Music News: Sept. 11, 2012
Yes, we have the America's Cup in the pond next to the Marina Safeway, but there is also a waterborne event that's less known, more exotic.
This Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., on and around Treasure Island, the international water dragon race will take place, part of the 17th Annual Kaiser Permanente San Francisco International Dragon Boat Festival. Viewing the race and attending the festival are both free and open to the public.
Paddlers from the UK, Germany, and Canada will vie with US teams in this, the Year of the Water Dragon. As always, Music News provides full information, so consider that Water Dragons — governing East/Southeast, the accumulation of wealth, and the hours of 7-9 a.m. — come about only every 60 years, otherwise, it's just a Year of the (Plain) Dragon. This is the first Water Dragon since Eisenhower and Nixon defeated Stevenson and Sparkman, that is to say 1952. (Extra points for identifying Sen. John Sparkman of Alabama.)
Sixty years is as nothing against the history of dragon boat racing; it started in the southern provinces of China 2,000 years ago when an advisor to the Chu emperor jumped into the Mei Lo river in protest against government corruption (remember, this was a long time ago). Fishermen raced in their boats to save him, they beat drums, pounded their paddles on the river's waters and threw rice dumplings wrapped in silk into the river to distract the water dragons. And so we come to Treasure Island and a re-enactment of all that.
Participating boats have 20 paddlers, a drummer and a steerer. Crossing the finish line first is the goal, but audiences also treasure the pomp and circumstances.
"No one who has discovers dragon boating leaves unchanged," says Festival Director Linda Cheu. "Only recently are people outside of Asia beginning to see and experience the magic team and community building aspects of this ancient sport."
Participating performers in the festival include Taijiquan dancers from the San Francisco Chinese Culture Center, the Chung Ngai Dance Troupe, members of the Chung Tai Zen Center of Sunnyvale, Dholrhythms Dance Company with Bhangra and Giddha folk dances of Punjab, the Loong Mah Dragon Horse Lion Dance Group, and Emeryville Taiko.
Also, Choi Tse's Hula Hoop Rhythms, The Magic of Chin-Chin, Maikaze Daiko, the National Chinese Wushu Association, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Parangal Philippine Dance Company, Red Panda Acrobats, Reincarnation Performance Group, To'erau Manu Rahi, Rahiti Polynesia Dance Company, Westlake School for the Performing Arts, World Kung Fu Federation, World Team USA (Thai/Laotian Muay Boran and Lerdrit fighters), Yau Kung Moon Kung Fu Sports Association, and YoYo Jo — a national yo-yo champion.
Another free public event this week is a site-specific performance work inspired by San Francisco’s early African American settlers. Joanna Haigood's Zaccho Dance Theatre presents Sailing Away in three continuous cycles, Sept. 13, 14, 15, and 16; at noon, 1:30 p.m., and 3 p.m.; starting at Market Street and Powell. It's all open to the public.
The "San Francisco Exodus of 1858" is a little-known part of the city’s history: Hundreds of African Americans fled discrimination and the threat of slavery for the safety of a Canadian exile.
Market Street will provide the backdrop as performers interpret historical narratives through a series of vignettes and activities, incorporating sites and monuments located between Powell and Battery streets, pausing at such spots as the Mechanics Monument and Admission Day Monument.
"It’s ironic that a city now celebrated for its diversity once saw hundreds of its citizens flee in fear for their lives," says Haigood.
In the mid-19th century, Market Street was home to a burgeoning black middle class, but Peter Hardeman Burnett, California’s first governor (1849-1851), pushed for the exclusion of freed slaves from the entire state. Although a black exclusion bill never passed in California, it reflected strong public opinion within the state, which eventually led to the passage of other discriminatory bills against blacks as well as Chinese, Mexicans, and Native Americans. By 1858, because of increasing discrimination, some 800 African Americans sailed for British Columbia aboard the steamer Commodore to escape growing hostility.
Sailing Away depicts eight prominent African Americans who lived and worked near Market Street. During each performance, newspapers containing historical information that is referenced in the work (maps, biographies, and significant events) will be distributed to the viewing public.
Besides Haigood's choreography and direction, the project involves Wayne Campbell (scenic designer), Kim Euell (writer), and Callie Floor (costume designer). And in the cast: Bibene Byb Chanel, Antoine Hunter, Robert Henry Johnson, Jetta Martin, Shakiri, Raissa Simpson, Amara Tabor Smith, Travis Santell Rowland, and Matthew Wickett.
Haigood says that since 1958, there have been "two notable waves of black ‘out migration.’ The first occurred during the redevelopment of the Fillmore district in the 1950s and 1960s. The second is currently underway." The city's African American population has declined by 40.8 percent since 1990.
Van Cliburn, terminally ill with cancer, is wheel-chair ridden and using an oxygen inhaler at all times. And yet, last Thursday, when his Van Cliburn Foundation in Fort Worth celebrated its 50th anniversary, he was determined to attend. Friends reported that Cliburn "loaded up on oxygen in advance," and he walked on stage, spoke briefly, and walked out. In all, it was an astonishing demonstration of purpose and will.
Kent Nagano, million-mile flyer maestro from Morro Bay, San Francisco, and Berkeley, will not be without an opera company for long, it seems. There is no official announcement, but the highly reliable German newspaper Die Welt reports as a fact that Nagano is in line to succeed Simone Young at the Hamburg State Opera.
A smaller organization than Nagano's current company, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Hamburg may offer Nagano continued opportunity to pursue new and unusual repertory. One potential fly in that ointment, according to the report, is that Nagano would serve as music director, not as director of the State Opera, a position filled by Young, who is also the head of the affiliated Hamburg Philharmonic.
The orchestra is soon moving into a spectacular new hall, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, also responsible for San Francisco's new de Young Museum. Nagano is leaving Munich next year; Young is scheduled to remain in Hamburg through 2015.
Just last week, Music News reported a new symphonic position for Nagano in Sweden, so it's clear that at age 60 (in conductor age, that's maybe 40), Nagano is not planning on slowing down. He continues as music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal.
Little Opera is a nonprofit afterschool program for underprivileged children, spreading the word about opera to "a demographic that rarely gets exposure to classical arts." In the manner of El Sistema or, more locally, Frederica von Stade's work with schools in Alameda and elsewhere, Little Opera brings together artists and students without access to the arts — in this case, teaching elementary school children to write their own opera.
The students provide story ideas, write the lyrics, and work with a composer to develop the music, create their own costumes and then perform it.
Little Opera tries to offer scholarships to as many interested students as possible, and to that end, it's running a fund-raising campaign. There is a brief video, with company founder Erin Bregman, about the organization.
Bregman’s background is writing plays and teaching in San Francisco Opera’s ARIA program. She and actor Alona Bach have created an across-the-board education curriculum, including costumes, set design, storytelling, dance, and composition.
Upcoming masterclasses are led by teacher and actor Elena Wright (Sept. 22, 29); movement instructor M. Graham Smith (Oct. 6, 13); mask-maker Christina Shonkweiler Christina (Oct. 20, 27); mezzo Wendy Buzby (Nov. 3); dancer Lisa Morse (Dec. 1); and designer Christine Crook (Dec. 8, 15).
San Francisco Opera's 90th season opened last weekend, and an announcement yesterday from the BBC helps to appreciate what that span of time means. It was in 1922 that the British Broadcasting Company was first heard on the air, that's how long S.F. Opera goes back in time.
The BBC is marking its birthday on Nov. 14 with an unprecedented global simulcast across its radio networks, including every UK station (local, network, and national) and most World Service outlets. The simulcast, called "Radio Reunited," will be heard by a potential global audience of 120 million people, across every inhabited continent.
The transmission will be based on recorded messages from listeners around the world on the theme of the future. Each of an estimated 60 BBC radio stations will choose one message and many of them will then be mixed together and set to a musical score composed by the Blur Frontman.
Seven-time Grammy Award-winning trio Lady Antebellum will headline a big benefit concert on Sept. 20 in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to raise funds for a new home for the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, one of the country's prominent medical facilities for children. Comedian Dana Carvey will also appear.
Lady Antebellum is a country-pop music group — Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood — with a double platinum debut album and triple platinum second album.
The new building is located at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, near downtown San Francisco. It will will be part of a 289-bed integrated hospital complex for children, women and cancer patients, scheduled to open in early 2015.
The Bay Area debut of the Russell Maliphant Company, an acclaimed contemporary English dance troupe, features a Nijinsky-inspired work, AfterLight. The program — Oct. 13 and 14 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts — uses images and photographs of the great Russian dancer, including Nijinsky's own drawings.
Canadian-born Maliphant was a member of Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet before starting a solo and choreographic career, which has taken him to three continents. His most recent collaboration has been with famed theater and opera director Robert Lepage.
From Sarah Crompton's review of the London premiere in The Telegraph:
... an hour-long work, which takes the movement and the work of the great dancer as its theme. It opens with the solo, which is as transfixing as ever as Daniel Proietto swirls and turns in a circle of dappled light.
At first, dressed in red top and cream turban, he seems lost, his arms splayed, tentatively searching for beams of light. It is impossible not to think of Nijinsky’s old age when he succumbed to schizophrenia, locked for years in a world of confused silence. But as Proietto expands out of the shadows to the sound of Satie’s Gnossiennes, it is Nijinsky the performer who comes to mind.
Maliphant has studied photographs intensely, and without exactly mimicking movements, he catches poses, sculptural images in time.
Space scientists from NASA Ames are producing the world premiere of Ground Control: an Opera in Space on Sept. 13, at the launch event of ZERO1 Biennial, at 300 S. 1st Street, in San Jose.
Created and directed by Nelly Ben Hayoun, performed live by the International Space Orchestra — composed of space scientists — the work is described as "blending space science, planet-poking, and bluegrass-playing spacecraft operators."
With music by Arthur Jeffes of Penguin Café, and Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), Ground Control features singer Bobby Womack, producer Richard Russell, and Japanese Otamatone inventor Maywa Denki, lyrics by science fiction author Bruce Sterling and writer Jasmina Tesanovic.
"In this tangential reality," says the announcement, "your Flight Controller conducts arias and the Payload Officer works a baritone sax, while the Capsule Communicator is on the triangle. Following the rules of tragedy defined by the ancient Greeks, the International Space Orchestra chorus introduces the public to the emotional nuances of space science's missions."
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