Weekend pick: Fresno State Art Song Festival returns to live performance with Anton Belov and student competitions

On Monday, Maria Briggs received the call that no promoter in the pandemic age ever wants to get:

Her star tested positive for COVID-19.

Pictured above: Anton Belov performs Saturday at Fresno State.

Kelley O’Connor, a Grammy Award-winning classical singer (and graduate of Clovis High School), was scheduled to be the featured artist at this weekend’s 5th Fresno State Art Song Festival. Then she tested positive.

Thankfully, Briggs – who teaches voice at Fresno State – has a long contact list. She was able to move quickly and secure a worthy substitute: Anton Belov, the author of numerous books on Russian diction and vocal repertoire and the founder and proprietor of

Belov, who served as the festival’s featured artist in 2020, will offer a free public recital at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Fresno State Concert Hall.


He also will work with students during his time on campus.

The festival returns to live performance this year following last year’s pandemic-mandated virtual sessions.

For those unfamiliar with the term, Briggs says, an art song is a musical rendition of a poem performed by a pianist and a singer. The music is usually composed in the classical tradition.

A highlight of the festival is the Poetry and Composition Finals, which will be held 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25, at Rehearsal Room 127. gives the rundown:

Poetry finalists and Fresno State students Brian Rojas and William Freeney will present their poems. The audience will then hear five versions of the winning poem set to music by composition finalists Xavier Bueno, Jack Landseadel, Dalton Morris, Marcus Overacker and Tammy Gordin.

Fresno State soloists Gena Chambers, Zoey Turney, Laura Castro, Aunika Bull and Miranda Barton will premiere these original songs.

The winners will be announced following the performances. Audience members also will have a chance to vote for their favorite composition.

Another highlight: Selected singers will compete in the Vocal Showcase Finals at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, in the Concert Hall. Prizes will be announced after Anton Belov’s recital.

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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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