Audra McDonald to join Fresno Philharmonic for Memorial Day weekend concert

A hometown concert by Audra McDonald is rare — and always big news.

The Fresno Philharmonic will get that opportunity on May 26, when the Fresno-raised McDonald — who has won more Tony awards than any performer — will stop at the Saroyan Theatre on a West Coast swing of her concert tour.

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Audra McDonald will perform with her hometown orchestra on May 26. Photo / ©Autumn de Wilde

Andy Einhorn, a longtime musical collaborator of McDonald’s, will conduct.

Tickets for the general public will go on sale Dec. 18 and may be purchased at www.fresnophil.org or by calling 559-261-0600. Fresno Philharmonic subscribers and donors have the opportunity to purchase tickets from Dec. 8-17. Ticket prices range from $35-$95.

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Win tickets to Fresno Philharmonic’s holiday concert

Conductor Rei Hotoda and orchestra celebrates the holidays with an acclaimed baritone soloist, the Fresno Master Chorale and more

UPDATE: Congratulations to winners Christina JG Connelly and Lisa Gluskin.

ORIGINAL POST: The Fresno Philharmonic has an appealing holiday concert planned for you this weekend. Guest artists for “Home for the Holidays” include the acclaimed baritone Jubilant Sykes, who has appeared in such venues as the Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. Also joining conductor Rei Hotoda will be the Fresno Master Chorale, directed by Anna Hamre, and the Alta Sierra Intermediate School Chamber Choir, directed by Gail Barbour.

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Jubilant Sykes is guest soloist at “Home for the Holidays.” Photo / Fresno Philharmonic

A special treat will be Mark Standriff (who recently played Mushnik in StageWorks Fresno’s “Little Shop of Horrors”) narrating the classic “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

The concert is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Saroyan Theatre.

And guess what! I have a pair of tickets to this popular concert to give away to a reader of The Munro Review.

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Promising singer ups Fresno State’s opera game

Tiffanie Trujillo gives her undergraduate recital with a program that includes a work by Coarsegold composer Barbara Ulman

Local opera fans attending productions at Fresno State over the past few years have definitely taken notice of two talented singers: Mezzo soprano Alejandra Tejeda, a graduate student; and soprano Tiffanie Trujillo, an undergraduate student. I certainly have. Both are graduating. It’s hard to tell what will happen in the years ahead, but I’d say chances are very good indeed that both will be able to break into the ranks of successful professional singers.

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Fresno State student Tiffanie Trujillo.

Tejeda already gave her recital a couple of weeks ago. (And I’m sorry I missed the chance to publicize it.) Trujillo gives her recital 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the Fresno State Wahlberg Recital Hall. Admission is free.

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First remembering, then healing

Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale offers a concert marking the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II

Anna Hamre and her illustrious singers in the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale knew they wanted to mark an important date: the 75th anniversary of when U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were forced into internment camps during World War II. But how would the programming for such a concert work?

Unlike past recent concerts by the chorale — which has tackled such provocative themes as the Armenian genocide and Alzheimer’s disease — there wasn’t a particular composition or cultural body of music that would work in terms of repertoire.

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“These were Americans that were put in concentration camps,” says Hamre, the ensemble’s musical director. “It’s not like we could just do ‘their’ music. They were listening to swing bands back then, just like everyone else.”

But then came an idea: How about a program that included a modern-day version of the Latin Requiem, and then a piece that exemplifies healing and joy?

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Getting to know Rei Hotoda

In an extensive profile, get a glimpse behind the scenes of the busy life of the Fresno Philharmonic’s new music director

The first few rehearsals between a symphony orchestra and an unfamiliar conductor can be magical. And perhaps a little nerve-racking. Everyone’s on their best behavior. If things go well, the rehearsals can feel fresh and pitched with possibility, offering hints of great things to come. Or they can be dreary affairs, stolid and workmanlike, an exercise to simply get through and then move on to more encouraging opportunities.

They’re like a first date.

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Three generations: Rei Hotoda, center, with her son, Constantine Janello, and mother, Sachiko Hotoda, in the Saroyan Theatre lobby after the conductor’s first concert as Fresno Philharmonic music director. Photo / The Munro Review

At this afternoon rehearsal in October, as Rei Hotoda stands on the podium in front of the musicians of the Fresno Philharmonic, preparing for her very first concert as the orchestra’s newly named music director, there’s little chance for the dreary option.

After all, Hotoda was notably successful during the initial wooing process — her tryout week in Fresno back in March — when she charmed players, patrons, media and audience members alike. (And, most important, members of the orchestra’s search committee, which unanimously selected her out of six highly qualified finalists.)

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Win tickets to Fresno Philharmonic’s tribute to veterans

Program includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

I’m looking forward to the Fresno Philharmonic’s concert on Sunday for a couple of reasons.

For one, it’ll be Rei Hotoda’s second time on the podium as the orchestra’s new music director. She has a moving program titled “Homage” planned that includes Beethoven’s famed Symphony No. 5 and returning guest artist Orion Weiss, who will playing Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

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Secondly (and more personally), I’m actually going to be an official part of the afternoon! I’ll be guest-hosting the pre-concert lecture, “Words on Music,” at 2 p.m. in the Saroyan Theatre. On stage with me will be Hotoda. She and I will talk about the program — which has a Veterans Day theme — and also a little about her as a person off the podium, based on a profile I’m writing that will be posted later this week.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Oct. 27)

Options include Fresno State’s new production of “Native Son,” Arte Americas’ big “Cala Gala” festival, theater openings in Oakhurst and Visalia, and the National Chamber Choir of Armenia

Here’s a roundup of promising arts/culture picks for the weekend:

‘Native Son’

Fresno State’s theater department opens a new adaptation of Richard Wright’s classic novel about a poor black man living in 1930s Chicago accused of killing a wealthy white woman. I caught up with director Thomas-Whit Ellis for a rundown on the show.

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Joshua Slack and Arium Andrews star in “Native Son.” Photo / Fresno State

The new adaptation: “Native Son,” which Wright wrote in 1940, was adapted into a play soon afterward. (It was directed by Orson Welles and opened on Broadway in 1941.) In 2014, a new adaptation by Nambi Kelley opened in Chicago. Ellis had become a fan of Kelley’s work when he directed “Hands Up,” a 2016 Fresno State production written by seven playwrights. He saw the new “Native Son” in a production by the Marin Theatre Company. Fresno State is one of the first universities in the country to produce it, he says.

The format: Kelley adapted the novel into a compressed, taut, 90-minute series of vignettes in a “hard hitting, fast-paced manner,” Ellis says.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Oct. 20)

Here’s a roundup of promising arts/culture picks for the weekend:

Drive-through

All eyes on Saturday will be on the Fulton Mall — whoops, Fulton Street, and it will be a while before I can train myself to automatically say that — for the official ribbon-cutting and opening celebration. This isn’t just an event; it’s an historic occasion. I remember when I came to Fresno more than 25 years ago for my job interview, and my future boss took me to lunch at the Downtown Club, pointed in the direction of the mall, and told me, “We hope this can be revitalized soon.”

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Photo / Downtown Fresno Partnership

So, decades later, change is in the air. I’m crossing my fingers.

Bethany Clough has a nice list in The Bee of pop-up stores and restaurants that will line the street for the 3 p.m. ribbon cutting at Fulton Street and Mariposa Mall. Most will be open until 10. (It’s nice to see the Fresno Art Museum on the list with a wine/shopping option.) There will be two beer gardens and three stages for live music.

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