What a week we’re in for. If you are a lover of beautiful acoustic music and storytelling that transports you through time and space, you’re in luck.

This Friday, you need go no further than the venerable back room of McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica to hear the meditative, mystical and moody music that emanates from the frets of French-Algerian finger-style superstar Pierre Bensusan.

When I need to unwind, when I’m stressed, I turn to my Bensusan CDs (yes, I am old-school) to bring me to a place of peace and calm. Often referred to as the “Mozart of Guitar,” Bensusan is considered a virtuoso by other virtuosos, receiving numerous awards in his 40-year career, including most recently the Lifetime Achievement Award from Ards International Guitar Festival. In 2008 he was named Best World Music Guitar Player by Guitar Player’s magazine.

But don’t try to label him. Before the terms “new-age” or “world music” became common parlance, his contemporary acoustic guitar genius defied definition. He can make a single guitar sound like an entire band as he crosses world, classical, jazz, traditional and folk together, fusing global cultures into a mesmerizing musical journey. He’s a composer as well as an improvisational vocalist, melding whistles and resonant low notes with something like his own scat technique.

Pierre Bensusan performs at McCabe’s in his only Southern California appearance on Friday, March 20. There’s no better room for acoustic music than McCabe’s. Call (310) 828-4497 or visit www.mccabes.com.

By the way, if you remember that great tune, “Midnight at the Oasis,” the singer Maria Muldaur will be at McCabe’s on Saturday night.


The real magic of storytelling is the pairing of story with voice. And there is no better matchmaker than Symphony Space in New York, which produces the public radio series and podcast, “Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story.”

During my 28 years at KCRW, I had the privilege of helping to bring this venerable storytelling series to The Getty Villa and later to the Getty Center, which is now its L.A. home.

At one of the monthly arts luncheons that KCRW’s former General Manager Ruth Seymour used to convene, John Walsh, then the director of the Getty, and I shared our mutual passion for this series. Why, I wondered, couldn’t it take place at The Getty? John said, “Why not?” and this wonderful annual tradition was born.

“Selected Shorts” invites top-flight stage and screen actors to read themed short stories by classic and contemporary short story writers. This year, “Tales After Dark” is the theme.

Host Robert Sean Leonard, a frequent reader himself, will introduce each reader and story, touching on worlds historical, contemporary and futuristic. Among the writers are Margaret Atwood, Helen Keller, Ray Bradbury and more.

What’s especially beautiful about this series is that many of the actors are regulars, such as the delightful voiceover artist/actress Christina Pickles, the resonant-voiced Liev Schreiber (Showtime’s “Ray Donovan”), Kirstin Vangsness from TV’s “Criminal Minds” and Jane Kaczmarek, who played Bryan Cranston’s wife, before he gained infamy as Walter White (“Breaking Bad”), in the great series, “Malcolm in the Middle.”

“Selected Shorts” takes place this weekend in the Harold Williams Auditorium at The Getty Center, Saturday, March 21, at 3 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Stories recorded this weekend will become part of the national feed at a later date.

Get all the details at www.getty.edu, or call (310) 440-7300 for reservations. Tickets are only $20. Don’t miss this.


A local treasure that boasts incredibly affordable original and mostly local art, HaleARTS Space is throwing an artists’ reception on Friday, March 20, featuring the works of Jerry Montoya, a Wilmington-born, West L.A.-based painter and illustrator, and Alan Abraham, who explores the intricacy of calligraphy juxtaposed with text.

Montoya’s work is inspired by the blue-collar city of his birth, where he grew up hearing “Spanglish” phrases. In this show, he shares an A-to-Z representation of some of his favorite words and phrases, Spanglish and English, in a series that he started making about 10 years ago.
Abraham revives the ornate tradition of Cadel calligraphy, with intricate flourishes and filigreed ribbons of color, which he enhances with text, sometimes profound, sometimes tongue-in-cheek.

HaleARTS Space is located at Edgemar Center for the Arts on Main Street in Santa Monica. The reception takes place between 5 – 8 p.m. this Friday night. For more information, visit www.halearts.com. Works from the show will be available for sale through April 1.


Santa Monica High School is renowned for its highly lauded music program, with many of its students going on to play professionally and its orchestra representing the school in performance tours around the world.

This Monday, March 23, at 7 p.m. the Samohi Orchestra will present its Spring Concert in the classic Barnum Hall on campus featuring works by Pachelbel, Rossini, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich.

Support this good cause and hear some fine music. Visit www.samohiorchestras.org or call (310) 395-3204 ext. 71405. Tickets are available online: $10 for adults, $5 for students.


It breaks my heart to say so, but operatic superstar Cecilia Bartoli has canceled all of her Southern California appearances, including the March 21 and March 26 recitals at The Broad Stage, due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

If you purchased a ticket, you should receive notice from the box office and you’ll receive a credit toward future performances or a refund. Contact (310) 434-3200.

Photo (courtesy HaleARTS Space): “Chicharrones” by Jerry Montoya.

Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also reviewed theater for LAOpeningNights.com.

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