials, the always-up-for-a-challenge Wilkinson found herself paired with none other than the “urinal guy.”

Continue reading “DIY Duchamp: In Fresno Art Museum’s ‘Trashique,’ a new cycle of artistic inspiration”

Fresno State’s ‘Epistêmê’ offers a whirlwind of motion and emotion

You can win a pair of tickets to any of the final three performances of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble

DANCE REVIEW

The Contemporary Dance Ensemble at Fresno State continues its run of “Epistêmê,” every night this week through Saturday. There was a very small audience in the John Wright Theatre at the Sunday matinee I attended, which is a shame. These hard-working dancers deserve a bigger spotlight.

213A4698
A moment from the Contemporary Dance Ensemble concert “Episteme.” Photo / Fresno State

A few thoughts from the show:

The opening: “Project Solo,” which introduces each dancer individually, is a clever appropriation of the tropes we’ve come to expect from “Project Runway”: the focus on personality (we’re bombarded with multiple images of each dancer as he or she gets a moment onstage alone to shine); the confident, fashion-strut-style of interaction with the audience (each move telegraphing “Look at me!”); the music putting a pep in everyone’s steps (with an overall techno-beat feel). Stephanie Bradshaw’s idiosyncratic costumes help pump up that sense of individuality, and Liz Waldman’s projections have a nice, grainy feel, with complexions and hair colors posterized almost to abstraction. Most important, the dancers, guided by choreographer and CDE artistic director Kenneth Balint, exude a sense of basking in our attention — which is what the “Runway” is really about, right?


Win two tickets to any remaining performance of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble’s “Episteme.” To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling us why you’d like to go. Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21. If you win, you can choose from any of the following three performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23; or Saturday, Feb. 24.


The student choreographer: Kudos to Nathalie Quiros for her weird and transfixing “Esoteric Flux,” which began with some of the dancers huddled squarely under a white sheet, like a shuddering ice cube, moved to ribbons of fabric flinging bodies around, and ending with a kinetic, twitchy sense of disrupted time. I liked the fearlessness of the choreography and the impatience of it all, with dancers at times literally being yanked off one side of the stage or the other. Brisk, unsettling and infused with a sort of jittery zombie menace, I found myself drawn to Quiros’ distinct visual language.

Continue reading “Fresno State’s ‘Epistêmê’ offers a whirlwind of motion and emotion”

Weekend update: Dominic is off to D.C., Audra gets Roosevelt High honor, and Omar croons his love of mariachi

In this post: various musings on weekend topics, including: Dominic Grijalva wins a chance to go to the Kennedy Center; Audra McDonald will have a Fresno theater named after her; some thoughts on Omar Naré’s “Nuevo Mariachi” concert on Saturday; and your chance to offer input on Fresno State’s proposed performing arts center. 

Triple threat

He directs, he designs killer graphics, he sings. Now here’s the latest accomplishment for “Spring Awakening” director Dominic Grijalva: On Saturday he won the top musical theater award at the American College Theater Festival’s regional competition in Mesa, Ariz.

dom award
Dominic Grijalva, left, and Kaitlyn Hipwell of Weber State University after the musical theater awards at the ACTF regional musical theater competition.

Next step is the national competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in April. He also won a $600 scholarship to attend the Open Jar Musical Theatre Workshop in New York.

Continue reading “Weekend update: Dominic is off to D.C., Audra gets Roosevelt High honor, and Omar croons his love of mariachi”

For Fresno State student choreographer Nathalie Quiros, time flies in special ways

Quiros debuts her piece “Esoteric Flux” in the annual Contemporary Dance Ensemble concert

Nathalie Quiros is sitting a few feet across from me in a room next to Fresno State’s theater box office. We’re chatting about the dance she choreographed for the annual Contemporary Dance Ensemble concert. To demonstrate a move, she flings out her arm in a razor-sharp motion.

“I call that an outward flick,” she says.

I like that word: flick.

IMG_6995
A scene from Nathalie Quiros’ “Esoteric Flux,” part of Contemporary Dance Ensemble’s lineup. Photo / Fresno State

So does Quiros.

It sounds quicker than a brushing motion. It’s more abrupt than a sweep or a graze. To flick is to dart — to pounce and then retract. The word makes me think of a motionless frog whose tongue suddenly snaps out to catch a fly.

Quiros is the designated student choreographer for the concert, and she’s poured heart and sole into the creation of “Esoteric Flux,” an 11-minute work she calls “very abstract.” To her, the piece is about how time can skip and start.

Continue reading “For Fresno State student choreographer Nathalie Quiros, time flies in special ways”

Mariachi gets a makeover: Omar Naré offers new spin on a proud tradition

‘Nuevo Mariachi’ concert at Bitwise is a weekend highlight.

Groundbreaking artists are impatient. They aren’t content to do things the same old way. They push and pull and stretch. They are never quite satisfied with the status quo.

With his style of “Nuevo Mariachi,” Sanger native Omar Naré gives a makeover to the beloved musical artform of his youth. He isn’t against what he calls “pure mariachi,” but he wants his version — which he describes as a blend of “sophisti-pop and mariachi traditions” — to crackle in modern times. For that, he’s getting attention. A recent public radio story on Naré delved into his fascinating life story and musical innovations. (A mention of and link to that piece, which I recommend you give a listen, even made it into the New York Times.)

Omar Naré Poster Feb 2018

You can hear Naré’s music at a Bitwise concert on Saturday, Feb. 17. I caught up with him for a fascinating discussion.

Q: Your grandfather was a farmworker. You’ve worked in the fields yourself. What connection does mariachi have to the land?

A: I like to imagine that my grandfather packed clothes, blankets, and a box of Pedro Infante records when he drove from Mexico to California with my abuelita! Mariachi has always been the music of the land. The earliest mariachi musicians would wander from hacienda to hacienda picking fruit and training horses. At night, they would play their violins and guitars. Later, the music became organized, hip and urban — think Mexico City in 1936 — but it has always maintained its folk identity, even till today. It’s always been music of the land.

Continue reading “Mariachi gets a makeover: Omar Naré offers new spin on a proud tradition”

World-class piano on Valentine’s Day: What could be more romantic than that?

You can win a pair of tickets to the Feb. 14 concert featuring Yefim Bronfman with the Fresno State Keyboard Concerts season

The Chicago Tribune once described pianist Yefim Bronfman’s style as “a marvel of digital dexterity, warmly romantic sentiment, and jaw-dropping bravura.” That “romantic” part is a good sell for Bronfman’s Valentine’s Day performance as part of Keyboard Concerts at Fresno State.

Yefim Bronfman, pianist
Yefim Bronfman performs Wednesday, Feb. 14, at Fresno State. Photo / Keyboard Concerts

Bronfman regularly plays the world’s top concert venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York, Hertz Hall in Berkeley, the Schiller Theater in Berlin, and Symphony Center in Chicago, among others. The Israeli-American pianist is a regular soloist with the Vienna, New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras, and the Boston, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco and Seattle symphonies.

He last performed for the Keyboard series in 2016.

His program for the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series at the Fresno State Concert Hall includes Beethoven’s Sonata in F major, Schubert’s Sonata in C minor, Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque” and Stravinsky’s “Trois Mouvements de Pétrouchka.”

Continue reading “World-class piano on Valentine’s Day: What could be more romantic than that?”