Frank's Weekend Faves, March 31, 2019


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The Boneyard Arts Festival isn't the only fest in town this weekend. Two music festivals are competing for your attention as well — one celebrating its 10th anniversary at one of Champaign's oldest venues; the other just getting started at one of its youngest.

DoCha (short for downtown Champaign) is celebrating its 10th anniversary season Friday through Sunday, April 5-7, at the historic Orpheum Theater, 346 N. Neil St. The former vaudeville theater will once again be transformed into a cabaret-style live-music venue with all of its performances free and open to the public, no tickets required.

Committed to an inclusive vision of music making, DoCha allows its audience to experience live music up close, while featuring some of C-U's world-class, internationally acclaimed musicians, scholars and music educators as well as gifted young musicians in artistic collaborations both in and outside the chamber music genre.

The festival will open at 10 a.m. Friday with the family-friendly show "Musical Moods," featuring Rami Vamos and Erica Cruz Hernandez, as well as the music of Brahms, Beethoven and Dvorak, in a comical and educational musical play about a hip and with-it guy named Wolfgang Amadeus Schmutzinberry, who is fluent in tweets and texts but can't seem to communicate with his letter-writing grandmother.

Can Wolfgang turn his texts to Grandma into a letter, using music to infuse his words with emotion, mood and feeling? Of course — with a little help from DoCha's musicians, who teach him about dynamics, articulation and major and minor keys.

Friday's program winds up at 7 p.m. with a chamber-music performance, "Grand Night for Singing," featuring the music and songs of Rodgers, Hammerstein and Hart performed by Lyric Theatre at Illinois — as well as a sing-a-long.

On Saturday, the "Musical Moods" family concert will be repeated at 1 p.m., offering families another chance to experience live music and theater and ask questions of the musicians.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, the chamber-music performance "Heart of Generations" will feature the Jupiter String Quartet (comprising violinists Nelson Lee and Megan Freivogel, violist Liz Freivogel and cellist Daniel McDonough) performing string quartets by Mendellsohn and Ligeti. They will be joined by members of the Illinois String Academy in Edward Elgar's Introduction and Allegro.

DoCha concludes at 5 p.m. Sunday with the "Ace 10" chamber-music performance, featuring works by Schubert, Strauss, Cooke and more, performed by Yvonne Redman, Bernhard Scully, Michael Tilley, Yulia Fedoseeva and Stefan Milenkovich.

* * * * *

And here's a first — quite literally.

Edgar Cuevas, president and co-founder of Flor Fest, has 22 musical acts from across Illinois lined up to play at this Friday's event at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, 202 S. Broadway Ave., U. Currently booked are Today's Children, The Telephone Junkies, Wes Harmony, Ex Cathedra, Lost Wilderness, Silent Generation, Feed The Monkeys, Jake Fava, Warm Darn, Kiddsoul, Tarun Mahajan, This is A Stick Up!, Boxout, Alien Thing, Clockwork Owl, Dani Avila, From Circumstances, Ben Cheslow, Anika Emily and Kathleen Dowling.

Tickets for the festival, scheduled from 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, are $10 at the door, cash only, with most of the proceeds going to benefit The UP Center of Champaign County, which provides support programs and social programming for LGBTQ youth and their parents and the trans community.

As Cuevas explains, "I've decided to give the majority of the money (excluding operational costs, i.e., venue costs) to the UP Center, since a lot of LGBTQ+ members that I know personally have received services there. I've also heard that they're currently struggling financially, so I thought that fundraising for them would be a great gesture that would help give them a surprise donation that they currently need. Therefore, I want the community of Champaign-Urbana to give back while enjoying music from their own local music scene (as well as a few bands from the Chicagoland area).

"This festival is not run by suit-and-tie personnel but rather students of the University of Illinois. Along with colleagues, I have been able to book a venue and learn a lot through the process. I've received a lot of help from The Goldstein Sound and Nick Arger (frontman of Today's Children).

"We've also received a sponsorship from a local startup MapTitan (, so it's been overall fun process to collaborate with many people from the community."

For more information, visit the event's website at

Raise the Curtain: The Red Mask Players' 'Witness for the Prosecution' in Danville

If you caught Thursday's "Frank's Faves" column in our On The Go section, you already know British author Agatha Christie is my favorite mystery writer, so I was excited to see that the Red Mask Players are presenting one of her best tales April 5-7 and 12-14 at the Kathryn Randolph Theater, 601 N. Vermilion St., Danville.

The Friday and Saturday performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m., while Sunday performances are at 2 p.m. Doors open 45 minutes before curtain time. Reserved-seating tickets are $18 to $20, available by phone at 217-442-5858; email at; online at; or at the door.

The suspenseful thriller, about a man accused of murdering a rich widow (and his wife, who takes the stand as the title witness for reasons of her own), is based on Christie's short story and play and has been adapted a number of times for the screen and TV (most famously in director Billy Wilder's 1957 film starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton, and most recently as a BBC miniseries in 2016).

The Danville production of "Witness for the Prosecution" is directed by Robert McIntire, with Leslie Van Camp as stage manager and Gaye Garner producing. The cast includes Ruey Sandusky, Jeff Romig, Mike Young, Brandon Moore, Tim Kirby, Mac Waites, Barb Whaling, Breely Arford, Becky Low, Mark Learnard, Dave Downing, Lee Bridgeman and Greg Duckett.

That's the Ticket: Art Garfunkel at the Virginia Theatre

OK, I'm showing my age here, but my favorite concert news this week has to be the Grammy Award-winner and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member's announcement that he was adding Champaign's Virginia Theatre to his 2019 "In Close Up" tour. The show is scheduled for 8 p.m. June 22, and tickets are on sale now at the Virginia's box office at 203 W. Park Ave., C; online at; or by phone at 217-356-9063. Tickets prices range from $49.50 to $125.

Garfunkel will be accompanied by a guitarist and a keyboardist in performing classic Simon & Garfunkel songs, his solo hits and select covers, and in between, he'll be reading excerpts from his 2017 autobiography, "What Is It All But Luminous: Notes From An Underground Man."

Count on hearing such folk-rock classics as "Mrs. Robinson", "Scarborough Fair," "The Sound Of Silence", "The Boxer" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," as well as some of my personal faves, like "Homeward Bound," "I Am a Rock" and "Cecilia."

"Taking on the fear and vulnerability of a live show keeps you vital," Garfunkel said in a press release. "I'm a singer trying to get away with a lucky job. I try to soothe, to lift ... That's my life."

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Copy Editor/Entertainment Editor

Frank Pieper is a copy editor and entertainment editor at The News-Gazette, and the author of Frank's Faves and Frank's Weekend Faves. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@frp308).