Best Bets: ABC bears, guitar quartet pose tough choice

Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2002

B ears, Brazilian guitarists and a fast-paced farce are among the entertainment opportunities in Juneau this weekend.

I saw the Amsterdam Guitar Trio a few years ago and I was amazed at how good a group of classical guitarists can be. I expect to be equally entertained and inspired by the Brazilian Guitar Quartet on Friday night.

The last time I saw four guitarists playing together there was a campfire burning. This quartet favors the works of Brazilian composers Antonio Gomes, Ronaldo Miranda and Heitor VillaLobos over John Prine and Bob Dylan. The performance Friday at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium will have the presentation of a classical concert but these players have a reputation for warmth and accessibility.

The group delivers the music of Bach and the traditional classical guitar canon but features the works of Brazil's most renowned composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Each musician is a virtuoso guitarist in his own right, pursuing a successful recording, teaching and performing career in Brazil. The group has dozens of enthusiastic reviews to its credit.

Another interesting aspect is the instruments. Two of the musicians play eight-string guitars, which increase the range of the quartet and offer an unusual voice to a familiar instrument.

There is one unfortunate downside to this concert. It is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, the same time as a slide show and presentation on brown bears of Southeast Alaska by two leading authorities on the subject. This promises to be an interesting opportunity.

The title sums it up: "Why Are There so Many Brown Bears on the ABC Islands?" Alaska has 32,000 brown bears - more than half of the entire North American population - and Admiralty, Chichagof and Baranof islands, boast the densest population of brown bears on the planet. There are some interesting aspects about the ABC bears - why are they so successful and wolves or black bears are not? How did the situation evolve and why are the islands so fertile?

Biologists Kim Titus and LaVern Beier will explain why. I interviewed these scientists last month and was impressed with their experience and knowledge. They have tranquilized, trapped, studied and handled thousands of animals and seen all kinds of behaviors. The presentation is part of the free Forest Service Fireside series this winter at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

Juneau poet Michael Christenson will read Monday night at the Back Room at The Silverbow Inn. I've been to a lot of poetry readings in Juneau and Christenson is a stand-out.

I've heard poets mumble in a monotone for half an hour - OK, 10 minutes, but it felt like half an hour. I've watched them read their own poetry like it was someone else's work, work they'd never seen before. I've seen them shout and preach and glare at the audience after every poem, daring the listeners to react or not react. (We weren't sure but we were in trouble either way.) I've watched them break down and cry and seen them choke and back out entirely.

However, Christenson is one of the best poets in Juneau and certainly one of the best performing poets in the city. He is animated, witty, funny and opinionated. He has written poems that I have heard once and never forgotten.

He'll present new work and an excerpt from a play he's writing. An open mike for poets will follow an intermission. This is the first of a series of monthly poetry readings sponsored by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.

"On The Razzle" opens this weekend for a threeweek run at Perseverance Theatre. The preview Sunday showed it to be a funny, fastpaced farce with a talented cast. I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

This weekend also marks the opening of a new exhibit at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. For some, lighthouses conjure images of windswept towers on lonely crags and steadfast hermits keeping vigil. For others, they evoke romantic notions of a simple life close to nature. The lowdown on lighthouses of Southeast Alaska comes to the city museum Saturday with "Landmarks of Light: Preserving Alaska's Lighthouses."

The exhibit presents the history and current status of six Southeast lighthouses. Concerns were raised this year about lease of the Point Retreat lighthouse, and the stewards of that Admiralty Island site will have information available. A new PBS documentary on 11 Alaska lighthouses will be shown and a presentation on maritime history in Southeast will be given.

Children are welcome, refreshments will be served and admission is free. Children's activities include constructing a sea life mural and decorating lighthouse ornaments. A story about lighthouses will be read and water safety information will be presented.

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