LITTLE ROCK Stratsimir Pavlov is going back to Bulgaria. And he needs help.
Pavlov, music director at Wildwood Park for the Arts, will hold a "Strats and Friends" benefit concert at 8 p.m. today at Wildwood, 20919 Denny Road, Little Rock.
"It is a benefit concert because Wildwood is helping me by allowing all proceeds to support my 'pilgrimage' journey home," Pavlov explains.
He takes off for his homeland next week.
Players and singers Marquis Hunt, Tawanna Campbell, Kristina Marinova-Pavlov (Pavlov's wife), Kiril Laskarov, Bryan LaRue and Raven Washington will join Pavlov for an evening of jazz, soul and music for piano four hands.
The 90-minute program willinclude the premiere of Pavlov's piece for piano four hands and soprano saxophone called "Kristina's Theme," from a two-act ballet he is composing for Ballet Arkansas that the company expects to debut at Wildwood in the spring.
Pavlov, affectionately nicknamed "Strats," came to Wildwood seven years ago under the aegis of its founder and former artistic director Ann Chotard. He worked first as rehearsal pianist and eventually as music director and conductor for several operas during the latter years of Chotard's tenure.
Pavlov stayed on board through the transition between Chotard's departure and the accession of current director Cliff Baker, and "now, as [Wildwood] is finally stabilized, I feel like I need to reconnect with my family back home in Bulgaria,"he says. "I would love the opportunity to invite the community to explain the reasons for my departure and to give an evening of unforgettable music.
"I hope to be back in the spring to get things ready for Wildwood and also, hopefully, for the ballet." Although he originally named the piece he's premiering tonight after his wife, he notes that the libretto of the still unnamed ballet, the heroine of which is also named Kristina, is based on Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Little Match Girl." "That's very lucky and very convenient," he admits, "so now I will make that the main theme of the ballet, the main character's leitmotif." Tickets are $25. Call (501) 821 -7275 or visit the Web site, www.