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Best Fall Family-Friendly Concerts

Fall Season Preview

August 23, 2010

Choosing a concert geared for the entire family can be tricky, yet local ensembles and presenters are going out of their way this fall to design the tastiest classical kid’s-menu possible. Here are a few that are sure to be of interest to both the younger and older sets, introducing music, soft serve. Many of these are free or low-cost, most are short programs, and all but one are matinees.

San Francisco Opera’s “Opera at the Ballpark”: Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida

Here’s something the kids will understand: colorful characters brought to life on one of the world’s biggest television screens — the ballpark’s 103-foot-wide scoreboard. The quality of the music, the production, and the costumes are up to the top standards of S.F. Opera, while the garlic fries and hot dogs are the best the ballpark has to offer (Verdi, eat your heart out). The casual atmosphere makes this the perfect introduction to opera for fidgety young people; and if the lateness of the hour makes them fall asleep to Verdi’s soaring melodies, so be it. Thanks to the sponsorship of Webcor Builders and the S.F. Giants, you don’t pay a thing.

Opera at the Ballpark, Friday, Sept. 24, 8:00 p.m., AT&T Park, S.F., free to the public.

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Diamano Coura West African
Dance Company

Cal Performances, Fall Free for All

This brand-new event, a kick-off to Cal Performances’ 2010-2011 season, showcases some of the widely diverse artists to be presented over the next year. Families will enjoy entertaining programming from big names like Kronos Quartet, Melody of China, and the Philharmonia Baroque Chamber Players, all in small doses perfect for the attention span of the youngest child. Learn the basics of Gullah stick pounding with conductor/singer/musician Melanie DeMore (sticks provided), dance with Mark Morris’ celebrated company, and much more. Kids of all ages will enjoy this interactive lollapalooza of world, jazz, and classical music.

Fall Free for All, Sunday, Sept. 26, 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Zellerbach Hall, Hertz Hall, Wheeler Auditorium, Lower Sproul Plaza, and Sather Gate, UC Berkeley campus, free to the public.

San Francisco Symphony, Día de los Muertos, Family Concert

Nobody does it better than the S.F. Symphony when it comes to educational concerts. They’ve developed appealing programs for the city’s public school kids since 1988 through the Adventures in Music project and others. Día de los Muertos marks the Day of the Dead with this third annual concert celebrating Latino culture. Preconcert festivities in the lobbies, with refreshments, children’s activities, and colorful visual art displays, make it a special occasion, and it’s half price for children under 17.

Día de los Muertos Family Concert, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2:00 p.m., $15-$68, Davies Symphony Hall, S.F., half price for ages 17 and under.

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Gamelan Çudamani

Stanford Lively Arts Presents Gamelan Çudamani, Bamboo to Bronze

Bali’s gamelan group Çudamani presents Bamboo to Bronze, a visually arresting music, theater, and dance work for some two dozen performers drawing on traditional and contemporary Indonesian art forms. This is quite the unusual display for those never before introduced to the sounds of the gamelan orchestra, with its metallic mallet instruments and bamboo wind instruments. The score features modal melodies and raucous percussion patterns fueling the explosive dance choreography. Stylized wrist and eye movements of the dancers, done in unison with the music, will surprise and delight those unfamiliar with this art, and the brilliant brocade costumes add to the spectacle. A number of kids (K-12) in the area will enjoy a special performance for school groups only on the following day. Gamelan Cudamani also plays at Cal Performances, UC Berkeley, on Oct. 22.

Gamelan Çudamani, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2:30 p.m., Memorial Auditorium, Stanford University, $28-$68 (adult), half price for ages 18 and under.

San Francisco Performances Presents Turtle Island String Quartet, Family Matinee

Turtle Island redefines our notions of what a string quartet “should” sound like. Its sheer range of musical styles is impressive: folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, new age, rock, hip-hop, and Latino, to name a few. This music stirs up an accessible rhythmic groove that makes it hard to sit still. Enjoy this cost-effective introduction to the possibilities of new sounds played on traditional instruments, in an hour-long concert between nap and lunchtime!

Turtle Island String Quartet, Saturday, Dec. 11, 11:00 a.m., Herbst Theatre, S.F., $10 children /$15 adults.

Other Great Choices:

San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, Chamber Music Day Sunday, Sept. 12, noon-6:30 p.m., San Francisco Conservatory of Music, free.

San Francisco Girls Chorus, The Power of Place, Friday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m., Calvary Presbyterian Church, S.F.; Sunday, Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley $25-$35/$18 students.

San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Family Concert I: Music and Dance, with the S.F. Ballet School Trainee Program, Saturday, Nov. 6, Kaiser Center Auditorium, Oakland, 3 p.m., and Bayview Opera House, 4705 Third St., S.F., 7 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 7, Bayside Performing Arts Center, San Mateo, 3 p.m.

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.