Fall Arts

Artfull Fall

Dream Girl: Deborah Colotti’s witty work, like the above”Dreambox,” is among the original art featured in ARTrails.

Hap Sakwa

Our highly arbitrary guide to arts, events, and entertainment

By Gretchen Giles

A SONOMA COUNTY summer rounds the corner to autumn less at a gallop than at a stroll, the kind of leisurely walk best taken at a toddler’s pace, stopping to explore the late-bloom flowers, the low-slanted, warm quality of early fall light, wandering distractedly off into Indian summer, and then meandering back to the business of moving us toward winter. And while Nature takes her very sweet time getting us there, the visual and performing arts scene in the county wakes itself up very briskly indeed. With a languid stretching, allow us to offer our guide to falling into autumn.


Russian River Jazz Fest

It was 20 years ago today (or some approximation of today) that the Guerneville Chamber of Commerce came up with the bright idea to mount a modest jazz festival on the strand at Johnson’s Beach. Figured that it might perk up business, they did. And zounds, they were right. Now a major non-profit corporation that donates thousands of dollars to local schools and arts organizations, the Russian River Jazz Festival annually draws some 8,000 to 15,000 music and sun fans to the hot sands by the river, and features some of the best end-of-summer sounds to fill the air since, well, since they did it all the year before. On Saturday, this celebration features the strong vocal presence of headliner Randy Crawford, saxophonist George Howard, the improvisation of the Yellowjackets, the world beat of the Andy Narell Group, and the samba sounds of Ginga Brasil. Sunday is topped by jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour, the funky, be-horned sound of Tower of Power, alto saxophonist John Handy, the contemporary jazz of Three of World, and the gospel morning strains of the Mighty Clouds of Joy. All of this plus some of the best crafts around, plenty of food and drinks, and that cool water right by your toes. Bring the Sunday paper and your favorite squeeze for a day on the green Russian River. No glass, cans, audio or video equipment, or pets–and they mean it. Sept. 7-8. Gates open at 10 a.m.; music starts at 11 a.m. Johnson’s Beach, off Hwy. 116, Guerneville. $33-$68. 869-3940 or 546-BASS.

Faculty Show

The Art Gallery at Sonoma State University begins the semester with a peek at what the art instructors did on their summer vacations, featuring work by Marsha Red Adams, Kathryn Armstrong, Chester Arnold, Cynthia Handel, Kurt Kemp, Victor Krispin, Frances McCormack, Susan Moulton, Bob Nugent, Mark Perlman, Oli Quezada, and Shane Weare. On display Sept. 12 through Oct. 27, this exhibit is followed by one that gallery director Michael Schwager is understandably excited about. Slated to open Nov. 7 is the tentatively titled “Re-presenting the Figure: The Body in Contemporary Art.” Welcoming works in all media from artists nationwide, this show aims to examine the ideas of “the body as a carrier of meaning,” according to Schwager, rather than the usual pastel pose of a gauze-skirted woman at the shore, or some other such literal-minded representation. SSU, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. Hours are Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. 664-2295.

Art on the Road

Take a private guided tour of three Sonoma County studios, each belonging to an artist working in a different stage of a fully evolved creative career. Led by California Museum of Art director Gay Shelton (whose grave and thoughtful pronouncements often include the word “juicy,” making her lots of fun to tag along after), this benefit for the museum visits the workspaces of emerging artist Philip Buller and mid-career abstractionist Mark Perlman, and the emeritus aerie of the assemblage artist Raymond Barnhart–whose recent death has saddened us all–and his wife, Genevieve, a bronze sculptor. Former CMA director Duane Jones will host the Barnharts’ studio event. Afterwards, guests are encouraged to decamp to “The Fence Show” held on Charles Schulz’s former estate, featuring landscape work by Sonoma Four members Jack Stuppin, Bill Wheeler, and Tony King, as well as plein-air artist Jerrold Ballaine, hanging their views of the outside world outside on a fence. Supervisor Ernie Carpenter and open-space guru Caryl Ohrbach will host. Of course, food will be served; we get hungry just thinking about all of this nourishment for the eye and soul–the stomach must follow. Sept. 14. $50-$65; scholarships available. For details, call 527-0297.

Peter Sanders

Traveling Troubadour: Celtic rocker Richard Thompson comes to the LBC in September.

Sebasto’pol Celtic Fest

Now in its second year (giving festival promoters 365 entire days to come up with that unique spelling for their hometown), the Celts invade the west county with a weekend of jigs, reels, dancers, fiddlers, historical recreations, clan tents, and the ubiquitous more. Festivities begin Friday night with local storyteller and musician Patrick Ball, appearing with Mairead Sullivan at the United Methodist Church on Main Street, while Saturday finds Planxty founder Andy Irvine headlining a bill at the Community Center with Alasdair Fraser, Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies, Jody’s Heaven, Mairead Sullivan, the Caswell Carnahan Band, Atlantic Shore, Greenhouse, Spiral Bound, and others. Look for “Scottish Heavy Athletics”–which must involve the hurling of weighty objects, right?–bagpipes, workshops, jam sessions, and children’s events. Master fiddler Martin Hayes stars Saturday night at Analy High School, appearing with Dervish and Jez Lowe and his band. This slice of the Emerald Isle also includes such adjunct events as pub-based musical draws, Irish films at the Sebastopol Cinemas, and Main Street Theatre’s staging of Playboy of the Western World. Sept. 20-21. Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday from 10:30 a.m.; Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. Various locations. $5-$38. 823-1511 or 829-7067.

Rohnert Park Founders’ Days

While there is a possibility that the bed races may take a rest this year for a downturn in interest, Founders’ Days still pull Rohnert Park residents out of the bedrooms of their community and into the streets, where they belong–at least during the annual parade. Now in its 34th year, this weekend boasts a diaper derby, art shows for kids and adults, live music on two stages–one just for the teens to move manically about–children’s games, and a Big Bash Variety Show of local talent to close the affair with a curtsy and applause. Sept. 21-22. Saturday, parade at 10 a.m.; other events at the Community Center, 5401 Snyder Lane, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free. Variety Show Sunday at 7 p.m. at the adjacent Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane. $5. 522-9800.

‘The Barber of Seville’

The fat lady ain’t sung yet for those of us whose knowledge of opera stems primarily from watching Bugs Bunny don a breastplate and blonde braids. There is still a chance to enjoy, and even understand, opera when the Western Opera Company–the touring branch of the San Francisco Opera–brings The Barber of Seville by for a close shave with Figaro. In this costume farce, our mane man is enlisted to help a love-struck count win the fair hand of his lady love. What could be simpler than that? As the opera will be sung in the original Italian penned by Gioacchino Rossini, supertitles will kindly be projected above the stage so that patrons can finally understand just exactly what all the commotion is about. Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $20-$30. 546-3600.

Blowing Zen

No, this doesn’t mean spending 20 saffron-robed years of solitude in a monastery only to emerge blinking into the material world and promptly order a steak, drive an unsmogged Cadillac, and torture kittens. We are referring here to the considerably more elegant art of the shakuhachi meditative flute. Performing several rarely heard works by the Komuso monks, flute master John Singer appears with Sumi Honami and Fumiko Kodama in an evening of blowing Zen. Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. Luther Burbank Center, Concert Chamber, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $10. 546-3600.

Green Eggs and Ham

Sam I Am and the rest of the Geisel gang are represented musically in this special family concert presented by the Santa Rosa Symphony. With a witty score by young composer Robert Kapilow, this musical adaptation faithfully follows Sam (who really should try those damn green eggs and ham a good 10 pages before he does) and is performed by maestro Jeffrey Kahane’s son Gabe. Coming in at a one brisk hour, this could be a nice way to introduce the kids to the wonders of sitting still and listening. They might even find that it’s worth it. Sept. 21 at 3 and 4:30 p.m. Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $5-$15 or $40 for a family of four.

Richard Thompson

You could have caught him for just about free two years ago at the Sausalito Art Fest, but as most fans will agree, it’s Richard Thompson–and we’d sell the kids to be able to sit in the dark and listen to the richness of this Celtic rocker’s voice and lyrics. Guitarist Sonny Landreth begins this terrific evening out in other psyches. Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $19.50. 546-3600.

Children’s Arts

The Luther Burbank Center continues its tradition of offering a slate of fine performing arts pieces for tomorrow’s leaders, beginning on Sept. 29 with the Westwind International Folk Ensemble hoofing it to dances from ’round the world, clad in authentic costumes. Oct. 15 finds Jim Gamble’s “curtain of light” puppet theater returning with its wise goofiness. This year it’s the “Carnival of the Animals,” a vivid tale set to classical music. Nov. 22 has the American Family Theater presenting the awakened-by-a-kiss dreaminess of Sleeping Beauty, and the holidays go south with Navidad Mexicana on Dec. 5. The series ends in January when the Inflatable Theater Show gases up balloons of fun on the 10th. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $25-$35 series; $5-$10 individual shows; ArtReach scholarships available by calling 523-ARTS; otherwise, 546-3600.


Art for Life

Now in its ninth year of using art to forestall the ravages of HIV-related illness, this Face to Face benefit event is almost getting too big for its popular britches, making this year a bit different from previous events. Usually filled to bursting for the annual auction, the event this year stretches lazily out for three days, offering the public plenty of breathing time to wander around the auctionable art. Not to worry, the swank preview party is still slated to overtake a fine restaurant, and the actual selling-to-save will proceed on course. Preview, Oct. 2-4. Wednesday and Friday, noon to
7 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 4 p.m.; free. Preview party, Oct. 3, 5 p.m.; $75. Art for Life auction, Oct. 5, 3:30 to 7 p.m.; $39 (the equivalent of three hours of in-home care). Friedman Center, 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa. 544-1581.

Stephen Mitchell

Pre-eminent translator and scholar Stephen Mitchell (Tao Te Ching, Gospel According to Jesus, Selected Rilke) will read from and sign his latest work, Genesis, a new translation of the biblical book said to retain the “powerful earthiness of the original Hebrew.” Published to coincide with the airing of the PBS Bill Moyers TV series of the same name–in which Moyers interviews Mitchell, authors John Barth, Mary Gordon, and Oscar Hijuelos, and scholar Elaine Pagels on the meaning of the Genesis stories in everyday modern life–Genesis promises to stand alone as one of the most important translations of this ancient work. Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. Copperfield’s Books, 138 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Free. 823-8991.

Comedy Competition

To the stand-ups who compete in the rigorous rounds of this laff-race, winning is no joke. Previous champions have included such clowns as Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Sinbad, Marsha Warfield, Ellen DeGeneres, and satirist Will Durst–all of whom have managed to scrape together a modicum of the ol’ fame and fortune from their efforts. Performing night after night in grueling semifinal and final rounds in clubs around Northern California, these bright new hopefuls will do their best to make you cough up a chuckle for the 21st year in a row when they swing through Santa Rosa to illuminate the Luther Burbank Center on Oct. 4. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8 p.m. $19.50. 546-3600.

Harvest Fair

So you think that you’ve had enough of fairs? Well, you thought wrong, as the Harvest Fair proves each year. Featuring more apples and grapes than you can shake a cornucopia at, the Harvest Fair emphasizes oral gratification of the higher order, with wine tastings and seminars, a world championship grape stomp, and an entire building devoted to nuthin’ but the fruits of temptation themselves, apples. Pack in a two-day rodeo, animal exhibits, an art show, kids’ activities, and horticultural exhibits–and, man, it looks like you’ve got yourself a fair. Oct. 4-6. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; winetasting begins at 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; tasting after 12:30 p.m. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. $2-$4. 545-4203.

Santa Rosa Community Concerts

This subscription-only series of five concerts is an act-now-or-regret-it-all-season musical offering. Beginning on Oct. 6 with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, the series continues Nov. 6 with the unclassical approach to the classical provided by the Brassissimo Vienna. The Black Mountain Male Choir of Wales appears in February, the Hungarian Festival Virtuosi with pianists Ralph Markham and Kenneth Broadway appear in March, and the season ends with the piano artistry of Frederic Chiu in April. All concerts are held at the Luther Burbank Center, and series tickets are $40 general; $20 for students. 542-2032 or 545-6850.

Rohnert Park Chamber Orchestra

Under the innovative guidance of musical director and conductor Nan Washburn, the RPCO begins another season of thoughtful and unusual presentations. Dedicating this year to a commemoration of composer Henry Cowell, these concerts commence with Cowell’s “Old American Country Set,” moving on to “Graciala y Buenos Aires” by José Bragato, and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. Of unusual note is a middle choice, “Stitch-Te Naku,” by Katherine Hoover, with music based on the Native American tale of a grandmotherly spider deity who wove the world into her web. Cellist Sharon Robinson is the featured soloist. Oct. 12-13. Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane. 584-1700.

California Small Works

The California Museum of Art launches its annual exhibit of works in all media that measure up, if not much taller than one foot high. Judged this year by Phil Linhares, the senior curator of the Oakland Museum, this prestigious exhibit proves once again that good things do come in small packages. Hand-delivered submissions will be accepted on Sept. 28-29 at the museum. Exhibit dates are Oct. 16 through Dec. 22. At the Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 527-0297.

Santa Rosa Symphony

Conductor Jeffrey Kahane continues his dedication to young performers and audiences with a concert that includes Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, 15-year-old Canadian pianist Sonia Chan performs Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, and the symphony swells into the strains of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. Oct. 19-21. Luther Burbank Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Saturday and Monday at 8 p.m; Sunday at 3 p.m. $11-$28. 54-MUSIC.

Trailing After Art

For the last 11 years, the Cultural Arts Council of Sonoma County has been coaxing artists to open up a bit and let the public take a look with its annual ARTrails event, allowing cluckers and admirers alike to stroll through the artist’s workspace, ask questions about style and method, and just generally whip out their checkbooks without the middle ground of a gallery adding on that goodly percentage. Aside from the pure voyeuristic thrill of tramping through others’ studios and homes (often one and the same), ARTrails is popular for the wide variety of artists who participate, offering practically everything from acrylics to zincography. New this year is a streamlined schedule, with every participating studio open both weekends, rather than the geographic patchworking of previous years. Oct. 12-13 and 19-20. For maps, details, and everything else you might want to know, call 579-ARTS.

Over the hill in Sonoma, artist Fred Parker hosts his own Valley of the Moon­based open studio event, encouraging any and all who would like to hang up a shingle and display their work to join. Called Artist Access, this map-led tour coincides with the ARTrails weekends and features some 70 artists. 938-1729.


This most autumnal of all months belongs this year to the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, which boasts three of the most important offerings. 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. 584-1700.


You’ve heard and seen her story told every which way from tale to ‘toon and back again. Now Children’s Storybook Theatre brings its version of the brave chief Powhatan’s daughter to the stage, featuring authentic costumes and an emphasized reverence for Native American customs and themes of honor, respect, and tradition. Stuff the kids with a little folklore and knowledge before it comes time to stuff ’em with turkey. Nov. 2-3. Saturday at 2:30 and 7 p.m.; Sunday at 2:30 p.m. $7-$9.

Peter Sanders

Frieze Frame: The Smuin Ballets/SF returns to the Spreckels Center.

Smuin Ballets/SF

Award-winning choreographer Michael Smuin and his company have agreed to dance twice a year in Rohnert Park, and this performance marks their third appearance in our fair county, making us really, really lucky. Famed for their urbanity and intelligence of movement, the Smuin Ballet, which launched the first-ever mambo-based ballet last year, promises to perform a range this year that includes sections of that premiere effort, as well as the more traditional Brahms/Haydn Variations. They’ll be back in March, but wise folks’ll see them both times. Nov. 16-17 at 2:30 and 8 p.m.

Festival of Harps

This is the seventh year in a row that Spreckels has chosen to become this highly strung, with harpists playing everything from jazz to Celtic to Chinese styles on their versatile instruments. Harps ain’t just for the angels anymore. Nov. 30 at 2:30 and 8 p.m. $13-$17.

From the August 29-September 4, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

This page was designed and created by the Boulevards team.
© 1996 Metrosa, Inc.

Previous articleAmy’s Kitchen
Next articleTalking Pictures