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All Together Now: Five Family Events For Fall

September 6, 2011

This fall, families can choose from several large, public showcases produced by our area’s best performing arts ensembles and presenters. Many other groups, not listed here, will offer concerts for families on their series, so check the websites of your favorites for details. Holiday time later this year is also a special time to hear beloved youth ensembles and choirs — we can’t possibly mention them all here, so sign up for our Kids & Families newsletter to get the scoop.

Cal Performances: Fall Free for All

Reprising last year’s smashingly successful inaugural event, Cal Performances has created a palette of aural and visual delights with some of the area’s most prominent performing artists. For kids and others with a limited attention span, these short acts are a chance to sample a wide cross-section of genres, cultures, styles, and performers — all in the course of one day. These include: American Bach Soloists, AXIS Dance, Wayne Wallace Quintet, Los Cenzontles Mexican Dance and Music, CK Ladzekpo and the African Music and Dance Ensemble, San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows, and UC Berkeley students, to name just a few. An instrument petting zoo, demonstrations, CD signings with the artists, and plenty of good things to eat make this event fun for even the youngest in the family.

No tickets are needed. Check the Cal Performances Web site (below) for the day’s schedule.

Sept. 25, 11 a.m.–6 p.m., UC Berkeley campus, free, (510) 642-9988.

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San Francisco Opera: Opera at the Ballpark, Puccini’s Turandot

Free Opera at the Ballpark has become a tradition in San Francisco — we’d better be careful, or we’ll become spoiled. With S.F. Opera General Director David Gockley’s ongoing determination to bring opera to the masses, plus the sponsorship of Webcor Builders, thousands will be treated to a free matinee performance of Turandot, simulcast from the Opera House onto the huge state-of-the-art screens in the ballpark. This passionate tale of a princess whose cruelty masks her fear of love offers a beautiful introduction to this art form for young and old alike, in a casual atmosphere. The matinee start-time means that most youngsters will be awake for the bows.

Admission is free, but you must preregister on the S.F. Opera webpage (see below). Arrive early, bring a printout of your bar-coded confirmation page, and check the Opera web page for AT&T Park rules and restrictions. (No lawn chairs — blankets only.) The Opera will announce the entry gate on its web page later this month.

Sept. 25, 2 p.m., AT&T Park, San Francisco, free, (415) 864-3330.

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San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and Crowden Music Center; My First Concerts: What Does a Conductor Do

Two music organizations that really know kids — the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and the Crowden School — annually come together to present My First Concerts. It’s one of the few classical music concerts in the area where parents can feel relaxed about taking kids younger than 6 years old — wiggles and giggles are expected, even encouraged. In this 20-minute show, the orchestra will unravel the mystery of the maestro: “What’s the magic in that little wooden stick? And why is that guy standing in front of all those musicians, in the first place?”

And that’s not all. The show is part of Crowden’s larger Community Music Day, when kids can make instruments, get their faces painted, hear performances by other children, drum together in class demonstrations, enjoy a barbecue, and more.

Oct. 23, 11:00 a.m., 11:40 a.m., and 12:20 p.m., The Crowden Center, Berkeley, free. More information

The Cashore Marionettes: Simple Gifts, Cal Performances

Cal Performances is beginning a new family-oriented series this season that introduces theater, music, and dance to young audiences in hour-long performances. Leading off is the Cashore Marionettes troupe, with a program focused on, of all things, scenes from everyday life set to the music of Vivaldi, Strauss, Beethoven, and Copland.

Cashore is renowned in the world of puppetry for having invented totally new control mechanisms that enable his marionettes to mimic fluid human motion. His first marionette in this line (Maestro Janos Zelinka) was able to convincingly “play” the violin solo in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending. And if you don’t believe that, then you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by this show — whether you bring the children or not.

Oct. 23, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Wheeler Auditorium, UC Berkeley, $24 (all ages), (510) 642-9988.

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Marcus Shelby Trio: The Swing Era, SFJAZZ Family Matinee

Let the coolest cats, bassist Marcus Shelby and his Trio, show your kids what jazz is all about. Both fun and educational, SFJAZZ Family Matinees provide a window into the exciting world of live jazz. The hour-long shows are geared toward elementary school students but are engaging for all ages. The third concert on the series explores the classic repertoire of Ellington, Basie, Herman, and Goodman — the swing music that was made for dancing. The SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Jazz Orchestra will make an appearance on this concert, inspiring older kids to practice hard for the chance to join this select ensemble. Check out the first two concerts, as well.

Nov. 12, 11:00 a.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, $5–$15, (866) 920-5299.

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Lisa Petrie is a writer and specialist in marketing and public relations for arts and education organizations. She earned a DMA in flute performance from SUNY, Stony Brook, and is the mother of two musical kids. Lisa was the Content Manager for the Kids and Families section of San Francisco Classical Voice during 2011.