Freebie of the week: The Bay Area’s internationally renowned Kronos Quartet is about to launch, amazingly enough, its 50th concert season, and the ensemble will kick it off with a free concert at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Bandshell on the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse in San Francisco. Long celebrated for practically reinventing the string quartet and rendering it wholly relevant to contemporary times, Kronos consists of violinists David Harrington and John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt and cellist Paul Wiancko. They have won multiple major awards, including three Grammys, and have released more than 70 recordings. The program for Saturday’s concert will include new works and signature pieces from their vast repertoire, including music by Angélique Kidjo, Bob Dylan, Sigúr Ros and others. This will be their first appearance at the bandshell, and founder and artistic director Harrington comments: “What a thrill and renewal it will be to play at this beautiful gem in the beating heart and breathing lungs of our city for our friends and neighbors.” Find more information about Kronos and its upcoming season at

Award-winning author Alice Hoffman talks about her new novel, “The Invisible Hour,” in an online conversation hosted by Book Passage. (Courtesy Alyssa Peek) 

Another freebie: Author Alice Hoffman, we might note, seems to have written the book(s) on magic. Her beloved four-part series on the topic began with the cult classic “Practical Magic” in 1995 (made into an also-beloved movie starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock) and continued with “The Rules of Magic” (actually a prequel to the first, and immediately snapped up by Reese Witherspoon for her book club) in 2017. “Magic Lessons” followed in 2020, and “The Book of Magic” was published in 2021. Her new novel, published this month, is “The Invisible Hour,” and one of its main themes is the magic of reading. It revolves around a woman who was raised in a cult that considered books anathema who nevertheless falls in love with, and is redeemed by, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” a story that has deep resonance in her own life. Hear Hoffman discuss it with Book Passage’s buying director, Luisa Smith, in a free online event at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Find more information at

Australian “one-person band” Tash Sultana performs Friday at Frost Amphitheater at Stanford. (Courtesy Tash Sultana)

In time with Tash: The thing about a Tash Sultana concert is that you never know exactly what you’re going to get. Not that this 28-year-old Australian singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist isn’t consistently terrific and passionate on stage or in the studio. It’s just that Sultana (who describes themself as gender fluid and uses the pronouns they/them) can literally do just about anything. They can play guitar, various keyboards, bass, a variety of percussion instruments, beatmaking and sampling machines, trumpet, saxophone, flute, mandolin, oud, harmonica, panpipe and probably other things we’re not aware of. Sultana puts this orchestra of versatility to use tackling musical styles ranging from psychedelic rock to reggae to neo-soul to blues and hip-hop and ties it all together with a lovely singing voice that boasts a five-octave range. Sultana performs live as a one-person band, producing a rich and often driving sound with an army of looping and percussion machines. Sultana’s musical path reportedly started at age 3 with a guitar gifted by their grandfather. By their early teens, Sultana was playing open mic events wherever they could, but their unusual personal style often discouraged venue owners from booking them; so Sultana took to the streets and evolved into a legendary busker around Melbourne. Sultana continued to draw attention until 2016, when they dropped a music video titled “Jungle” on social media sites and it garnered more than 1 million views in five days. Since then, there have been performances around the world, two EPs, two full-length albums and the current tour that comes to Stanford’s Frost Amphitheater on Friday, in a concert presented by Stanford Live. Music starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $49.95-$55; go to

Quentin Earl Darrington stars as “Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius in “Hippest Trip — The Soul Train Musical,” getting its world premiere at American Conservatory Theater. (Bekah Lynn/Angela Faris Belt/American Conservatory Theater)

‘Soul Train’ struts its stuff: There is something fun and a little exhilarating when a brand-new show debuts in the Bay Area that has Broadway on its mind. And when the subject is the groundbreaking TV show “Soul Train,” so much the better. That’s exactly what’s happening at American Conservatory Theater beginning Friday with “Hippest Trip – The Soul Train Musical.” The musical tells the story of how DJ and music impresario Don Cornelius, despairing over the dearth of Black music performers on TV, created a local dance show in Detroit to put the spotlight on African American musicians and dancers. Within a year, as the story goes, “Soul Train” had a national broadcast audience and was on its way to becoming one of the longest-running shows on TV and groundbreaking enterprise that brought Black popular music to mainstream America. Countless musicians got their breakthrough on the show, not to mention such dancers as Rosie Perez and Jody Watley. “Hippest Trip” showcases the story — and the fantabulous music – that made “Soul Train’ a sensation, and the creative team is impressive, including Tony Award-winner Dominique Morisseau (book), as well as Broadway vets Kenny Seymour (music arrangements) and Camille A. Brown (choreography). Among the executive producers are musician, composer and filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, of The Roots, and Don Cornelius’ son Tony Cornelius. You can catch the show in its earliest stages when it begins previews Friday at ACT’s Toni Rembe Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco. The main run is Sept. 6 through Oct. 1. Tickets are $25-$140; go to

Marilyn Langbehn directs a new production of “Sondheim on Sondheim” for Contra Costa Civic Theatre. (Courtesy Marilyn Langbehn)

Songs of Sondheim: It’s hard to believe that November will mark the two-year anniversary of the death of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, a man who revolutionized musical theater so thoroughly that many of us are still trying to catch up. With their sophisticated melodies and rhythms, and lyrics and themes that explored darker aspects of love and life, Sondheim’s songs and musicals created a new experience at the theater. So any chance we have to revel in his catalog should not be taken lightly. Now Contra Costa Civic Theatre company is affording such a chance with a production of “Sondheim on Sondheim.” Mixing interview footage with live song and dance performances by a cast of eight Bay Area theater mainstays, the show presents a wide-ranging look at Sondheim’s life and theatrical achievements. Most important, of course, “Sondheim on Sondheim” serves up some two dozen musical nuggets from the composer and lyricist, including “Love Is in The Air,” “Comedy Tonight,” “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” “Waiting for the Girls Upstairs,” “Happiness,” “Send in the Clowns,” “Company – Old Friends,” and many more. CCCT executive artistic director Marilyn Langbehn helms the production at Contra Costa Civic Theatre, 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, which runs Friday through Sept. 10; Tickets are $40 for adults, $20 for ages 13-17 and $10 for kids ages 6-12. Go to

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