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2020 Tucson Desert Song Festival focuses on American voice
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2020 Tucson Desert Song Festival focuses on American voice

What’s the American voice?

The eighth annual Tucson Desert Song Festival, running through Feb. 16, hopes to answer that question.

The soulful spirituals and folk songs that the talented bass Morris Robinson will sing with True Concord Voices & Orchestra Jan. 24-26 surely fall into that category. He’s also including a little music theater.

Countertenor Reginald Mobley and the Agave Baroque string ensemble might be walking the fine line with a program that includes works written by composers from the Americas. But they also will shed light on a pair of African American composers who fit squarely into the definition of America.

And how much more American can you get than rhythm and blues diva Mavis Staples, who joins the 2020 Tucson Desert Song Festival lineup in a concert on Sunday, Jan. 19, that’s presented by the Tucson Jazz Society.

Some other highlights that fit into the American voice theme include:

  • UA Presents is bringing baritone Thomas Hampson and pianist Lara Downes to Centennial Hall Jan. 28 for “Song of America: Beyond Liberty,” which looks at influential people, poetry and events that helped create and define America.
  • Arizona Friends of Chamber Music teams up with the New York Festival of Song on Jan. 30 for “ Killer ‘B’s,” a program of art songs by American composers whose names begin with B: Irving Berlin, Amy Beach, Harry Burleigh, Marc Blitzstein, William Bolcom, Eubie Blake, Jason Robert Brown, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and the Beach Boys.
  • Katherine Byrnes and Rob Wright join Ballet Tucson Jan. 30-Feb. 2 for “Made in America,” a concert based on American songs. The program includes the premiere of “Unsquare,” based on compositions by jazz great Dave Brubeck and choreography by Ballet Tucson Assistant Artistic Director Chieko Imada.
  • Met star Renée Fleming, who has been testing her stunning soprano in music theater in recent years, is sure to add a few Broadway tunes to her operatic arias when she joins the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Feb. 6.
  • New York cabaret/Broadway vocalist Liz Callaway joins UA Dance for a taste of Broadway — think Sondheim, Gershwin — to close out the festival Feb. 13-16.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

Cathalena has covered music for the Star for the past 20 years. She's a graduate of Arizona State University has worked at Sedona Red Rock News, Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, New York; and USA Today.

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