Kids Around the Bay

By Mark MacNamara

Day of the Dead at San Francisco Symphony

San Francisco Symphony Dia de los MuertosSan Francisco Symphony’s fifth annual Dia de los Muertos community concert features the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra performing Copland’s El Salón México and Moncayo's Huapango; Los Lupeños de San José dance company presenting the traditional Mexican Ballet Folklórico; Mexican artists Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán performing beloved mariachi hits; and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.

Luis Valdez, the father of Chicano theater in the U.S., narrates the program. “Remember what the Day of the Dead means,” he told us recently. “This is when you weed the graveyard, when you bring out all the favorite things of the dead. In Mexico, you have these offerings at altars, which are anchors of the tradition in a lot of towns, and so you’ll see photographs, keepsakes, various colorful objects, as you recall the dearly departed. What becomes then is a celebration of life: You’re embracing the cycle of life, the brevity of life. It’s an expression of appreciation of all that life entails, and of course there is always the contradiction inherent in being happy while you are mourning.”

But the best part of this concert is not just inside the hall. Come one hour early for a great show in the lobby, where you’ll find various activities for children, including face painting, and the making of flowers, sombreros and sugar skulls. And of course, cinnamon-infused Mexican hot chocolate. There will also be an altar, built by members of the Community Music Center (on Capp Street in the Mission District), to honor the widely revered singer Chavela Vargas, who died in August, in Cuernavaca, at 94. Known as "la voz áspera de la ternura," the rough voice of tenderness, Vargas was also a lesbian, whose openness became an inspiration to many women in Latin America in the 1940s and 1950s.

There is more. Not to be missed in this preconcert concert are 45 singers, ages 60 to 90, from two local senior choruses: the Solera Singers and the 30th Street Choir. Incidentally, these choirs have become models for a University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) initiative to create senior choirs around the city. The choir director, and the curator of the preconcert activities, Martha Rodriguez Salazar, will lead a repertoire of folk and traditional music accompanied by Jennifer Peringer on accordion.

We highly, highly recommend this event, but it is always full: Don’t wait to get tickets. Saturday, Nov. 3, 2 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, $10-$68, students half price, (415) 864-6000. See event info here.

Mark MacNamara (macnamband.com) is a journalist in San Francisco who has written for such publications as Salon.com, Vanity Fair, and The Stanford Social Innovation Review. He also wrote a recent piece for Nautilus, a science magazine, about Edward Elgar’s penchant for ciphers and riddles.

Jazz For Families at the de Young

Les Gwan Jupons at the de Young MuseumHere’s a new series sponsored by the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, continuing on Sunday, Oct. 28. This is the third in a series of five concerts at the de Young Museum’s Koret Auditorium, featuring different blends of jazz.

This week: Les Gwan Jupons, a quintet, playing “party” music from the French, Spanish, and English-speaking Caribbean. Jazz with different accents. Reminiscent of New Orleans style Jazz bands. Biguine from Martinique, calypso from Trinidad, cumbia from Colombia, cha-cha and bolero from Cuba. “My daughter is 8-years-old,” Dominique Pelletey told us, “and she said to me, I can dance on it.” And off she went in a whirl. Pelletey is the director of Friends of Chamber Music. “This music really makes you want to dance. And what is nice about this is that you can come into the museum, listen to some music and then go away and come back or not. It’s very free. This is the kind of event where you can decide at the last minute. No reservations necessary.”

And it’s free of charge. There are only 297 seats in the Koret Auditorium, so the one request is that if you think you just want to get a taste, don’t sit in the middle seats. Moreover, the space is too small to sit on the floor. You’re right up against the musicians as it is. Two 45 minutes sets, at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. John Finkbeiner, guitar; Lisa Mezzacappa, acoustic bass; Cory Wright/Sheldon Brown, clarinet; Henry Hung, trumpet; Rob Ewing, trombone; John Hanes, drums.

The last two concerts in the series include the Erik Jekabson String-tet on Nov. 4, “a Jazzy take on classical”; and on Nov. 11, the Faye Carol Quartet with songs from Cole Porter to Michel Legrand, but always in her particular shade of blues.

Pelletey would like to remind you that on November 18 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts the Chamber Music Day, sponsored by SFFCM: 41 ensembles, from every genre, playing 20-minute sets from noon to 7 p.m. Plus the Crowden School’s instrument petting zoo. More on this to come; this is one of the great fall afternoons in the city.

Mark MacNamara (macnamband.com) is a journalist in San Francisco who has written for such publications as Salon.com, Vanity Fair, and The Stanford Social Innovation Review. He also wrote a recent piece for Nautilus, a science magazine, about Edward Elgar’s penchant for ciphers and riddles.

Berkeley Symphony Family Concert

Berkeley Symphony Meet the Symphony

Under the direction of Education Director Ming Luke, the Berkeley Symphony has a history of offering unusually entertaining and educational programs for kids. Last year they provided a fascinating look at American music, from Sousa to Joplin. This year Luke has put together an equally appealing program about the nature of orchestras.

Incidentally, the symphony is in the process of visiting every one of the 11 elementary school in Berkeley and playing the exact same program at each venue. The program includes movements from Beethoven’s Fifth, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony; a Mozart divertimento, the William Tell Overture, as well as the overture from Die Fledermaus. The program coming up on November 3, is exactly the same, and so you might wonder why would kids want to come and see the same program again.

“We’ve found that kids love repetition,” Luke told us. “It seems counterintuitive. But it’s the same reason that kids often watch something until they memorize it. The familiarity is appealing. We’ve seen it again and again with other programs.”

So on November 3, Ming will once again offer the very same program but he’s adding a twist, a theatrical frame to the performance. During Beethoven’s Fifth, an actor appears on stage to say that he’s a relative of Beethoven and the playing of the music is deplorable. He’s very angry that Luke is “messing” with the orchestra. And so begins a dialogue and an effort to find the problem. Which is that the instruments are in the wrong places. So you have a horn player sitting the first violinist’s chair playing the violin score. Oboists and clarinetists are in each other’s seats, playing each other’s music, and so on.

“Everything sounds ridiculous,” explains Luke, “and so the kids have to work with me to solve the problem by dividing up the instrument into families. We talk about why strings are grouped in the way they are, and why [other] instruments are grouped in the way they are.” At the end, the music is played properly and the program continues.

For kids of all ages: Meet The Symphony, Nov. 3, 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., Malcolm X Elementary, Berkeley $5 -$10, (510) 841-2800. See event info here.

Mark MacNamara (macnamband.com) is a journalist in San Francisco who has written for such publications as Salon.com, Vanity Fair, and The Stanford Social Innovation Review. He also wrote a recent piece for Nautilus, a science magazine, about Edward Elgar’s penchant for ciphers and riddles.

Have a Musical Halloween

San Jose Museum of Art Dia de los Muertos Community DayHere are a few more best bets for family events this weekend in the Bay Area:

San Jose: Celebrate El Dia de los Muertos at the San Jose Museum of Art’s Community Day this Saturday. Among other things, see the Aztec dancers Calpulli Tonalehqueh and, at 2 p.m., music by Mariachi San Jose. Dia de los Muertos

Sausalito: Discovery Museum: The Grand Scream of Things With Andy Z. Oct 27, 11 a.m. Drawing from his new CD, Andy Z sings catchy songs and tells an adventure story about “a witch who loses her way and a boy who discovers the important things in life.” For kids six months and up. The Grand Scream of Thnigs With Andy Z

Berkeley: Casa de Cultura, Berkeley, A Brazilian Family Halloween Ball Oct 27, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Brasarte presents its annual Family Halloween Ball. Music, dancing, costume contests, a costume parade, and games. For families in search of fun and a “gently frightening” evening. Brazilian Halloween Ball

South Berkeley Farmers’ Market Halloween Day of the Dead Celebration, Tuesday Oct. 30. 2 to 6:30 p.m., featuring live Caribbean music by Asheba, an Aztec dance performance by Cuauhtili Mexica; costume making, face paintings, a Day of the Dead Altar and pumpkin pies from Sweet Adeline Bakeshop. Day of the Dead Celebration

Oakland: Islamic Cultural Center in Oakland: ASWAT Concert, Sunday, Oct. 28, 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., featuring Bay Area Arabic Music Ensemble; celebratory Arabic music and dance, plus solo performances.. Sponsored by the Middle East Children’s Alliance, the program benefits the Maia Project, which, among other things, sponsors clean water for children in Gaza. ASWAT Concert

San Francisco: Charity and the JAMband Family Friendly Halloween Concert at the Park Chalet on Sunday, Oct. 28, 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Charity and the JAMband are one of the best kids entertainment acts in the Bay Area, and we say that advisedly. The group has won all kinds of awards and praise from grateful parents. And joining Charity onstage as a warm up act is Hullabaloo from San Diego. This is one concert that’s worth packing kids in the car. JAMband Halloween Concert

Noe Valley Harvest Festival The biggest event of the weekend happens from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on 24th St. between Church and Sanchez, in San Francisco. This has got everything the other festivals have — the kids’ costume contest, the pets’ costume contest, arts & crafts, face-painting, pumpkin patch — and it has two stages of musical acts from all over the map: Curry Without Worry Nepali Folk & Classic Music & Dance Ensemble, Alison Levy, Big Lou’s Dance Party, and a dozen others. If you’ve got the energy, it’s a blowout good time. Noe Valley Harvest Festival

Mark MacNamara (macnamband.com) is a journalist in San Francisco who has written for such publications as Salon.com, Vanity Fair, and The Stanford Social Innovation Review. He also wrote a recent piece for Nautilus, a science magazine, about Edward Elgar’s penchant for ciphers and riddles.

Mark MacNamara (macnamband.com) is a journalist in San Francisco who has written for such publications as Salon.com, Vanity Fair, and The Stanford Social Innovation Review. He also wrote a recent piece for Nautilus, a science magazine, about Edward Elgar’s penchant for ciphers and riddles.