California Symphony features Strings, Lisa Fischer and Ranky Tanky

Giveaway of the Week: As a producer and director, Jon Avnet has been behind thoughtful films (“Fried Green Tomatoes”) as well as films that tackled intense subject matter (“The War”, “Black Swan” ). But arguably his most impactful film was a 2001 TV outing titled “The Uprising,” which originally aired for two nights on NBC and depicted the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. The uprising came four years after Germany invaded Poland and forced Jewish inhabitants into a battered Warsaw, from where they were transported to the Nazi death camp at Treblinka. As Nazi soldiers entered the town for what they considered the final roundup, some 700 young Jewish residents staged a rebellion that lasted nearly a month before the Germans finally crushed it. The rebels harbored no illusions that they would change the course of history, but believed that the worst option would be to do nothing. Avnet’s film project was ambitious – its setting included a massive four-story reconstruction of Warsaw, the length of three football fields, according to New York magazine. It garnered some 20,000 extras and assembled a cast of 215 that included A-Listers such as Hank Azaria, David Schwimmer, Leelee Sobieski, Jon Voight, Donald Sutherland and many more. Steeped firmly in history, “The Uprising” seems frighteningly more relevant these days, with right-wing movements and governments flexing their muscles around the world. At 2 p.m. Sunday, you can catch a free screening of “The Uprising” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco. A Q&A with Avnet, Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum and Steven Meed, son of Polish resistance fighter Vladka Meed, follows the film. The event is sponsored by the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation. To register, go to

Let the Strings Sing: Donato Cabrera and the California Symphony have given these woodwind, percussion and brass players a well-deserved weekend and are devoting their Saturday and Sunday concerts to showing what the most numerous musicians in the section can accomplish alone. In a program called “All Things Strings”, the conductor will lead the first and second violins, violists, cellists, double bassists and, in one case, a pianist (technically a percussion instrument but with more strings than any other) through four works specially written to emphasize their lush lyricism. Edward Elgar’s 1905 Introduction and Allegro opens the concert, pitting the principal musicians of each of the four string sections against each other performing as a quartet and exchanging melodies with the rest of the musicians in a sort of Baroque-style concerto grosso. Also on the program are Dvorak’s enchanting “Serenade for Strings” and the award-winning Concerto for String Orchestra by 20th-century Polish composer and violinist Grazyna Bacewicz. Pianist Elizabeth Dorman will be the soloist in “Eclogue for Piano and Strings”, a hauntingly beautiful work by Gerald Finzi, a 20th-century British composer best known for his choral works. Sunday’s concert will be at 4 p.m. at the Hofmann Theater at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. Find tickets, between $20 and $79, at

Lisa Fischer, front and center: Most people probably discovered the vocal powerhouse that Lisa Fischer is thanks to the acclaimed 2014 documentary about background singers “20 Feet From Stardom,” which featured her and others whose world-class talent was used to support the Rolling Stones and other rock and R&B icons. Of course, as her many fans know, Fischer had been a lead singer since the 1980s and broke the charts in 1991 with the R&B hit “How Can I Ease the Pain,” which won a Grammy in 1992. Fischer was a driving force, allowing him to approach a wide variety of materials from a wide variety of angles. This all explains his latest venture, teaming up with Ranky Tanky, a band from South Carolina that specializes in a lively, hard-hitting form of West African call-and-response music known as Gullah. Fischer and Ranky Tanky appeared at Santa Cruz and the Monterey Jazz Festival in September. But if you missed those performances, they’re heading to the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco for a weekend. Hopefully they will face off against the Stones’ “Wild Horses”, which was a highlight of their appearance in Monterey. The Sunday show is at 7 p.m. Tickets cost between $25 and $85. Go to

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