Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - December 7, 2012

Worth a look

San Francisco Choral Artists

When she heard that she'd been chosen to write three pieces for San Francisco Choral Artists, University of Pennsylvania instructor Eleanor Aversa reached for her iPod. Inspired, she listened to the music of the choral ensemble over and over. Possibly with a bit of birdsong intermingled.

"The Darkling Thrush," the first of Aversa's new works for SFCA, is set to Thomas Hardy's 1901 poem of the same name. Its mingling of moods and dynamics drew her in, she said in a press release: "As a composer, I was most excited to reflect the contrast between the anxious speaker in a dark landscape and the bird's sudden and joyful music." She also reflected the way thrushes actually sound: Her piece contains short melodies that she wrote after listening to field recordings of the birds.

Aversa's piece will be on the program when SFCA performs a concert this Saturday, Dec. 8, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Palo Alto. (Her two other new works are set to premiere later.) Also on the Dec. 8 program is a world premiere by San Franciscan Mark Winges, who is composer-in-residence with SFCA this season. His new work, "Toward the Horizon," challenges the audience to think without having things spelled out. It uses sounds in place of words.

The program will also include images of nature and the holiday season from centuries past, representing such composers as Kodaly, Howells and Poulenc. It's set for 8 p.m. at 600 Colorado Ave.; tickets are $12-$25 in advance and $15-$30 at the door. SFCA plans to repeat the program on Dec. 9 in Oakland. For details, go to http://sfca.org or call 415-494-8149.

Shorts at Stanford

Audience members can get a sneak peek at the next generation of filmmakers next week, during a free evening of screenings, courtesy of first-year students in Stanford University's MFA program in documentary film and video. The students will show their new short films at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at Annenberg Auditorium on campus, with a Q&A and reception after the screen goes dark.

As usual, topics and titles range widely. The films scheduled to be shown (not necessarily in this order) are: Lauren DeFilippo's "Buena Vista," a story told by a 12-year-old growing up in a mobile-home park in a wealthy city; Emily Fraser's "Of Cows and Men," about a cash-strapped dairy farmer; Katherine Gorringe's "The Last Piano Bar," about "music and change"; Alexandra Liveris' "Nunca Sola/Never Alone," which follows a Mexican immigrant getting services at a women's worker collective; Veronica Lopez's "Ramona," a tale of modern-day Catholic religious life; Megan Smaker's unusual tale of urban renewal "Pistols to Porn"; Edward Symes' personal essay "By Design"; and Henry Wiener's "The Wide Awakes," which he bills as "California: More armed and less dangerous than you think."

The event is presented by the university's Department of Art & Art History. For more information, go to http://art.stanford.edu or call 650-723-3404.

'It's a Wonderful Life'

A classic film takes the stage as a radio play. Now at the Bus Barn Theatre in Los Altos, five actors are reinterpreting Frank Capra's 1947 movie "It's a Wonderful Life" as a radio production in the 1940s (adapted by Joe Landry), complete with sound effects and microphones. Martin Gagen will provide the voice of hero George Bailey, with Clara Hirsh as Mary. Ryk Houseman voices the guardian angel Clarence.

Ana-Catrina Buchser directs the production, which runs through Dec. 22 at 97 Hillview Ave. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Wednesdays at 7:30, with Sunday shows at 3 p.m. Tickets are $18-$32.

For details, go to http://busbarn.org or call 650-941-0551.

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