The world premiere of Ascención: A Dramatic Ethno-Historical Cantata will be held in the Concert Hall at California State University, Fresno on Feb. 24.

Ascención: A Dramatic Ethno-Historical Cantata for Mezzo-soprano, Piano, Chorus, and The Bells of Mission San Juan Bautista features the work of two Fresno State professors, mezzo-soprano Helene Joseph-Weil and composer Benjamin Boone. It also features university pianist Hatem Nadim and the voices of the Fresno State Choirs, with music faculty member Dr. Anna Hamre as director.

It will be presented at 3 p.m. in the Music Department Concert Hall. General admission is $10; admission for faculty/seniors/students is $7.

The groundbreaking work honors the life and experiences of Native American Ascención Solórsano de Cervantes (1854-1930), the last of the Amah-Mutsun (San Juan) tribal band of California Indians to retain full linguistic and cultural fluency of her people.

This historic Indian woman was known as “The Saint of Gilroy” because of her compassionate care of the poor, homeless, sick and dying.

While on her deathbed, Doña Ascención imparted rare knowledge of her language and culture to noted Smithsonian ethnologist John Peabody Harrington. The libretto for the concert-version cantata is based on “The San Juan Report,” Harrington’s extensive chronicles of Ascención Solórsano’s oral history.

The libretto, based on 20 years of research by Helene Joseph-Weil, is supported by the J. P. Harrington Data Base Project at the UC Davis Native American Language Center, and funded by the National Science Foundation and the mission San Juan Bautista conservation project.

Tickets are available online at or at the Music Department’s Box Office, open Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Campus parking restrictions are not enforced on weekends. Planners ask that out of respect for the California Indian people, no gold jewelry be worn, with wedding bands excepted.

The Artists:

Helene Joseph-Weil is a professor of music (voice and opera) at California State University Fresno, where she coordinates the solo vocal performance majors. The Metropolitan Opera Auditions winner has had an extensive and diverse solo performing career in opera, oratorio, concert and recital that includes performances with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood Festival, Opera Society of Washington D. C, the Metropolitan Opera Studio, UC Berkeley Contemporary Music Players, Scholar Opera, Cabrillo Festival, Chautauqua Opera, the Salzburg Landestheater, Ascoli Piceno Festival (Italy), and solo concerts at the Munich Gasteig. Joseph-Weil has soloed under the batons of Erich Leinsdorf, Julius Rudel, and Leonard Bernstein and has premiered new vocal works throughout Europe and the United States, including When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed by Roger Sessions and the West Coast premieres of Berio’s Circles and Babbitt’s Philomel.

Benjamin Boone is an associate professor at California State University, Fresno, where he teaches music theory and composition. A Fulbright Senior Specialist Fellow to the Republic of Moldova, Boone has created compositions that have been performed in more than 17 countries from Carnegie Hall to China, Japan, Australia, Africa and Europe. Boone’s compositions have garnered numerous awards and honors, including those from the International Society of Contemporary Music, the Olympia International Prize and the American Society of Composers.

Hatem Nadim is the staff collaborative pianist for Music Department at California State University Fresno. He has performed with many chamber music partners in concerts throughout Europe, the United States, Korea and the Middle East. These partners include Leslie Parnas, Arto Noras, Michael Flaksman, Susanne Rabenschlag, Jean-Michel Tanguy, Michael Hasel, the Verdi Quartet, Hermann Voss, and Helene Joseph-Weil. He as also several recordings, his latest being The Complete Mozart Violin Sonatas with Susanne Rabenschlag, which was featured on a recent radio broadcast in Germany.

Anna Hamre is director of choral activities at California State University, Fresno. She is in demand as a conductor, clinician and adjudicator. She has premiered numerous works and conducted the American premiere of Philip Wilby’s 2004 reconstruction of Mozart’s Mass in C (Novello). She also conducted the Fauré Requiem for MidAmerica Productions in Carnegie Hall February 2006. Her honors include the Fresno Arts Council Horizon Artist Award (2007), the California Association for Music Education (CMEA) Choral Conductor Award (2006), the CMEA Central Section College/University Music Educator Award (2006), the College of Arts and Humanities Outstanding Teacher Award at Fresno State (2003).

Fresno State’s February musical calendar is busy