Freebie of the week: While the dreams of the nonprofit group Friends of Levitt Pavilion San Jose to build a concert site in St. James Park have not yet come to fruition, music in the area is on. Following a string of free shows last fall, St. James Park is set to welcome fans again on five consecutive Sundays beginning this weekend, and all the music is free.
On Sunday, Grammy-winning jazz/blues/hip-hop trumpeter Maurice “Mobetta” Brown appears, with jazz singer Melanie Charles opening. On May 28, Los Angeles band Los Yesterdays brings “souldies” to the park, with funk/rock/pop artist Diamond Ortiz opening. On June 4, the terrific blues guitarist J.C. Smith and his band will hold forth, with soul band Noah and the Arkiteks opening. On June 11, East Side San Jose celebrates its new album with a cumbia dance party with musical guests including Mariposas Del Alma, Deuce Eclipse and more. And June 18 brings the lively LA rock band La Luz (said to be fond of injecting impromptu “Soul Train”-like dance contests into its shows).
Concerts will run 3:30-7 p.m. at the park, located at North Second and East St. James streets. There will be a beer and wine garden and plenty of food trucks, too. The Friends of Levitt Pavilion San Jose have organized the shows to, of course, call attention to their goal of erecting a pavilion, but also to demonstrate how concerts can bring a community together. More information is at levittsanjose.org.
History gets a makeover: If the “future is female,” as the feminist rallying cry goes, it’s true that the past centers on deeds and declarations of white males, particularly when it comes to the early history of the United States: The “Founding Fathers” is not a gender-neutral term. That brings us to “1776,” the hit musical about the “Fathers” and their trials and tribulations leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The show debuted on Broadway in 1969 and won three Tony Awards, including best musical; was revived in 1997; and adapted into a movie in 1972. The traditional staging of the show has called, not surprisingly, for a mostly male cast. But the recent adaptation of “1776,” which hit Broadway in 2022 and is now a touring production playing in San Jose this week, features a cast with female, transgender and non-binary actors. It’s the same “1776” that features music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone; it’s just that Thomas Jefferson here is played by Nancy Anderson and Ben Franklin is portrayed by Liz Mikel.
Directed by Broadway hitmakers Diane Paulus and Jeffrey L. Page, this gender-flipping “1776,” presented by Broadway San Jose, runs through Sunday at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 S. Almaden Blvd. Tickets are $38-$103; go to www.broadwaysanjose.com
Not just fiddling around: Given its status as a magnet for creative types of all sorts, it’s not surprising that the Bay Area has an active and talented circuit of Scottish, Irish and Celtic musicians. And it’s home to one of the finest Scottish fiddlers on the planet, Alasdair Fraser. The native of Clackmannan, Scotland, has built something like a cottage industry around his love and devotion to traditional Scottish music. He runs summer fiddling camps and is founder-owner of Culburnie Records, on which he and his Skyedance Band, and other musicians with whom he frequently collaborates, have released dozens of albums. Also, there’s the Scottish Fiddlers outfit, which Fraser first assembled in 1983 to share in his passion for the music. The group now numbers some six-dozen musicians of all ages Fraser describes as “not an orchestra but an unruly, rabble-rousing, anarchistic bunch.”
The Scottish Fiddlers perform several concerts a year and have three this weekend, at 8 p.m. Friday at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley; 7 p.m. Saturday at Spangenberg Theater in Palo Alto and 3 p.m. Sunday at Carmel Center for the Performing Arts, Carmel High School. Tickets range from $24-$43. Go to sffiddles.org.
A monumental ‘Requiem’: Baritone Brian Mulligan is stepping in to replace Scotland’s Iain Paterson, who has encountered visa trouble, joining a massing of vocal and orchestral forces on the Davies Hall stage to perform Benjamin Britten’s historic “War Requiem,” written for the 1962 consecration of England’s Coventry Cathedral, rebuilt after its destruction in World War II. A familiar figure on the San Francisco Opera stage, where he has sung title roles in “Nixon in China” and “Sweeney Todd,” Mulligan also created the role of Jack Torrance in the 2016 Minnesota Opera world premiere of “The Shining,” which Opera Parallele is now preparing for a brief run in early June. Joining Mulligan, conductor Philippe Jordan, the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus and the Ragazzi Boys Chorus for the work will be soprano Jennifer Holloway and tenor Ian Bostridge, both making their San Francisco Symphony debuts. One of Britten’s most memorable compositions, the Requiem combines texts from the Latin Mass with nine poems about World War I written by Wilfred Owen.
Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Find tickets, $35-$165, at sfsymphony.org or 415-864-6000.
A skyward look, musically speaking: The California Symphony’s current Young American Composer-in-Residence, Viet Cuong, says he feels lucky to have gifted Berkeley pianist and radio host Sarah Cahill on board to perform the world premiere of his new “Stargazer” concerto with the orchestra and music director Donato Cabrera this weekend in the Lesher Center for the Arts’ Hofmann Theatre in Walnut Creek. He recorded a video explaining his inspiration for the piece, with a brief sampling here. Also on the program, which is titled “Fresh Inspirations,” are Berlioz’s “Roman Carnival” Overture and William Walton’s Symphony No. 1.
The concerts take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, $20-$79, are available at californiasymphony.org or 925-943-7469.