Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Jan. 19)

Options include annual Fresno State faculty concert, a special recital at Fresno Pacific, and a “Super” event by the Fresno Community Concert Band

Classical music lovers, this weekend is for you:

Faculty concert

How big is this year’s Fresno State faculty concert? There are so many performers they can come together as a symphony orchestra. Faculty members participating (in alphabetical order) are Rachel Aldrich, Teresa Beaman, Michael Chang, Andrew Quiring, Matthew Darling, Larry Gardner, Richard Giddens Jr., Thomas Hiebert, Ed Hull, Thomas Loewenheim, Aaron Marcus Luna, Nathan Sobieralski, Limor Toren-Immerman, and Andreas Werz. They’ll be joined by selected students.


The concert will include Dvorak’s Carnival Overture, the Sextet from Mozart’s opera “Cosi fan tutte” featuring our voice faculty and two of their top students. The orchestra will close the concert with Gliere’s “The Red Poppy Suite.”

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KVPR family stunned by Mariam Stepanian’s death

Mariam Stepanian. Photo / Valley Public Radio

There’s sad news today for employees and supporters of Valley Public Radio: General manager Mariam Stepanian, whose name became synonymous with KVPR, died Thursday, Jan. 18, following complications from an illness. It’s no exaggeration to say she was a pillar of the central San Joaquin Valley’s cultural scene.

The radio station’s staff was informed Friday morning.

Stepanian had worked at the station since 1980, first serving as development director. She soon became general manager. You can learn more about her storied career on the KVPR website:

Under Stepanian’s leadership, Valley Public Radio became one the region’s leading providers of news and cultural arts media. With NPR and classical music programming, Valley Public Radio’s audience grew and eventually encompassed two stations, serving both the Fresno and Bakersfield markets.

Most recently, Stepanian led the effort to raise funds for the construction of a new state-of-the-art broadcast center in Clovis. The 10,000 square foot facility opened in mid-2016, and is a lasting reminder of her vision for the station and the community.

I’m planning to write a follow-up appreciation of Stepanian. If anyone has memories or other details to share, please email me at, or leave a comment below.

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Win tickets to Visalia production of ‘Janka’

For many in the local arts community, Janice Noga has become synonymous with the name “Janka.” The Fresno actress for more than a decade has been perfecting her role in the one-woman show about her mother-in-law, Janka Festinger Speace, who survived a Nazi concentration camp. Noga’s husband, Oscar Speace, wrote the play about his mother using original source materials, and the pair have toured with it across the nation and around the world. In 2015, I got the opportunity to follow “Janka” to New York City, where Noga and Speace fulfilled a lifelong dream of having the play produced in the nation’s theater capital with a professional director and designers.

janka poster

Now’s your chance to see the newest version of the play — which was extensively reworked in its off off Broadway run — in the central San Joaquin Valley. It will be performed in Visalia and Fresno. You can even win free tickets.

In this post I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to the 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, performance at The 210 Performance Space (210 W. Center St., Visalia). This performance is presented by The Janka Project and the California Holocaust Education & Resource Center. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post explaining why you’d like to see the show. Deadline to enter is 9 a.m. Thursday.

Another performance is planned a few weeks after that: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, at the 2nd Space Theatre. (Be on the lookout for free tickets for that, too.)

I wrote extensively about the “Janka” production through the years for the Fresno Bee. One reason her story was so compelling is that theater lovers in the central San Joaquin Valley helped raise money (through a partnership with the Fresno Arts Council) to send the show to New York. A relatively few number of people got to see that New York production, however. This time you won’t have to buy a plane ticket.

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Are you a flute lover? Prepare to be serenaded with Moment Musical

Chamber music ensemble will perform a piece by a great 18th century flutist

We’re looking at another relatively quiet weekend on the local arts scene. (And I’m hearing that tickets are quite scarce for Sunday’s double-bill of “Calculus: The Musical” and “Curie Me Away,” which I previewed on my January CMAC show, so if you’re looking for something to do, you might be out of luck there.) Which gives me a chance to lavish some attention on Moment Musical and its “Sunday Serenade” concert at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

michel blavet

This faithful chamber music ensemble has been around since 1989. The top-notch musicians who regularly contribute their talents to the loose-knit group are among the best in town. One of them is Janette Erickson, principal flutist for the Fresno Philharmonic. She’s excited to showcase the French composer Michel Blavet (1700-1768), known as the best flutist of his day.

Erickson, accompanied on cello and piano, will perform Blavet’s Sonata in G minor, one of six flute sonatas written by the composer. All were dedicated to well-known women. I wanted to learn more about this piece from Erickson, the expert:

Q: Tell us a little more about Michel Blavet. Did you learn about him in school?

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Jan. 5)

As January’s cultural scene slowly begins to ramp up, here are two weekend picks for you:

Keyboard Concerts

If you’ve never heard a professional organist play the Elizabeth V. Lyles Pipe Organ in the Fresno State Concert Hall, you owe yourself the experience. (Fun fact: The impressive instrument was built by the Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company in St. Louis and installed in 1996.)

Kimberly Marshall, organist
Acclaimed organist Kimberly Marshall performs Sunday, Jan. 7, at the Fresno State Concert Hall. Photo / Keyboard Concerts

You’ll get that opportunity when Kimberly Marshall, who has an illustrious performance and academic background (at one point she was dean of postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music), returns to the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series on Sunday, Jan. 7.

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Making sense of a new ‘Sensibility’

With its new “Sense and Sensibility,” Good Company Players gives a fresh coat of paint to the Jane Austen classic

Jane Austen’s classic “Sense and Sensibility” gets a rousing and quick-moving new adaptation at Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theatre. How quick? Just as in the recent New York production, the furniture in the Fresno version is on rollers — which makes it all the easier to whisk the set pieces around.

Na’ Vauge Jackson, left, is Marianne, and Jessica Rose Knotts is Elinor in “Sense and Sensibility.” Photo / Good Company Players

Director Kathleen McKinley is known for her long career working with students at Fresno State, but she’s getting out into the community with this production, now in its opening weekend. I caught up with her to talk about the show.

Q: Tell us about this new adaptation.

A: Written by New York City actress Kate Hamill, this adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” premiered in 2014 to rave reviews. The play compresses the action of the book to focus on the adventures and plight of a widow and her three daughters who are left penniless due to British inheritance laws of the 1790’s. They are evicted from their manor home by a greedy daughter-in-law and must rely upon the generosity of enthusiastic, but nosey, boisterous relatives who are intent upon finding husbands for the daughters. As the Dashwood women resettle in a tiny cottage, the two older daughters, Elinor and Marianne, are thrust into the company of bachelors, both eligible and not, along with intrusive socialites both in the country and London.

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5 picks for January ArtHop

Options include Edward Gillum at Spectrum Art Gallery, Mike Garcia at 1821 Gallery & Studios, Caleb Duarte at and a chili fundraiser at Clay Hand Studios

Let’s get the new year off to an artistic start with these ArtHop picks:

Spectrum Art Gallery

Edward Gillum is not an artist who works in a vacuum. Is he troubled by this nation’s current political climate? Most definitely. But he’s also intrigued. “We live in a special time, as marvelous and mysterious as it is shameful and hideous,” he says.

Gillum has long brought both a keen intellectualism and a visceral, political anxiety to his wide-ranging works, which include installation art, sculpture and photography. His latest exhibition, “Alphabet of Meaning,” weaves his childhood love of books and the written word with his concerns about a culture that he feels is resembling Orwell’s “1984.” It opens Thursday at Spectrum Art Gallery as part of ArtHop, the monthly open house of galleries and studios in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods.

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