Jan. 4 2016 04:18 PM

Our top picks for things to do this week

A “Play Me” piano by artist Sheena Rae Dowling
Photo courtesy of San Diego Symphony


It seems like every week our hearts are warmed by some viral video of an unlikely musical hero who sits down at a piano and proceeds to blow the minds of everyone within earshot. If these videos teach us a simple truth, it's this: Give people access to the ebony and ivory keys and magic can happen.

That logic aptly applies to Play Me: Pianos in Public Spaces, which kicks off Upright & Grand, the San Diego Symphony's month-long piano festival. Symphony CEO Martha Gilmer says that the inaugural fest, which begins on Friday, Jan. 8, will feature more than just classical music performances.

"People will see the piano in all of its roles. Solo piano, collaborative piano, jazz piano, piano as accompaniment to dance. We want to show it in all of its roles," says Gilmer, who organized similar festival programming when she worked with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. "It's going to be fun to be here every night."

For the Play Me portion of the festivities, a dozen donated pianos were tuned, spruced up by local artists and will be placed at various public locations across the county.

"We want to connect people with the physicality of the sound and we want to be in the fabric of the community," says Gilmer, who adds that once the fest concludes, the pianos will find permanent homes at local philanthropic organizations such as Combat Arts and PATH Connections Housing.

There will also be a dozen concerts, performances and workshops at venues across the county. Highlights include Marc-André Hamelin's performance of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" on Jan. 8 at the Jacobs Music Center, a tribute to jazz greats like Thelonious Monk on Jan. 23, and pop-rocker Ben Folds debuting a new concerto piece on Feb. 5 and 6. The Play Me activities are free to the public and prices for the Upright & Grand performances range from $20 to $96. For a full list of performances, activities and venues, check out sandiegosymphony.org.

“Tulip, 1931” by Dr. Dain L. Tasker
Photo courtesy of Joseph Bellows Gallery


In the age of Instagram, pictures of pretty flowers are a dime a dozen. Still, photography buffs would be hard pressed to find images as striking as the ones on display in Dr. Dain L. Tasker: Floral Studies, which opens Saturday, Jan. 9, at the Joseph Bellows Gallery (7661 Girard Ave.) in La Jolla. Dr. Tasker was an amateur photographer and a radiologist at the Wilshire Hospital in Los Angeles in the 1930s when he used X-ray equipment to capture the intricate structures of flowers. The resulting images beautifully marry science and art, and viewers of Floral Studies should be prepared to never look at stems and petals the same way again. A reception for the exhibition happens from 6 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 9 and the pictures will be on display through Feb. 19. josephbellows.com

Art of Élan and SACRA/PROFANA
Photo by Jeremy York


With Donald Trump leading the GOP polls, it's easy to feel out of whack with our fellow Americans. However, Art of Élan will be focusing on the things we all have in common when it debuts Concentric Circles on Tuesday, Jan. 12. The local chamber music group will be teaming up with the inventive choral group SACRA/PROFANA for a program that highlights people's commonalities, despite varying lifestyles. SACRA's artistic director Krishan Oberoi will lead 20 singers through pieces composed by Aaron Jay Kernis and Nico Muhly, wrapping up with Arvo Pürt's minimalist piece on the innate need to self-reflect. It happens at the Hibben Gallery at the San Diego Museum of Art (1450 El Prado). The concert starts at 7 p.m. and tickets range from $40 to $50. artofelan.org


See all events on Monday, Oct 24