The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.
Freebie of the week: One telltale sign of a vibrant arts community is a show or performance that just seems to pop out of nowhere. For example, you’re strolling along Mission Street near the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and you come across a band delivering a vibrant take on Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz or a troupe serving up a kid-friendly clown show. That’s the role the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival plays. Each year, from July through September (with one final Halloween-themed show in October), the festival in the garden near Third and Mission streets serves up rich performances and communal events, and all free. There are group dance workouts and yoga sessions, as well as concerts, dance recitals, circus and clowning performances, not to mention a twice-a-month tour of area public art installations. This week’s performances include pianist-accordionist Rob Reich and his swing-era revival band Swings Left (12:30 p.m. Thursday), two appearances by the family-friendly New Orleans-style band Chelle! & Friends (11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Friday) and a dance/music/spoken word event titled “Timing Is Synchronicity,” an offshoot of the Get Free Festival at Dance Mission Theatre (1 p.m. Saturday). It’s a great way to enrich a lunch hour or weekend morning or afternoon. A full schedule and more information are at ybgfestival.org.
Latin showcase: John Santos is revered around the Bay Area and beyond for his immense talents as a percussionist, bandleader, producer, arranger, teacher and proponent of Afro-Cuban/Latin jazz. Turns out he’s a darned good concert curator as well, and you can feast on his talents in this regard at the Freight & Salvage this weekend. The Berkeley club is hosting three shows that are part of the Santos-designed “Raices” concert series exploring the many traditional and contemporary flavors of Latin-influenced music. On Friday and Saturday, The Freight welcomes Pete Escovedo, another legendary Latin jazz percussionist and bandleader with Bay Area roots. The Pittsburg-born Escovedo, who turns 86 on July 13, is on a retirement-birthday tour and performs with his band at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; tickets are $40-$44. At 7 p.m. Sunday, the Freight welcomes the esteemed Bay Area Mexican folkloric band Los Cenzontles, who’ll take the stage with Grupo Mono Blanco out of Veracruz, Mexico, and Kiki Valera, a member of the famed La Familia Valera Miranda musical group out of Santiago de Cuba. The performance, $26-$30, will touch on a variety of Mexican and Cuban sounds. And for all three shows, the dance floor will be open. More information is at thefreight.org.
Audition becomes a smash: “A Chorus Line” remains one of Broadway’s biggest success stories despite its odd makeup. Conceived with an insider’s view by director-choreographer Michael Bennett, the show combines the stunning song and dance numbers that define a Broadway blockbuster with melancholy stories told by the actors, who portray stage performers desperate to land a relatively small role on Broadway. The show, with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and a book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante, is challenging because it demands from its cast serious dancing skills as well as acting chops. For San Francisco Playhouse, which is now presenting the show, there is the added challenge of translating the sophisticated choreography onto its relatively small stage. The adapted choreography is by Nicole Helfer, who also stars in the production as a one-time Broadway star now auditioning for her ex-boyfriend hoping to land an ensemble role and keep her career going. Helmed by company artistic director Bill English and utilizing what is said to be the biggest cast in troupe history, “A Chorus Line” plays at San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St., through Sept. 9. Tickets are $15-$100; go to www.sfplayhouse.org.
A change of pace: Summer is now upon us with a hot vengeance, but the San Francisco Symphony has a bunch of cool stuff lined up to entertain us through the first week of August. Much of the fare will be lighter than what we heard throughout the just-concluded subscription year, and indeed the Summer at the Symphony season kicked off with a July 4 fireworks spectacular full of pop favorites. But this week’s concerts Thursday night in Davies Hall and Friday night outdoors at Stanford’s Frost Amphitheater, dip briefly back into the classical music canon. Guest conductor Joshua Weilerstein and the orchestra perform Antonin Dvořák’s enduring and endearing masterpiece, the “From the New World” Symphony No. 9; and, with guest soloist Alexi Kenney taking up the bow, Jean Sibelius’ great (and only) Violin Concerto. Both concerts open with the symphony’s first performances of Pavel Haas’ Study for Strings. Concert time is 7:30 p.m. each evening; tickets, $35-$89 at Davies and $15-$110 at the Frost, are available through sfsymphony.org or (415) 864-6000.
A change of plans: He was supposed to be here in person, but problems getting a visa approved have switched Russian-born pianist Rustem Hayroudinoff’s appearance in the Bay Area to a virtual one that will give patrons online streaming access for a full 10 days. Sponsored by the Steinway Society, Hayroudinoff, a highly praised and widely recorded professor of piano at the Royal Academy of Music in London (where he was the first Russian student to be admitted), has been called “a player in the great Russian virtuoso tradition” by Gramophone magazine. His program consists of works by great giants of the piano: C.P.E. Bach’s Sonata in F-sharp minor, J.C. Bach’s Sonata in A Major, Chopin’s Andante Spianato and the Grande Polonaise Brillante, the Etude No 1. in C minor from Rachmaninoff’s Nine Etudes-Tableaux plus four of the same composer’s Op. 23 preludes. His recital begins streaming at 1 p.m. Friday and will run through midnight on July 16. Tickets, $20 per household, are available at steinwaysociety.com, where you can also access some program notes. Here’s a little sample: Hayroudinoff playing a bouncy, quirky and rather hilarious little number by Shostakovich called “Wrong-Note Polka”: https://youtu.be/Iddibpw-e3Y.