Last chances to see 2 impressive Fresno-area musicals: ‘Fun Home’ and ‘Joseph’

Just a reminder: If you haven’t seen the following two shows, you owe it to yourself to get thee to an air-conditioned theater tonight or tomorrow afternoon:

♦ StageWorks Fresno’s “Fun Home” is stellar. Here’s my preview (I think it’s a very powerful interview) and here’s my review.

♦ Good Company Players’ “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is likewise first-rate. Here’s my review.

A wonderful Tim Smith is the title character in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.’ Photo / Good Company Players

Remember: Netflix will always be there.

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Finnish pianist will offer a striking finish to Keyboard’s 2017-18 season

Keyboard Concerts closes its 2017-18 season with Juho Pohjonen, one of Finland’s most prominent musicians. He will perform a program that includes works by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Schubert, and Franck. The concert is 3 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at the Fresno State Concert Hall.

Juho Puhjonen, Pianist
Juho Pohjonen

Andreas Werz, artistic director of the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series, is particularly excited to bring Pohjonen to Fresno.

“Last summer I heard Juho’s recital at the Beethoven Haus in Bonn, and I can say that he is truly an outstanding talent,” Werz says. “Prior to his Fresno appearance he will give a recital for the La Jolla Music Society — so once again we are in good company.”

Pohjonen has given acclaimed recitals at the major venues in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Vancouver, Detroit, La Jolla, London, Hamburg, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Warsaw, Hong Kong, and Antwerp.

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With ‘Dear Audra,’ a chance to tell Fresno’s beloved Broadway star how you feel

As Ms. McDonald prepares to make her debut with the Fresno Philharmonic, citizens of the United States of Audra can send their best wishes

Audra McDonald’s May 26 concert with the Fresno Philharmonic is sold out, which is no surprise. This is Audra Country. It’s sort of the same thing as Derek Carr Country, except the object of our nation-state’s affection went to Juilliard. She’s even getting part of a downtown street named after her.

audra 2
Hail to the chief: Audra McDonald returns to Fresno for a May 26 concert. Photo / New York Daily News

In order to mark Audra’s debut performance with the Fresno Philharmonic, I am putting together a little project called “Dear Audra.” In it I’d like to highlight messages of welcome from my readers to the most-winning Broadway star in Tony Award-history. These messages can be in written format (with a limit of 500 words), photography (with a limit of three), or video format (with a time limit of one minute). You can talk about your favorite Audra memory, whether from seeing her in Fresno or in the world beyond. You can tell her what you think of her latest album, “Sing Happy,” which is already available digitally and will be released on CD on May 25). You can give her a big thank-you or just welcome her back to Fresno. You can tell her what it means to have someone of her talent (and commitment to equality) hailing from the central San Joaquin Valley. Share your story! I’m sure she’d love to hear it.

I’ll put together a collection of these contributions and compile them into a nice, pretty blog post in advance of her concert. And I’ll make sure that Audra gets the link.

But you have to hurry: Deadline for submissions is 11 p.m. Monday, May 21. Send all submissions directly to my email ( Questions? Feel free to email them as well.

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On Soli Deo Gloria’s 10th birthday, these skies are looking ‘Blue’

Women’s choral ensemble celebrates with a concert titled ‘Blue Skies and Broadway’

In choral music, the idea of “women power” means a very special thing. Ten years ago, Fresno welcomed a new high-level choral group offering audiences a distinctive sound: All the singers were women. Soli Deo Gloria was born.

“I love getting to sing difficult music with this group and polish it to a high level,” says Julie Carter, the group’s artistic director and founder. “I’m very proud of how hard the singers work. After all, they all have day jobs and volunteer their time singing! They’re delightful women to work with.”

Members of Soli Deo Gloria perform Friday, May 18.

To mark its 10th anniversary, the group is offering a season-ending, celebratory concert titled “Blue Skies and Broadway.” It will feature songs from such classic musicals as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Pajama Game,” along with selections from more recent musicals such as “La La Land,” “Frozen,” “Les Miserables,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Wicked.”

As the season winds down, I enlisted the help of Carter and members of the chorus to come up with 10 Things to Know about SDG. Here’s their list in Carter’s words:


The group started rehearsing in the fall of 2008.

I was looking to start a group that would sing at a high level of musicianship. There are always more women than men in choirs (in general) so I made it a women’s choir. We began with 16 singers, I believe, five of whom are still singing in the group! Originally we met at my home and sang in the dining/living room after I moved the furniture out. This was while my kids were younger so it was nicer to be at home. Eventually we outgrew it, though, and now rehearse at Clovis West High School’s choir room.

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Now streaming: the April episode of ‘The Munro Review’

It’s a first for my CMAC monthly arts talk show: I conduct a transcontinental interview.  Fresno State professor Benjamin Boone is teaching in Ghana this school year, and I caught up with him (thanks to the magic of iPhones and WeTransfer) to ask about the release of his new album, “The Poetry of Jazz.” The CD is the culmination of a years-long collaboration between Philip Levine, the famed Fresno poet (and U.S. poet laureate) and Boone.

Also on this month’s episode: David Fox of Keyboard Concerts and Jack Fortner of Orpheus chamber ensemble talk about the upcoming April 8 Fresno State performance by the Alexander String Quartet. Plus, I offer recaps of March coverage and previews of coming April attractions, including an appearance by Fresno Philharmonic players at Bitwise South Stadium.

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Mariachi gets a makeover: Omar Naré offers new spin on a proud tradition

‘Nuevo Mariachi’ concert at Bitwise is a weekend highlight.

Groundbreaking artists are impatient. They aren’t content to do things the same old way. They push and pull and stretch. They are never quite satisfied with the status quo.

With his style of “Nuevo Mariachi,” Sanger native Omar Naré gives a makeover to the beloved musical artform of his youth. He isn’t against what he calls “pure mariachi,” but he wants his version — which he describes as a blend of “sophisti-pop and mariachi traditions” — to crackle in modern times. For that, he’s getting attention. A recent public radio story on Naré delved into his fascinating life story and musical innovations. (A mention of and link to that piece, which I recommend you give a listen, even made it into the New York Times.)

Omar Naré Poster Feb 2018

You can hear Naré’s music at a Bitwise concert on Saturday, Feb. 17. I caught up with him for a fascinating discussion.

Q: Your grandfather was a farmworker. You’ve worked in the fields yourself. What connection does mariachi have to the land?

A: I like to imagine that my grandfather packed clothes, blankets, and a box of Pedro Infante records when he drove from Mexico to California with my abuelita! Mariachi has always been the music of the land. The earliest mariachi musicians would wander from hacienda to hacienda picking fruit and training horses. At night, they would play their violins and guitars. Later, the music became organized, hip and urban — think Mexico City in 1936 — but it has always maintained its folk identity, even till today. It’s always been music of the land.

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Now streaming: the February episode of The Munro Review

A special thanks to artist Marcos Dorado and actor Greg Taber for being my guests on  the February installment of “The Munro Review,” produced by the Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC). Marcos talks about his new exhibition at the Fresno Art Museum — and even does a quick drawing demonstration on air. And Taber tells us about the new Theatre Ventoux production of “King Lear,” which opens Friday, Feb. 2, at the Fresno Soap Co.

Also: I recap my reviews of “Sense and Sensibility” and “Annie,” and I preview lots of February events to come, including the Fresno Philharmonic and the Fresno Art Museum’s big Trashique fashion show.

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New exhibitions take roost at Fresno Art Museum

David Tomb’s “Rockfowl and Other Wonders” and Marcos Dorado’s “Immigrant Me” are part of a powerful winter/spring lineup

With its new round of winter/spring exhibitions, the Fresno Art Museum is taking flight.

I got the chance to preview three of the museum’s five new shows, which open Saturday, Jan. 27. There’s a lot to appreciate. From radiant depictions of birds in their natural habitats to an intimate series of portraits saluting immigrants, these new exhibitions can be startling, evocative, aesthetically impressive and infused with tenderness and meaning.

I’ll be writing about each of the exhibitions at greater length as they continue, but here’s a sneak peek.

Winged wonder: a detail from David Tomb’s mammoth work “Rock and Rockfowl.” Photo / Fresno Art Museum

Bird extravaganza

In David Tomb’s “Rockfowl and Other Wonders,” the San Francisco artist transports the viewer to various locales around the world, all of them the homes of some of the rarest birds in the world. Tomb has had a fascination with nature and science ever since he was a kid, and he has managed in recent years to intertwine his fine-art skills with his love of nature. If “big” in art impresses you, chances are you’ll be amazed at the size alone of some of these works, including the centerpiece “Rockfowl” mixed-media piece, depicting a rainforest in Ghana, which at 27 feet wide and 11 feet tall makes you feel you’re about to enter a jungle.

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