In an weekend stuffed with cultural happenings, one of the most important is a free performance by Youth Orchestra Los Angeles. It’s my top arts pick for the week, which also include the world premiere of two new musical compositions at Fresno State; the annual Spectrum Art Gallery auction gala and exhibition; and a series of theater benefit performances of a Halloween murder mystery in Clovis.
Let’s get to the picks:
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The draw: If you follow big stories in the world of classical music, you’ve no doubt heard of El Sistema, the world-changing Venezuelan education program aimed at children with no access to music education. The program provides free instruments, intensive music training and academic support to students. A long story short: Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is El Sistema’s most famous success story. Dudamel brought the program to Los Angeles in partnership with a group called the Harmony Project, and now YOLA is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Eighty of the orchestra’s best players were selected for the California tour. The ensemble has had major exposure, including a chance to perform with Coldplay at the Super Bowl.
The conductor: Juan Felipe Molano, who had previously conducted the Colombian Youth Philharmonic and Batuta Colombian System of Youth Orchestras, will be on the podium for YOLA. (Dudamel will conduct a San Francisco concert on the tour.) Thomas Loewenheim conducts the Fresno ensemble.
The impact on Fresno: Like YOLA, the Youth Orchestras of Fresno has put a major emphasis on bringing music education to underserved youth. Accent on Access, its free after-school violin program, has been “super successful,” says Julia Copeland, the organization’s executive director. But it can only realistically work in one school at a time. The YOLA model “can offer us ideas on how to go big.” The event includes a video explaining the first 10 years of the project and a chance to meet Margaret Martin, founder of the Harmony Project.
Visalia stop: The night before the Fresno concert, YOLA will appear in Visalia. Bruce Kiesling, conductor of the Tulare County Symphony, conducted YOLA for five years.
Details: The Visalia concert is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at the L.J. Williams Theater, 1001 W. Main St., Visalia. General admission tickets are $20, $5 for high school students with ID, free for children 13 and younger. 559-735-8154. The Fresno event starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at the Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St., with a question-and-answer session with Molano and other YOLA educational staff, followed by a 7 p.m. concert. Admission is free.
New music at Fresno State
The event: Two pieces by Fresno State music composition professor Kenneth Froelich get their world premiere in an intriguing concert titled “Tesla & Lovelace: Songs of Vision and Strife.”
The draw: It’s a heady concept for a concert. Nikola Tesla (who helped invent the alternating-current electrical system widely used today) and Ada Lovelace (considered to have written instructions for the first computer program in the mid-1800s) were gifted thinkers far ahead of their time. Froelich, in a post on Fresno State’s arts and humanities blog, says that the first piece, “In My Mind’s Eye: Songs of Nikola Tesla,” featuring tenor-baritone Constantine Pappas and two-channel electronic accompaniment, borrows from traditions of classical music and modern electronic music. The second piece, “Finite Differences: Songs of Ada Lovelace,” features soprano Ann Moss and the Hausmann String Quartet. This doesn’t sound as if it will be a cold and soulless technological musical experience, however. Froelich works in allusions to Tesla’s battle with depression and Lovelace’s flights of romanticism (she was Lord Byron’s daughter), creating a textured and emotional experience.
Details: Froelich will give a free lecture at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, in the Fresno State Concert Hall. The 8 p.m. concert is $15 general admission, $10 for seniors, free for students. http://fresnostate.edu/artshum/music/concerts.
The event: Spectrum Art Gallery, which prides itself as the premier venue for photographic arts in the central San Joaquin Valley, holds its annual print auction, the major fundraiser of the year.
The draw: This is a chance to buy works from both local and national photographers. The event includes two live auctions, a silent auction and even a costume contest.
Details: Reception begins at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, at the Fresno Art Museum, 2233 N. First St. Live auctions are at 5 and 7 p.m. $10 per bidder plus guest. Catalogs can be purchased at the gallery, 608 E. Olive Ave. www.spectrumphotogallery.org, 559-266-0691.
The event: In the latest in a series of benefit events, the Motley Fools theater group presents a dinner-theater production of Sharon Polluck’s “Blood Relations,” a Victorian psychological murder mystery based on the life of Lizzie Borden, at the Old Hotel Bistro in Clovis.
The draw: The Motley Fools teamed up with Chef Jim Pacini to provide a special-themed three-course meal at the Old Hotel Bistro in Clovis. Co-directed by Leslie Martin and Miguel Gastelum, the cast of “Blood Relations” features such well-known Fresno actors as Britt Monahan, Ashley Hyatt, Karan Johnson, Kristin Crase, Brad Myers, Brandon Weis, Russell Noland and Jeff Tuck. Proceeds go to the “Bring Samantha Home” project, an effort to help the Martin family bring to the U.S. a Ukrainian girl before she ages out of that country’s adoption system.
Details: Dinner service begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, Friday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Old Hotel Bistro, 356 Pollasky Ave., Clovis. Tickets are $50. Reservations are required. https://bloodrelationsclovis.com, 805-405-6106.