Rock ‘n’ roll choir Hearts on Fire takes us on an ‘Abbey Road’ trip, all to benefit the Tower District

Hearts on Fire, a rock ‘n’ roll choir led by famed local vocalist Debi Ruud, will perform the entire Beatles “Abbey Road” album in a fundraising concert (7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29) in a benefit for the Tower District Preservation Committee. Here are 5 Things to Know:


The Beatles had four voices. This concert will have 60.

“This has been a HUGE undertaking,” Ruud says. “At our last show in 2022 we had about 40 singers … This show has close to 60 voices. We did this show several years ago, but only a third of the singers have done it before.”


‘Abbey Road’ is a classic.

“Funny, I do not have many childhood memories, but the memories I do have are interestingly linked to music,” Ruud says. “I loved the Beatles as a kid and and now as a “big kid” I find myself asking Siri to play “Abbey Road” or “the White Album” or, just a song here or there. Somehow their music feels like a part of my DNA or something.”

The album was released in September 1969. It includes such tunes as “Come Together,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Something,” along with a 16-minute medley of eight tracks consisting of a number of short songs and song fragments.


It made an impression on Ruud. “I was 7 years old and I totally remember it,” she says. “Either my mom or my dad had the record, or maybe someone got it for me? I can’t quite remember but it got played over and over.”


For Ruud, the Beatles extend to the next generation.

She and daughter Karter make up the group Two of Us. It will open the show with a variety of songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

“So me being “me,” my kids got huge doses of all kinds of music growing up, The Beatles being of course a part of that,” she says. “I think Karter would faint if she ever got to meet Sir Paul. She has seen him several times live. She chose most of the songs we will be opening with.”

Among the titles they’ll sing: “I saw her standing there,” “Norwegian Wood,” and “And Your Bird Can Sing.”


Hearts on Fire: how ‘rock’ are we talking? Hint: It ain’t the Ray Conniff Singers.

“Most of the members are older, so there is no head banging, but it’s not easy listening either,” Ruud says. “Most of the arrangements are three-to-four parts. Some are fairly complex. I think people will be surprised at the sound we make. Our choir is really, really good. And we have so much fun!! For a non-auditioned group of folks that love to sing, I’d give us an A+. AND, the band is awesome.”


Ruud and the Tower District are tight.

The Tower is her neighborhood. She has loved this area of town since she moved back to Fresno in 1982.

“I live and work here,” she says. “I love the diversity, the arts and culture, the night life. I love it all and I want to see it get even better, and that is what the Tower District Preservation Association is striving to accomplish.”

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More about the Tower District Preservation Association

I caught up with Joseph Catania, who is on the board of the association. Here he is explaining the purpose of the group:

It was founded to advocate for the Tower Specific Plan Area. We formed the Tower District Preservation Association. During early years we had many fundraisers. Everything from musical performances, and a massive yard sale, to a walk/run through the Tower area to Art Films in Van Ness Village. We also had a very generous membership.

Things we did in those years included contributing $30,000 over many years to the Olive Avenue Landscape project; funding the painting of all of the historic lampposts in the Plan Area; presenting a Children’s Storytelling Series, doing community outreach and educating the community about the Specific Plan and Design Review Guidelines. We hosted with the Fresno Arts Council the Tower Arts Festival, a juried art festival that included outdoor live entertainment for a full day. In the early 2000s we disbanded. When the crisis regarding Adventure Church’s desire to purchase the Tower Theater there was community interest in recreating the Tower District Preservation Association once again. So we incorporated. Our first year or more was spent exhaustively working to prevent the church from purchasing the Theater. In the process we have had to rebuild our organization’s infrastructure, and build a membership from a population that by and large knew nothing about the Tower District Specific Plan. Two original Board members from the 90’s sit on the current Board. (That includes me).

What the funds will be used for is still undetermined, but I will tell you some of the things we are looking at. Also, we are an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff. Some possibilities are: Tree Plantings; Community Outreach; Educating the Community about the current Specific Plan Update Committee; Hosting Creative Cultural and Arts Events; Supporting our local schools; addressing problems in South Tower (including Belmont), Fulton south of Olive, Blackstone, West Olive, and Van Ness Village. Painting historic lampposts could be a possibility. We are open to community ideas. Some of the money will be used for community outreach, operating expenses (including printing costs). I just can’t give you absolute specifics at this time. We are looking to expand our membership. We have a new board member, and another being considered. We have identified a few volunteers. We will lobby the City and others on behalf of our community. We are rebuilding our organization.

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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