Noteworthy concert

EJ Hinojosa, a local church choir director and New Music advocate, experiments with a new concert series that puts the spotlight on Fresno-area composers

CONCERT PREVIEW

EJ Hinojosa was on the treadmill one day when he got an idea: How about putting together a concert series highlighting the work of local classical composers? He was listening at the time, he remembers, to “Elgar’s magnificent orchestration of ‘Jerusalem’ ” by Hubert Parry.

“You know, standard gym listening,” he says with a laugh.

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It takes a healthy amount of self-confidence and verve to sit down and organize from scratch a big event such as “Composer Showcase,” which debuts Saturday, July 15, at Community United Church of Christ. Especially one featuring a pick-up 16-piece choir. But those in the Fresno-area music community know that Hinojosa, music director at the church and a recent Fresno Pacific University graduate, has tremendous enthusiasm for the local music scene. He is passionate about turning the central San Joaquin Valley into a musical epicenter — and, in particular, encouraging younger musicians to stick around.

Plus, in addition to his day job and his new gig as concert promoter, he’s a new father. Did I mention he’s energetic?

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We are Fresnito

Juan Felipe Herrera celebrates the end of his term as U.S. poet laureate with a memorable Fresno State concert

CONCERT REVIEW

The event: Fresno’s Juan Felipe Herrera, the 21st poet laureate of the United States, was back in town Tuesday with the Fresno State Chamber Singers to reprise the closing concert at the Library of Congress that marked the end of his term.

The man of the hour: Herrera has a special knack when dealing with official occasions and the various rituals afforded an artist of his stature. He knows how to never underplay the dignity of a ceremonial moment. He can come across as refreshingly relaxed and informal, but there’s a certain gravitas and authority there, too, a reflection of his ability to get along with the establishment but also give it a bit of a hard time. On this evening at the university’s Concert Hall, he’s dressed in a casual bone-colored sports jacket, bright plaid shirt and a cheerful white hat.

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Juan Felipe Herrera with the Fresno State Chamber Singers at the Library of Congress on April 26, 2017. Photo / Facebook

The format: Most poets treat a reading as something to do in a single voice. Herrera wanted a choir. Benjamin Boone and Kenneth Froelich, both Fresno State music composition professors, teamed up with the poet, setting the words to music. Then the university’s Chamber Singers, under the direction of Cari Earnhart, brought the resulting songs to life at the Washington, D.C., concert. “This is a dream that I had as a child,” Herrera tells the audience before the Fresno event begins. “It’s about standing up, facing the people, giving a voice to the people.”

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