Nielsen stepping down from community band

Robert Nielsen
Robert Nielsen: final season.

After serving on the podium since 1994, Robert Nielsen will give his last concert as conductor of the Fresno Community Concert Band on May 27.

Nielsen, one of the co-founders of the band along with Larry Huck, will pass the baton on to Sandy Headrick and Bruce Weinberger, who will take over as co-conductors in the 2018-19 season.

The band, which regularly plays to standing-room only audiences, is made up of a mix of some professionals, retired professionals and “many exceptional amateurs,” Nielsen says.

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Ain’t nothing but a hound fog

Top-notch scenic and costume design help elevate Good Company Players’ snappy “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” a Sherlock Holmes mystery


I’m going to flout theater-criticism etiquette and tell you upfront “whodunit” in the new Good Company Players production of “The Hound of the Baskervilles”:

David Pierce and Ginger Kay Lewis Reed.

Before you get huffy with me, no worries: You won’t actually find these two folks on stage, of course. (What, did you think I was going to give away the killer in this Sherlock Holmes mystery?) These theatrical wizards are the scenic and costume designers, respectively, for the show, and their names are so familiar to GCP patrons that their names are likely to fly right by when you’re perusing the program or reading a review. Perhaps behind-the-scenes artists can be too proficient at their jobs: If you keep churning out excellence, show after show, it just becomes expected.

Deadly game: Gordon Moore, left, as Sherlock Holmes in “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” In the background: Alex Vaux as Sir Henry and Henry Montelongo as Watson. Photo / Good Company Players

So what did Pierce and Lewis Reed “do” to deserve being singled out in the brisk and enjoyable “Hound”?

I’m not exactly sure why this GCP show is different from the dozens upon dozens of times I’ve seen their work before, but something about it makes me want to call out and take notice. Pierce’s handsome set perfectly captures the feel of a melancholy English manor house, from its jumble of tapestries, stone facings and wallpaper on the walls to the glass-doored exit leading to the mysterious (and deadly) moor beyond.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Aug. 25)

Three theater openings this weekend at Good Company Players, Selma Arts Center and River City Theatre Company

Here’s a rundown on promising arts/culture picks for the weekend:

Suddenly Sherlock

You’d get a little antsy, too, if you inherited a grand English estate that includes a scary beast with glowing eyes determined to chew you to a pulp. That’s the premise of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” a Sherlock Holmes thriller in its opening weekend at Good Company Players. After talking with director J.J. Cobb, I offer with five things to know about the show:

Elementary casting: Gordon Moore as Sherlock Holmes in “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Photo / Good Company Players

1. For Gordon Moore fans, it’s a must-see. Moore plays Sherlock Holmes. He’s a longtime GCP veteran actor, and if you’ve seen him in enough shows, the role seems like perfect casting. Holmes, with sidekick Dr. Watson (Henry Montelongo) arrives at the estate of Sir Henry (Alex Vaux) in Devonshire, England to help solve mysterious deaths all linked to a gigantic, demonic hound. Adding to the intrigue: a set of servants with questionable loyalties and several peculiar neighbors.

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A new way to look at the sun

My experience of the 2017 solar eclipse from atop an Oregon mountain gives me a new outlook on the most important star in my life. (Plus, I almost burn the mountain down.)


How to make friends during a total solar eclipse? Try lugging a 25-pound crystal ball up to the top of 4,098-foot Mary’s Peak, Oregon’s tallest mountain in the Coast Range. The moment the ball comes out of its custom carrier — we wrapped it in an old towel and put it in a cloth grocery bag — the shiny sphere attracts the attention of dozens of eclipse watchers who have staked out this prime spot overlooking the Willamette Valley. This is no regular crystal ball. More a nostalgic ‘70s pet rock than New Age element, the ball has been part of our household for the past couple of years, where it absorbs the light of a few of the “special moons” (blue, red, harvest, pink) that have floated over Fresno. Now it’s made its first out-of-state trip, this time to witness a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event.

In the moment of totality: my photograph taken from Mary’s Peak in central Oregon on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo / The Munro Review

“Whoa, what is that?” a man asks when the ball makes its first appearance. Several women wander over to check it out. A reporter from a local paper pops up wanting an interview. A little leery of coming across too California kooky, we play up the frivolity of the exercise. While I’m holding the heavy ball, I notice one of my hands is getting uncomfortably warm. The ball is focusing the sunlight into an intense beam. With just an hour until the moon boldly and completely blocks out the sun, it’s a reminder of the broiling strength of our very own star.

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From solar filters to goat yoga, Corvallis preps for eclipse

At Oregon State University, a weekend of events leads up to Monday’s big moment in total darkness

CORVALLIS, Ore. — “Twenty five hours and 10 minutes until totality,” says the giddy astrophotographer leading our class on building solar filters for our cameras. “I’ve been waiting for this for 22 years.”

On Sunday, the day before our little moon blots out the mighty sun for a precious 1 hour and 40 seconds of eerie daytime darkness, the mood on the campus of Oregon State University is high-spirited and anticipatory, like the thrill you felt as a kid the night before Christmas.

Practice session: After making a solar filter, on Sunday I practice photographing the sun in the Oregon State University quad. Photo / The Munro Review

So far the feared traffic jams haven’t materialized, the sewers haven’t overflown, and the gas stations remain happily supplied. There’s plenty of local beer at Safeway, and avocados, too. We even found an easy parking place on campus this morning. Perhaps chaos will break out tomorrow and society will collapse when the skies go black, but so far the fear and trepidation associated with eclipses throughout history has been happily absent, at least in this laidback university town.

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Politics, art and marriage

Prompted by spirited discussions with her husband, Leslie Batty finds her political voice in “Redress” at the Fresno Art Museum

In “Redress,” Leslie Batty’s politically charged new exhibition at the Fresno Art Museum, there are no self-portraits. But you do get to meet the artist’s husband. A work titled “Man Descending Staircase” prominently features a nearly life-size Dustin Batty. He is depicted as a tall, handsome, elegantly dressed figure wearing a vintage dark suit at the top of a luxurious looking staircase. He’s as chiseled and dapper as a character in “Mad Men.”

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Five friends: Leslie Batty’s exhibition “Redress” includes a series of portraits of close friends modeled on Michelangelo’s sibyls from the Sistine Chapel. Photo / Michael Karibian

The painting — which the artist affectionately refers to as “The Dustin” — was first inspired by a photograph that she snapped of him in a Madrid apartment building they were staying at while on a European vacation. She loved the composition and the light.

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Give a hand for Hedda

Brooke Aiello leads a consummate cast in a memorable production of Ibsen’s classic “Hedda Gabler”


“Let me go,” Hedda Gabler says softly, almost imperceptibly.

You might in this moment think of a cranky child trying to escape the clutches of a doting elderly relative. The truth isn’t far: In this early scene in Ibsen’s famed play, Hedda’s new aunt by marriage has dropped in unannounced on the new couple the morning after Hedda and her husband return from a six-month honeymoon. So much for a bit of time and space for Hedda to get used to her new marital digs: Here’s selfless Aunt Julia, the titaness of social respectability, wrapped up in a great swath of a formal dress and wearing a brand-new hat, barging in to make sure everyone in the household knows of her smotheringly good intentions. In a moment of forced intimacy, Aunt Julia has grabbed Hedda’s hands without permission. In Hedda’s world, that’s a no-no. And it captures, early on, a sense of the entrapment that she feels as she begins this new marriage.

Bearing arms: Brooke Aiello is outstanding as the title character in “Hedda Gabler.” Photo / The New Ensemble

Is it any wonder that the title character in “Hedda Gabler” has a snippy side?

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‘Park’ it right here in Sonora

After years of listening to the cast album, I make the trek to Sierra Repertory Theatre for “The Great American Trailer Park Musical”


SONORA — Sometimes I wait for years to see a show. Example: I bought the cast album of a sweet and tuneful off-Broadway offering called “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” probably close to a decade ago. I loved it. And whenever I listened, I’d idly think that at some point I’d finally get to experience an actual production.

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This side of the tracks: The cast of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” Photo / Rich Miller, Sierra Repertory Theatre

Which is why I’m at Sierra Repertory Theatre at a Saturday matinee in the cozy East Sonora Theatre, all pumped up to — finally! — see “Trailer Park” the way it was meant to be.


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