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January 31, 2017

Let the Rooster Crow for Lunar Year 4715

San Francisco Symphony’s annual Lunar (nee Chinese) New Year Concert is just one of the many events in the city’s two-week long celebration of the Year of the Rooster, the tenth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac signs. The Rooster is the epitome of fidelity and punctuality.

In Davies Hall, on Feb. 4, Mei-Ann Chen returns to conduct. Soloists include Tang Jun Qiao, dizi (bamboo flute); Amos Yang, cello; and the Loong Mah Sing See Wui dance ensemble. The program goes from traditional Chinese dragon dance to the Spring Festival Overture to Tchaikovsky (selections from Rococo Variations — how did that get in there?) to music from Le Coq d’or Suite by Rimsky Korsakov, which seems appropriate to the theme.

The concert and the grand Imperial Dinner support the San Francisco Symphony’s education and community programs, which reach over 75,000 Bay Area elementary, middle, and high-school students each year.

Also on Feb. 4, there is the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant and the week after, the Chinatown Community Street Fair and the big Chinese New Year Parade. In between, there are many celebratory events in S.F. Public Library branches

Antiwar Musical Peace on Your Wings Comes to the Bay Area

The unique, indomitable, activist-singer Laurie Rubin is bringing her new musical to San José, after successful runs in Honolulu, Los Angeles, and New York. Peace on Your Wings, Rubin says, is “dear to my heart, a collaboration between myself and Jenny Taira, the pianist who played the concert with me and Flicka at Music at Meyer.”

The work is based on the life of Sadako Sasaki, who lived in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped near her home. She was 2 years old at that time; at the age of 12, she developed leukemia and died. Sadako became known for folding a thousand paper cranes in hopes of being granted one wish as promised by an old legend. When she died, her friends rallied support from children, educators, and peace activists around Japan to get a monument built in her name. The Children’s Peace Monument with a figure of Sasaki at the top now stands at the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima.

The musical premiered on Oahu with a cast entirely comprised of youth from the performing arts program cofounded by Rubin, and later touring the neighbor islands. Los Angeles followed, with performances in the Aratani Theater, in partnership with the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. Most recently, the show had its New York premiere in the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College.

“All of these tours were performed by our original cast,” Rubin says, “however, we are about to audition a new cast of youth from around the Bay Area for a production to take place in San José’s Hammer Theater in October. We are very excited about this as the Bay Area is very special to us since Jenny and I have done so many projects there.”

Auditions will be held in March, rehearsals in August-September. See links for audition information and the form to be submitted. Rubin is the author of Do You Dream in Color?: Insights from a Girl Without Sight.

Lamplighters Co-founder Orva Hoskinson Dies

Orva Hoskinson, co-founder of San Francisco’s Lamplighters Music Theatre, died on Jan. 26. He was 92. Hoskinson cofounded the Lamplighters with Ann Pool MacNab in the summer of 1952. From the beginning, their intention was to bring the Gilbert & Sullivan canon to audiences in productions of the very highest possible caliber, within the limitations of what was then a small group of semi-professional and amateur performers drawn from the San Francisco Bay Area community.

Through the years, Hoskinson remained one of the Lamplighters’ most important and versatile leading performers. As company director, he trained generations of Lamplighter performers both directly and by example, not only in the history and style of Gilbert & Sullivan, but in singing, acting, and all the arts of stage performance.

Hoskinson died as the Lamplighters prepare their new production of the show with which he was most intimately associated — both as actor and as stage director — Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience. This perennial Lamplighters favorite, since the company’s original production in 1958, was, in Lamplighters history books, “patently designed around Hoskinson as Reginald Bunthorne and [Lamplighters contralto June] Wilkins as Lady Jane,” with “Hoskinson’s most famous characterization springing into being almost full-grown.” As Robert Commanday once put it in a San Francisco Chronicle review: “Well, there was Gielgud’s Hamlet, and there is Hoskinson’s Bunthorne.”

Lamplighters Artistic Director Rick Williams and Resident Music Director Baker Peeples said that “Orva taught each of us just about everything we know on the subjects of acting, character, musicality, good taste, and honest, good humor onstage. Not only that, he accomplished this by both precept and example, with the most beneficent guidance, gentle coaching, patient instruction, love of the art, and sheer affection for the company and its members. Almost every day there is something that reminds us both how incredibly lucky we were to be guided to find the Lamplighters, and to be mentored by this incomparable man. We all owe him so much. Through founding the Lamplighters, his progeny now extend worldwide.” 

Shanghai Angel Tells the Story of Jewish Immigration via Angel Island

Angel Island, the West Coast version of Ellis Island, was the troubled point of entry for Asian immigrants — the overwhelming majority consisting of 175,000 Chinese — but members of the Europe-to-Shanghai Jewish diaspora also landed there. Among them: the grandmother of Heather Klein, aka The Yiddish Chanteuse.

When she recently discovered her grandmother’s interrogation transcript on Angel Island, Klein used the document as the text of a musical, which she calls a “one-woman operetta.” She will perform the premiere of Shanghai Angel at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Feb. 23 and 26, presented in partnership with the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF).

The show features original songs, arranged by Joshua Horowitz, who also provides accompaniment; choreography and direction by Bruce Beirman. The Feb. 23 performance will be followed by a talk by Grant Din of AIISF. Following the Feb. 26 performance, Judy Yung will talk about the history of Jewish immigration at Angel Island. A Q&A with the artist is also scheduled.

Klein says that, to her knowledge, her grandmother never spoke of her journey from Austria to Shanghai to America with just $2.50 in her pocket or about the three weeks she spent in detention in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

Klein, trained at the S.F. Conservatory of Music, is a cantorial soloist at Temple Sinai in Las Vegas, where she recently moved, but returns to the Bay Area regularly. Besides performances here, Klein has traveled across the U.S., Canada, and Europe, as a soloist and as part of various ensembles. She has currently been working on new shows through Sundance and Music Theater Group, and recently starred in Lilith the Night Demon.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].