Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

A very different chamber concert

The Orpheus chamber music ensemble isn’t just Beethoven and Brahms. That much was evident at Sunday’s notable concert at Fresno State. The first part of the program paired up some fine young dancers from Clovis’  In the Spotlight Dance Center with music from Fresno area composers. The second half was a video presentation of a new version of “60×60,” an ongoing series that showcases contemporary composers in 60-second slices. Fresno State’s Brad Hufft introduced both parts of the program.

In the dance portion, two of the composers were in the audience: Jack Fortner and Benjamin Boone. In a sweet touch, Boone brought his sons Atticus and Asher, which had a special significance considering the title of Boone’s piece: “Atticus, Atticus.” The three of them are pictured (Atticus is seated, and his brother Asher is standing behind his father. Too cute.)

The program didn’t list the three dancers’ names. (If anyone from In the Spotlight can fill me in, I’d like to include them.) Their modern dance moves were keyed to the music in interesting and vigorous ways, from the emphatic looped-and-spliced recitations of text in Charles Amirkhanian’s piece to the charged aural disorder of Boone’s piece.

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Benjamin Boone in France


Most of us in Fresno know Benjamin Boone because of the annual performances of his jazz quartet at the Rogue Festival. But Boone, a music professor at Fresno State, has also carved out a career as a composer. His work is especially popular in Europe — so much so that he was the guest of honor this past weekend at a conference titled “The Saxophone Music of Benjamin Boone” in Bordeaux on the Atlantic coast of France.

I caught up with Boone at the Salt Lake City airport via email on his way to the conference. Here’s a rundown:

Question: Why are you going to France?

Answer: I got really lucky! Bernard Cantau, Professor of saxophone at the University of Bordeaux, has been playing my saxophone music for several years (including my concertos and saxophone quartet pieces). He has organized a conference called “The Saxophone Music of Benjamin Boone” with a consortium of 4 schools in the “Bassin d’Arcachon” (in Bordeaux on the Atlantic coast). They will hold 4 concerts of my music over 2 days (March 31 and April 1) along with workshops and lectures. I’m the guest of honor. (Later, when he arrived at the conference, Boone on his website posted a program, pictured, from the event.)

The French military orchestra is supposed to be playing my concerto for alto saxophone (squeeze) with Cantau as the soloist, as well as other works, but I just got an email last night they may not, because of some crazy bureaucratic thing…. but then two hours ago I got an email saying maybe they still were ….. so we will see about them — but I do know about 20 of my pieces will be played by various ensembles and soloists. The consortium of schools commissioned me to write educational works for saxophone which will be included in their educational literature and those will be played. I am really honored and humbled.

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ROGUE REVIEW: Benjamin Boone Quartet


The live jazz of saxophonist Benjamin Boone and his quartet is a fixture at the Rogue Festival. It’s popular. It’s celebrated. And all with good reason.

This band is slick.

Boone and Co. — Nye Morton on bass, David Aus on keyboards and Grammy winner Steve Mitchell on drums — manage to turn the Severence Theatre into a cool jazz club. They hop up on the stage (many Rogue shows there are on the floor), set up some tables and bring a bopping vibe to the room. All that’s missing is smoke and a cocktail waitress.

While the faces are familiar, the band creates a new show each year with new compositions. One is new as a few days ago. One is an ode to Aus’ dog. One is inspired by passed-away Tower District icon Hippie Dave. Boone calls it “weird.” I’ll call it exciting.

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A newbie’s guide to the Rogue Festival


Rogue Festival 2012 is here. Rogue loyalists have been counting down the days, picking out shows to see and gearing up for a busy weekend of alternative performing arts.

But let’s say you’re brand new to this Rogue Festival thing and you’re not quite sure what it’s all about. That’s understandable. It’s quite the hard-to-tackle beast for a newbie.

That’s why we’ve been putting together our Rogue FAQ for a few years now. It’s helpful for the casual Rogue fan or the wide-eyed newbie to review before heading out to see some shows.

Got further questions? Leave ‘em below and we’ll do our best to help. If you need show recommendations, come back to site, because we’ll have reviews rolling in throughout the weekend. Here are some best-guess picks from Donald and myself to get you started.

You might also peruse the archives from previous Rogues, as we have A LOT of reviews from years past and many of the performers — folks like Barry Smith, Kurt Fitzpatrick, Katherine Glover and Benjamin Boone — are back again.

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