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Arts & Culture Newsletter: Bodhi Tree Concerts, Miranda Lambert, David Spade and more

By DAVID L. CODDONWRITER FEB. 20, 2020 5:30 AM The haunting choral cantata “And They Lynched Him On A Tree” will be heard in its San Diego premiere this weekend when Bodhi Tree Concerts presents in honor of Black History Month a program titled “The Long Dark Shadow.” The concerts Saturday at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla and at Downtown Abbey in National City on Sunday will be conducted by David Chase and will feature contralto soloist Judith Malone, guest artist Dale Fleming (who will sing Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”) and the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir conducted by Ken Anderson.

“And They Lynched Him On A Tree” was written by William Grant Still, who is considered the dean of black classical music composers. But, says conductor Chase, “He would have preferred for the word ‘black’ to have been dropped out, and that he’d be like (Aaron) Copland.“This particular piece is interesting because it really took off. It was performed immediately by the New York Philharmonic. It was taken to Carnegie Hall, it was taken to Mexico City, and then it just dropped out of sight, and Still did too.”Thematically, “The Long Dark Shadow” addresses “the question of justice,” says Chase, “but I have no interest in preaching or yelling at people. This to me — the combination of ‘And They Lynched Him On A Tree’ and ‘Strange Fruit’ — hits me right between the eyes. All I want to do is expose audiences to that.”“These two pieces were written around 1940, and yet there’s still this problem. After the Civil War there was a chance to fix the big wound in our society, and we didn’t in any permanent way. This is one more angle to give people music that together with their intelligence they can revisit this question and perhaps find something in it that they hadn’t found in themselves.”The two concerts will benefit the MLK Jr. Community Choir Scholarship Fund. San Diego is the second stop on country music singer Miranda Lambert’s Wildcard Tour. (“Wildcard” is the title of her most recent album, released last summer.) She’ll be performing Friday at Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State University. Fellow Texan Cody Johnson will open the show, which also includes the country outfit Lanco. It can be truly exciting to watch a masterful acoustic guitarist fingerpick at a speed and with precision that boggles your mind. Leo Kottke’s been doing that since the ‘60s when he was a coffeehouse performer in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. He’s been variously labeled a jazz guitarist, a classical guitarist and a folk guitarist, but no one genre defines his eclectic playing. You can judge for yourself when Kottke takes the stage Tuesday at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach.Also on Tuesday, the traditional Irish band The Chieftains will perform at Copley Symphony Hall downtown. How long have these guys been together? Since the early 1960s. If you’ve never been to a Chieftains show, shame on you. If you have, then you know that the group’s rousing renderings of reels and jigs never fail to get audiences on their feet. So why not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day a month early?If you were one of the lucky ones to snag a ticket to Sarah McLachlan‘s concert Tuesday night at the Civic Theatre, what did you think? The U-T’s Michael James Rocha called the singer’s performance “flawless.”

Being funny is one thing. Being funny and smart is another. David Spade is funny and smart. Put it this way: He was funny and smart enough to transcend the otherwise pedestrian comedy delivered on that bygone sitcom “Just Shoot Me.” These days he’s got his own show, “Lights Out with David Spade” on Comedy Central in which he’s either making sense of or making fun of what passes for current events. Spade brings his standup show to the Balboa Theatre downtown Friday. If you’re still craving laughter when Saturday rolls around, there’s more standup, in this case from Sinbad, at the Magnolia in El Cajon. The multi-talented David Adkins (yes, that’s his real name) is known to us from HBO specials, movies like “Necessary Roughness” and “Good Burger” and if you’re a trivia wizard, a role on the “Cosby Show” spinoff “A Different World.”THEATER How about a nice political comedy? You say there’s nothing funny about politics, especially these days? Playwright Paul Slade Smith begs to differ with his work “The Outsider.” Its main character falls into politics in an unlikely way with potentially hilarious results. “The Outsider” opens on Saturday at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.CLASSICAL MUSIC When I visited and walked around Versailles southwest of Paris a long, long time ago, I imagined what it must have been like when the palace was filled with sumptuously dressed men and women, and the sounds of music at its most exquisite could be heard. A sense of that opulent history can be had this weekend when the Bach Collegium ensemble presents “The Pleasures of Versailles,” French baroque music by composers including Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Jean de Sainte-Colombe and Jean-Philippe Rameau. Among the vocal soloists are two Grammy winners: tenor Aaron Sheehan and mezzo-soprano Virginia Warnken. The concerts will be Friday at All Souls Episcopal Church in Point Loma and Saturday at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. The Baroque music chamber ensemble Concerto Koln, meanwhile, will be in town on Tuesday, at St. James by-the-Sea in Jolla, for a performance of works by a variety of composers. Among them: Handel, Bach and Vivaldi. The concerts are presented by the San Diego Early Music Society.

The local art scene is mourning the death of Faiya Fredman, a titan of the San Diego art scene who produced works for six decades. She passed away Feb. 4 of natural causes at the age of 94. Considered by many as the matriarch of San Diego’s contemporary art scene, she was most recently the subject of “The Steel Goddess: Works by Faiya Fredman, 1998-2018,” an exhibition that closed in 2019 at the Oceanside Museum of Art, which focused on her continued experimentation with non-traditional materials, groundbreaking techniques and interest in technology.“Faiya Fredman loved creative experiment,” said Timken Museum of Art Director of Curatorial Affairs Derrick Cartwright, who also is an associate art professor and director of University Galleries at University of San Diego. “As a mature artist, she became fascinated by the possibilities of using a flatbed scanner — at the time a relatively new technology — to produce new images. Those floral still lives exemplify Faiya’s passion for using brilliant color, careful composition, and suggesting poetic metaphors.”

Sunday brings to an end the exhibition “Abstract Revolution” at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. This show has highlighted works by dynamic women crucial to the abstract movement including Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning and Helen Frankenthaler. It should be seen, experienced and appreciated. I have a great deal of personal appreciation for the famed playwright August Wilson, and seeing his tense and explosive play “Jitney” last month at the Old Globe was a memorable experience.


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