The second annual Tucson Desert Song Festival will span three weekends this year and will include a recital by Arizona Friends of Chamber Music.

Last year’s inaugural festival covered two weekends, packing in concerts by Tucson Chamber Artists, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, UApresents, the University of Arizona School of Music, Chamber Music Plus and the Tucson Guitar Society. (Chamber Music Plus ended its nine-year Tucson run last summer.)

“The fact that Arizona Friends of Chamber Music are willing to come in in the second year — we weren’t expecting them until the third or fourth year,” said festival founder Jack Forsythe.

This year’s festival kicks off Jan. 31 with Tucson Chamber Artists hosting rising mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor in the professional choir’s 10th Anniversary Signature Event at the Fox Tucson Theatre.

This year’s theme has a French flair, with works by Debussy, Ravel, Berlioz, Poulenc and others. The festival will include intimate recitals and big choral works, featuring some of the country’s top singers on the rise, including bass Jordan Bisch, who appeared in two Arizona Opera productions in 2012 — Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” and Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” — and soprano Christine Goerke, who Forsythe said is “probably the hottest name in the East Coast right now for major opera singers.”

“She is a person who doesn’t sing that much, but when she does she makes such a big impression,” he said.

Goerke is performing one of the festival’s most intimate recitals on Feb. 13 in Crowder Hall on the University of Arizona campus.

One of the most anticipated events comes on the closing weekend, Feb. 14 and 16, when the TSO mounts Berlioz’s choral masterwork “The Damnation of Faust” with mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, tenor William Burden and Bisch. This is the first time the TSO will perform the work and the first time it has been performed in Tucson by a professional ensemble.

See next Thursday’s Caliente for more on the festival.

Contact Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642.

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.