St. Petersburg Times: Weekend

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Stage: hot tickets

By JOHN FLEMING, Times Performing Arts Critic
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 7, 2002

Bang the drum loudly

The taiko drum comes to Tampa Bay this weekend. Originally an instrument to express the Japanese people's spiritual beliefs, the big drum is now performed in a wide array of styles by more than 100 groups in North America.

San Jose Taiko, formed in 1973 in the San Francisco Bay area, has fused traditional Japanese drumming with other world music, jazz and rock. "Our interest is to take taiko to different levels, and we see no boundaries," co-artistic director Roy Hirabayashi told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Three-fourths of the approximately 25 members are women, unlike most traditional groups in Japan. "San Jose style incorporates the fact that there's a lot of joy to playing taiko," Hirabayashi said. "For us, we don't try to make a distinction between the form and playing style of men and women."

San Jose Taiko performs at 8 p.m. Friday at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. Tickets: $23-$30. (727) 892-5767.

Conductor has music in his genes

Stefan Sanderling is the latest conductor to come before the Florida Orchestra as a candidate for music director. Sanderling is from a family of conductors:His father, Kurt Sanderling, was music director of the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) Philharmonic; his half brother, Thomas, conducted the Florida Orchestra and Master Chorale in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in 1999. Stefan has several European posts, including the music directorship of France's Orchestre de Bretagne, which emphasizes new works and French music.

The program includes Mozart's Symphony No. 31; Francaix's L'Horloge de Flor (The Flower Clock), featuring principal oboe Martin Hebert; and the Brahms Symphony No. 4.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday in Ferguson Hall of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center; 8 p.m. Saturday at Mahaffey Theater; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets: $20-$38. (813) 286-2403.

Stirring a savory pot of memories

Bob Devin Jones cooks up a pot of rice and beans, then shares it with the audience in his one-man show Uncle Bends: a home-cooked negro narrative. At the same time, he relates the stories of everyday black people: a railroad cook, a quiltmaking grandmother, a shoeshine boy, a Bible-thumping preacher and a slave woman.

Jones drew from memories of listening to family stories. His family, whose roots are in Louisiana and Arkansas, moved to California in the 1940s, and he grew up in Los Angeles. A director as well as an actor and playwright, he has lived in St. Petersburg for five years.

A touch of satire seasons the performance. Jones dresses in white shirt and apron and red bowtie, evoking Uncle Ben of rice fame.

In Jones' view, his play is about forgiveness. "The setting up of the play was just these people who make a way out of no way, people who know how to have forgiveness, for themselves and for their perpetrators, and try to get on with it."

Uncle Bends opens Friday and runs through March 24 at American Stage. Tickets: $18. (727) 823-7529.

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