Best Bets: Free Concord concerts, Little Village showcase, TheatreWorks’ Soundheim celebration, LINES Ballet and SF Symphony, Slavyanka 

Cajun-Zydeco accordionist Andre Thierry kicks off Concord's Music & Market series June 6 at Todos Santos Plaza. (Courtesy Andre Thierry)

Freebie of the week: It’s that time of the year when free live outdoor music is all over the place. And we’re not talking about the guy who’s trying to master “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” on the banjo near your neighborhood drugstore. We’re talking about the network of talented Bay Area cover bands and rock, folk, jazz and world music acts that play in free park and public concerts in spring, summer and fall. One of our favorite free concert series kicks off this week at Concord’s Todos Santos Plaza, at Willow Pass Road and Grant Street. The Music & Market Concert Series offers a nice one-two punch: a lively farmers’ market runs at the Plaza from 4 to 8 p.m. and concerts are from 6:30 to 8 p.m. On Thursday, Andre Thierry, the Richmond born-and-raised accordionist, serves up a spicy blend of Louisiana Cajun and Zydeco music. Others on the 2024 Music & Market lineup include the Earth, Wind & Fire-loving band the Houserockers (June 13); Sacred Fire Band delivering music of Santana (June 20); guitar master Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings; one of the best blues bands going (July 11); the popular all-women Led Zeppelin tribute band Zepparella (July 18); the Steely Dan/Chicago cover band Aju Vu (Aug. 8); the all-women Aerosmith tribute band RagDolls (Aug. 22); and there’s even a Taylor Swift tribute band, Twist on Taylor (Sept. 12). The series runs through Sept. 26 (no show July 4), and all concerts are free. More information is at

Filipino folk trio The Sampaguitas appear in the Little Village record label’s annual showcase concert on June 7 at the Freight & Salvage. (Courtesy The Sampaguitas) 

It takes a (Little) Village: Veteran blues keyboardist Jim Pugh is known for his years playing with the Robert Cray band and other outfits, but his most lasting contribution to music might be the nonprofit record label he created, Little Village. Now a decade old, Little Village is home to, and has been the launching pad, for talented musicians in Americana genres (blues, folk, gospel, etc.) the mainstream record industry ignores. To hear the contemporary takes on these genres, head to the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on Friday for the annual Little Village concert showcase (dubbed the “Freight Mini-Fest”). The lineup includes Aki Kumar, the “Bollywood Blues” harmonica player; acclaimed traditional gospel outfit Sons of the Soul Revivers; Filipino folk trio The Sampaguitas; The Latin/blues singer Marina Crouse, and singer-songwriter Genesis Fermin playing with veteran singer-producer Vicki Randle. Bay Area singer-songwriter Maurice Tani, who’s worked and recorded with Little Village for years, host. The show promises to be a rollicking affair and a reminder that American roots music is going strong. It’s at 8 p.m.; tickets are $25 ($23 for seniors and $12.50 for patrons 21 and under). Go to

L-R, Solona Husband, Sleiman Alahmadieh, Nick Nakashima, Melissa WolfKlain, Anne Tolpegin, and Noel Anthony Escobar appear in TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s premiere musical “Being Alive: A Sondheim Celebration” June 5-30 in Mountain View. (Courtesy Reed Flores/TheatreWorks Silicon Valley)

Celebrating Sondheim: Stephen Sondheim remains a legend in musical theater whose impact on Broadway and American culture can’t be overstated. His clever and tuneful works helped Broadway address a deeper, broader array of subjects and emotions, which is partly why he scored eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy Awards, an Oscar and a Pulitzer Prize. But with his deep catalog of songs and musicals continuing to play on stages across the country, is there a need for a new show about him, incorporating his works? The folks at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley think so. The company has a deep connection to Sondheim, having presented more works by him than any other composer or playwright over its 54-year history. This week, TheatreWorks is presenting the world premiere of “Being Alive: A Sondheim Celebration,” a revue in which, as organizers put it, “Sondheim’s profound understanding of the human heart takes center stage.” With “Into the Woods,” “A Little Night Music,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Company,” “Pacific Overtures,” “Merrily We Roll Along” and more to choose from, this new show by former TheatreWorks artistic director Robert Kelley and his longtime collaborator William Liberatore will no doubt be packed with musical theater classics that will have patrons humming as they leave the theater. And that’s why we go to musicals, isn’t it? “Being Alive” is in previews through Friday, with the main run extending Saturday through June 30 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $27-$82; go to 

Soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams performs as the woman in distress in the dramatization of Schoenberg’s “Ewartung” with the San Francisco Symphony. (Courtesy San Francisco Symphony)

A combo concert: We who like Mother Goose nursery tales served with a little visual and audio assist are in for a treat this weekend, as San Francisco treasure Alonzo King has choreographed the Ravel ballet “Ma mére l’Oye” for his LINES Ballet dancers to perform with the San Francisco Symphony in Davies Hall. The music, which dates to 1912, was first a piano suite for four hands and then an orchestral suite before the composer produced the final ballet, which animates favorite characters such as the Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb and Beauty and the Beast. Also on the program, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, is Arnold Schoenberg’s monodrama “Ewartung,” with staging by renowned theater director Peter Sellars and featuring soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams taking on the role of the desperate woman searching for her lover in a dark forest at night. Performance times are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets, $69-$169, are available at or by calling (415) 864-6000.

Irina Shachneva leads Slavyanka Chorus in a program of music by contemporary female composers. (Courtesy Thomas Pacha)

A night of Slavic songs: Slavyanka, the 45-year-old San Francisco-based chorus which took its name from the old Russian name for California’s Russian River, is presenting a highly unusual concert of songs composed by women from Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and Bulgaria in three Bay Area venues this weekend. The program, titled “Songs of Faith, Love and Delight,” will be conducted by artistic director Irina Shachneva and will feature works by Russian-Belarusian composer Irina Denisova, Serbian composers Dragana Velickovic and Ljubica Maric, Ukrainian Iryna Aleksiychuk and the Bulgarian-British composer Dobrinka Tabakova. The first concert takes place at 8 p.m. Friday in St. Mark’s Church in Berkeley, with repeats at 4 p.m. Saturday in Palo Alto’s First Congregational Church and 4 p.m. Sunday at Star of the Sea Church at 4420 Geary Blvd. in San Francisco. Tickets are available at and at the door, with free admission for those under 18.

The post Best Bets: Free Concord concerts, Little Village showcase, TheatreWorks’ Soundheim celebration, LINES Ballet and SF Symphony, Slavyanka  appeared first on Local News Matters.

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