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San Diego weekend arts events: Brendan Nguyen, San Diego Symphony, Andrés Hernández and more

Courtesy of Tina Tallon
Pianist Brendan Nguyen is pictured from above, playing a grand piano, in an undated photo.

This weekend in the arts: so much piano music, with Project [BLANK] presenting solo piano works by visionary women composers, and George Li joins the San Diego Symphony for Rachmaninoff, Berlioz and Still; a virtual art talk explores poetry and visual art in The Hill Street Country Club's latest exhibition; Don Bartletti's photojournalism exhibition at Oceanside Museum of Art; and Digital Gym's Sundance screenings.

Brendan Nguyen, Solo Piano



Brendan Nguyen is one of the cofounders of Project [BLANK], a local performance ensemble and organization. He's also an accomplished pianist, and will kick off their 2022 season with an interesting series of works for solo piano.

The show features compositions from influential and groundbreaking women composers, all vastly different in their styles and eras. American composer Amy Beach lived from 1867 to 1944, and one of the things that stood out to me from her biography is that she was a child prodigy pianist, even publishing compositions in her early teens. But when she married in 1885, her husband urged her to stop performing, so as a compromise, she only performed once per year. Following his death, she resumed regular performance and composition. One of the Beach pieces in the concert, "Dreaming, Four Sketches for Piano, Op. 15, No. 3," is a lovely and almost mournful tune.

Also in the program is Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, a 98-year-old Ethiopian exile, nun and pianist/composer. Nguyen will perform Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou's "The Mad Man's Laughter," "The Jordan River Song," and "Ballade of the Spirits."

Finally, Nguyen will play a handful of works by contemporary American composer Missy Mazzoli, including some written for piano and pre-recorded electronics. I love her 2013 solo piano piece, "Heartbreaker."


Details: Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. St. James-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 743 Prospect St., La Jolla. Suggested donation $5-$20.

Rachmaninoff's 'Rhapsody' and Berlioz's 'Symphonie Fantastique'


Rafael Payare conducts the San Diego Symphony and piano soloist George Li (don't miss Li's 2018 NPR Tiny Desk Concert) at the Civic Theatre this weekend.

Li and the Symphony will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," which includes one of the more recognizable passages in classical music, the "18th variation" (it even made an appearance in "Groundhog Day"). Also in the program is Berlioz's majestic "Symphonie fantastique," and they'll open the concert with composer William Grant Still's 1924 piece, "Darker America."

Details: Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., downtown. $25-$90.

More music: For the more sound-art inclined, Project [BLANK] is also holding a performance plus guided sound meditation event at Bread and Salt, Monday at 7 p.m., featuring Ariana Warren, Ashley Bridgewater, Chris Warren and Joe Mariglio. Suggested donation of $5-$20.

Tag Christof
Artist and writer Andrés Hernández is shown at work on a mural in September, 2020.

Virtual artist talk: Andrés Hernández and Karla Cordero

Poetry, visual art

Poet and professor Karla Cordero, author of the stunning poetry collection, "How to Pull Apart the Earth," will be in conversation with artist and poet Andrés Hernández, whose exhibition, "Crying on the Blue Line Trolley" is currently on view at The Hill Street Country Club (HSCC).

RELATED: Andrés Hernández: A love and a border interrupted by COVID

This is a virtual event hosted by HSCC, and the two writers and artists will be discussing some of Hernández's poetry as well as the multidisciplinary exhibition.

Details: Saturday, Jan. 29 at 1 p.m. Virtual. Register here.

More art talks: Artist Matthew Hebert will be onsite at the Athenaeum Music & Art Library in La Jolla Saturday at 11 a.m. — with collaborator and writer Jared Stanley dialing in virtually — to host a guided walkthrough of their new exhibition, "La Jolla Reading Room." Free.

Don Bartletti: 'Elusive Moments-Enduring Stories'

Visual art

Now on view at Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA) is a decades-long retrospective of San Diego-based photojournalist Don Bartletti's work. In the late 1970s and early '80s, Bartletti was a photojournalist working for the San Diego Union and then continued his career with the Los Angeles Times until 2015. The photographer was granted a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for his work covering undocumented Central American youth migrating north to the U.S.

Don Bartletti
"Enrique's Journey" by Don Bartletti is part of "Elusive Moments-Enduring Stories" exhibition on view Jan. 22 through May 1, 2022 at Oceanside Museum of Art.

Bartletti's photography is powerful and story-centric, and this exhibition will be on view through May 1, 2022.

Details: Museum hours are Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Oceanside Museum of Art, 704 Pier View Way, Oceanside. $10.

Sundance Satellite Screens: Digital Gym


Check out KPBS film critic Beth Accomando's feature on the Sundance Satellite weekend of film screenings at the brand new Digital Gym cinema in East Village.

Even before Sundance announced a last minute switch to virtual for this year's festival, a small group of cinemas across the country were chosen as "satellite screens" — just seven cities, including San Diego's Digital Gym. These cinemas will hold local screenings of nine official 2022 Sundance Film Festival selections in conjunction with the festival. Despite the main festival virtual switch, the in-person local screenings are still on.

Marte Um (Mars One) - Still 1
Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Leonardo Feliciano
Camilla Souza and Cícero Lucas appear in "Marte Um (Mars One)," directed by Gabriel Martins, an official selection of the World Cinema: Dramatic Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Two films on my radar are "Marte Um (Mars One)" and "Sirens." "Marte Um" is about a Black family in Brazil facing uncertainty and fear after a right-wing leader takes power, and the screening includes a post-film online Q&A hosted by Digital Gym's Moises Esparza (and will be broadcast across all the other satellite screens). "Marte Um" screens Sunday at 1 p.m.

"Sirens," screening at Digital Gym on Saturday at 5 p.m., is a documentary that chronicles "the Middle East's first all-female metal band," based in Lebanon. Director Rita Baghdadi and the rockers themselves will actually be on-site, in-person at the cinema for the post-screening Q&A.

(Can confirm: they thrash.)

Details: Friday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. through Sunday, Jan 30, 2022 at 7 p.m. Screening times vary. Digital Gym Cinema, 1100 Market St, downtown. $14.

Always check with event organizers for last minute changes and cancellations before heading out. For more arts events, or to submit your own, visit the KPBS/Arts calendar here. And be sure to sign up for the weekly KPBS/Arts newsletter here.