The List: Soli Deo Gloria and ‘Sins of Sor Juana’ headline a busy arts weekend

Welcome to The List, a curated offering of promising events for the weekend. Why stay home with Amazon Prime when there’s a whole world of local stuff to enjoy and support?

1. Celebrate spring with Soli Deo Gloria

Choral music is wonderful whenever you can experience it, of course, but it seems even more special in the spring. Soli Deo Gloria, Fresno’s very own women’s chorale, kicks off the weekend with “Voice & Verse,” a concert filled with beautiful music. I welcomed the ensemble’s music director, Julie Carter, and a longtime singer, Nancy Holly, to the May episode of “The Munro Review on CMAC.” Among the topics they discuss:

Carter’s favorite piece: “Reflections from Yad Vashem” is composer Daniel Hall’s mystical and poetical response to the poignant and lingering impressions evoked by the Yad Vashem Children’s memorial in Jerusalem. The piece combines scripture, poetry, children’s names and a lullaby in an exquisite, dramatic, and deeply moving musical presentation with viola, voices, piano and percussion. “It is a stunning, dramatic, poignant piece,” Carter says.

Holly’s favorite piece: “Song of Miriam.” It’s told from the point of view of Moses’ sister. “It addresses something that we’ve all been at some point in our lives: going into the unknown. Having that fear and that excitement at the same time, not knowing what our next step is going to be. This song beautifully expresses that, in comparison to her in the wilderness.”

Number of languages represented in this concert: Three (English, Latin and Hebrew). “This one is actually pretty simple,” Carter says. “Sometimes we have Italian, French, German, Russian …” In one previous concert, eight languages were represented.


Interesting fact: There aren’t as many women’s-only choirs around as there are regular choirs, and it can be difficult to find challenging music written for four women’s parts (Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Alto 1, Alto 2).

Important point: There’s serious stuff on the program, but some fun pieces, too. It’s spring, after all.

If you go: 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 3, University Presbyterian Church, 1776 E. Roberts Ave. Tickets are $20 at the door, $10 students.

Near/Far Theatre

A scene from ‘Sor Juana.’

2. ‘Sor Juana’ marks the debut of Near/Far Theatre

Fresno welcomes a new theater company Friday evening when Near/Far Theatre opens “The Sins of Sor Juana” by Karen Zacarías.

The company is the brainchild of Julia Reimer, who for years headed the theater program at Fresno Pacific University. In What’s My Call Time, local theater writer Heather Parish has a nice interview with Reimer talking about plans for Near/Far Theatre. Reimer sees herself as a “collaboration coordinator” rather than a traditional artistic director. She says the company will be committed to telling “under-told stories and creating spaces for dialogue, celebration and understanding around the theme ‘exploring what brings us together and breaks us apart.’ ”

The play is described as “exploring the poetry and passions of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz — one of Latin America’s most iconic literary icons — set to the backdrop of the world she lived in, the Church and Court of 17th century colonial Mexico.”

Zacarías wrote the play “Just Like Us,” which Fresno State presented this past season.

In “The Sins of Sor Juana,” Reimer is intrigued by the connection to California history, a subject that many of us are wobbly on:

Sure, we learn about Spanish explorers and the California missions. But we know nothing about the art or literature. Or of how indigenous cultures negotiated the colonial presence, shaping the arts. We definitely see that influence in the songs and poetry of Sor Juana. She knew both Latin/Greek and Nahuatl, the Aztec language.

Another bonus: Local composer E.J. Hinojosa provides original music.

Lorie Lewis Ham of Kings River Life magazine has another interview with Reimer worth a read.

If you go: Opens 8 p.m. Friday, May 3, The Hall, at Willow Avenue Mennonite Church, 2529 Willow Ave, Clovis. Continues 8 p.m. Saturday, May 4, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 5; and May 10-12. Tickets are $15 general, $12 students.

Fresno State

3. Fresno State: student spotlight

The Fresno State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Loewenheim, presents its final concert of the season, titled “Spotlight on Our Students.” It will include four works showcasing top students from the music department. The orchestra is collaborating with all four of the department’s choir to create the Fresno State Grand Chorus, conducted by Cari Earnhart.

Among the highlights:

The concert will open with Richard Wagner’s magnificent “Die Meistersinger” overture, an orchestral tour de force that displays the orchestra’s rich sounds and beautiful colors. The world premiere of graduate composition student Nathaniel Mauldin’s, “Fight or Flight” will follow. The piece is about the reaction of the autonomic nervous system in the inception of a tense situation and the body’s response when the brain feels it is threatened for its survival.

Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 will be performed by Emma Hill, winner of the 2018-2019 Fresno State Concerto Competition.

The Fresno State Grand Chorus will provide a grand finale with Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem. Soprano Katie La Blue and baritone Christopher Rodriguez will sing the leading roles.

If you go: 8 p.m. Saturday, May 4, Fresno State Concert Hall. Tickets are $15 general, $10 seniors, $5 students.

Clovis Community Choir

4. Stage and screen with Clovis Community Choir

Ed Cobb conducts the Clovis Community Choir in a free concert. Titled “Showstoppers,” the concert will feature favorite songs from stage and screen, along with other favorites from the past five years of spring concerts. Accompanied by pianist Randy Berger, the program will also feature a number of other instrumentalists as well.

The 80-voice Clovis Community Choir is sponsored by Clovis Adult School Community Education. And speaking of Clovis choirs, here’s something I snagged from the Clovis Community Choir Facebook page. It’s the Clovis Choral Union, circa 1911:

If you go: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 5, Clovis Veterans Memorial Hall. Tickets are free.

Wind Symphony of Clovis

5. ‘Lord of the Rings,’ Clovis-style

The prestigious Wind Symphony of Clovis, which I’ve written about a lot this past season, offers a distinctive concert: Along with the Independence High School Wind Ensemble, it will perform Johan Meij’s score to “The Lord of the Rings.”

Get there early to procure a seat, my precious.

If you go: 3 p.m. Sunday, May 5, Shaghoian Concert Hall. Tickets are $10 general, students and seniors $5.

And don’t forget …

I’ve already filled you in on Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s “The Comedy of Errors,” which is in its opening weekend.

Plus: The musical “9 to 5” opens at the Reedley Opera House.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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