City Week

A Kick in the Brass

Old Pueblo Brass Band presents The Brass Opera

3 p.m., Sunday, March 25

Desert Skies United Methodist Church

3255 N. Houghton Road

If you yearn to hear selections from the classical repertoire, opera, marches, musical theater or even pop transcribed for British brass band, the Old Pueblo Brass Band's performances may be the entertainment you've been seeking.

This 16-year-old group, which features 32 members, is the one true British-style brass band in Arizona, said director and conductor Barbara Chinworth. The group sticks to that tradition, playing cornets, flugelhorns, tenor horns, baritones, euphoniums, trombones, tubas and percussion.

"In each concert we do, we try to have a unifying theme, and in this one, it's arias from operas," Chinworth said.

Program highlights include the overture from Il Guarany by A. Carlos Gomes; "The Ride of the Valkyries" from Die Walküre by Richard Wagner; "The Florentiner March" by Julius Fucik; excerpts from the musical Kismet; and "Music of the Night" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera.

The band's alto horn section (Marcia Molter, Dudley Spore and Nancy Johnsen) will be featured on "Trio Con Brio," a medley of opera favorites presented in a format similar to that of The Three Tenors. Chinworth added that guest artist Michael Kiefer will solo on cornet in "Sempre Libera" from Verdi's La Traviata.

If you're interested in hearing and seeing the OPBB in action before the concert, check out their YouTube videos.

Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

Also, mark your calendars: The Old Pueblo Brass band will perform its final concert of the season at 3 p.m., Sunday, May 6, at Northminster Presbyterian Church, 2450 E. Fort Lowell Road. —G.A.

From Russia, With Groove

Arizona Balalaika Orchestra, with the Flying Balalaika Brothers

7 p.m., Saturday, March 24

Pima Community College Center for the ArtsProscenium Theatre

2202 W. Anklam Road


At the group's 32nd annual concert, the Arizona Balalaika Orchestra will perform with a little help from its friends.

Joining the local ensemble will be musicians from Minneapolis; Detroit; Reno, Nev.; and Austin, Texas, including the rising-star band the Flying Balalaika Brothers.

Founded in 1980 by Mia Bulgarin Gay, the group's musical director, this community orchestra includes 25 players who range in age from 20 to 90, said executive director Dan Nicolini. The orchestra showcases three different versions of its namesake instrument: the primo, the alto and the massive bass balalaika. The arrangements also include accordions, winds and percussion, as well as the domra, a small, round instrument with four strings, and the unique table harp called the gusli.

The program, conducted by Alexander Tentser, will include recent compositions of Slavic or Russian origin, familiar classical works such as Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian's Sabre Dance, and traditional Russian folk dances.

"There also will be a section of about 15 minutes for just the Flying Balalaika Brothers," Nicolini said.

That group was founded by Zhenya Kolykhanov, the former lead guitarist with the Russian surf/rockabilly group the Red Elvises. Based in Austin, the Flying Balalaika Brothers also feature Sergei Vaschenko, whom Nicolini calls "one of the premier balalaika players in the world."

Nicolini adds that the concert will include performances by the Rusyny Dancers, performing dances of the Rusyn people of the Carpathian Mountains; and a revival of the orchestra's Kalinka Russian Dancers, who have been dormant for five years.

Tickets are $15, or $10 for students. For more info, call 327-4418. —G.A.

Speaking for the Dead

Arizona Historical Society presents "Meet Tucson's Pioneers"

9 to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, March 24

Evergreen Cemetery

3015 N. Oracle Road


Members of the Arizona Historical Society will visit one of the city's oldest cemeteries this weekend to tell tales about Arizona's pioneer past.

"Living-history" interpreters will be on hand for a walking tour through Evergreen Cemetery, recounting the lives of some of the prominent Tucsonans of yesteryear who are buried there.

The interpreters will assume the characters of the people whose lives they are describing, said Betty Cook, president of the society's Docent Council.

Among the Tucson pioneers who will be portrayed are J. Knox Corbett, who came to Tucson in 1880 and later served as the city's mayor; Alma Tattersfield Monthan, who was born in Switzerland and came to Tucson around the turn of the 20th century to start a cattle ranch; Helen M. Wetmore, whose family owned the Wetmore pool near what is now the location of Tucson Mall; and Thomas Jeffords, a miner and Indian agent who was known as the only "blood brother" of Apache chief Cochise.

After the main tour, Cook will lead a tour of the graves of 12 Confederate soldiers who are buried in the cemetery.

Cook became interested in history and genealogy after her retirement from banking, and has become something of an expert on Tucson's history.

"People will say, 'How do you know so much about this history? You weren't even born here!' Well, it's because I've done the research," she said.

Admission to "Meet Tucson's Pioneers" is $15; there's a $5 fee for the tour of Confederate graves. Call Cook at 886-3363 to RSVP. —D.M.

With a Song in Their Hearts

"Songbirds Part 1: Flycatchers to Kinglets"

6 p.m., next Thursday, March 29

Tucson Botanical Gardens

2150 N. Alvernon Way


When it comes to spotting and identifying songbirds, what they sound like is as important as what they look like.

"For a lot of bird-watchers, you can't see the bird until after you hear it, so being able to identify its call is important," said Ron Bridgemon, community education manager for the Tucson Botanical Gardens.

The gardens' new three-part series of classes about songbirds will feature a wide array of audio recordings of bird calls, in addition to slide shows and lectures by teacher Jeff Babson, of Sky Island Tours. Discussions will include the classification and identification of the birds.

The first installment of the class is next Thursday, March 29, and the subjects are flycatchers, vireos, jays, wrens and kinglets, among other birds. The second class is Thursday, April 12, and will focus on thrushes, thrashers, pipits and warblers. The final installment is scheduled for Thursday, April 26, and will spotlight sparrows, cardinals, buntings, orioles, blackbirds and goldfinches.

The classes are designed to examine species native to Southern Arizona. "We try to make all of our programs and classes relevant to the local area," Bridgemon said.

Songbirds sessions will last about two hours. Each class costs $25, or $22 for members of the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Call 326-9686, ext. 10, to sign up or get more information.

Bridgemon said the Botanical Gardens is hoping momentum from the Songbirds series will carry over to the summer exhibit of birdhouses, Flights of Fancy: Birds at Home in the Garden, which runs from June 1 through Sept. 30. —G.A.