Kids Around the Bay

By Mark MacNamara

Volti's Vault of Choral Excellence Includes Youth

VoltiThe Volti chorus opens its 34th season with a terrific program featuring its 20 singers along with choruses from the Head Royce School in the East Bay and the Ruth Asawa School for the Performing Arts in San Francisco. The concert on Saturday Nov. 3 includes an eclectic program of renaissance, world, and contemporary music.

Volti is under the direction of one of this country’s great choral leaders, Robert Geary, who founded the San Francisco Chamber singers in 1979. The name was later changed to Volti, which in musical parlance means, “look ahead.”

“We’re the best kept secret in San Francisco and we’d like to stop being that,” Executive Director Barbara Heroux told us the other day. She went on to explain that Volti’s focus on contemporary music is not the audience grabber it should be. “I can only tell people that if you listen to contemporary music you will like it.”

The program on Saturday is the culmination of Volti’s annual educational outreach program in which high school choirs are invited to an annual summer retreat near Occidental California where they work with professional singers to polish their abilities and their ambitions.

The concert finale features all three choruses in a William Albright piece written in 1974: The Chichester Mass, named after the English cathedral where it was first performed.

“It is one of the best examples of this particular Mass form from the 20th century,” notes Robert Geary. “The harmonic language is colorful and beautiful and ... ‘accessible’ is not the right word, but it’s certainly rewarding to the ear.”

Beyond the finale, there's one other piece that, were you to come just for it, would be well worth the evening. It’s an 18-minute composition by Shawn Crouch (originally commissioned by the Bay Area chorus, Chanticleer). The piece incorporates poems written by an Iraqi war veteran with the poetry of Rumi, who never lived in Iraq but certainly traveled through it. “It’s the juxtaposition that’s so profound,” says Geary. “In one part of the piece, Rumi describes a garden of paradise; in another there is the stark poetry of Bryan Turner, a U.S. solider who served in Iraq. The piece is compositionally interesting and powerful.”

Volti: Youth and Music Nov. 3, 7 p.m. First Unitarian Universalist Center 1187 Franklin St., San Francisco. $20 for adults; $15 for seniors. Under 20, free.

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.

Alison Faith Levy's Wonderful World

Alison Faith LevyAlison Faith Levy, whose signature song “Like a Spinning Top” has become a huge hit, is the founder of a genre: 1960s garage-rock for tots. Hence the name of her new band: The Big Time Tot Rock. She was formerly with The Sissy Cups, which broke up in 2010 after six years. Levy took a break and found some new gigs in and around the city, including a sing-a-long class at Phoenix Books in Noe Valley, at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center on California Street, and in a preschool set up in City Hall.

“All my songs have participation elements for the kids,” Levy told us. “Lots of dancing, pretending to be animals. I’m all about getting kids to have fun, to learn how to dance and move. And actually that starts with getting parents to participate.”

Levy will be at the Bay Area Discovery Museum this weekend with her very interactive show for the entire family. “If you’ve never been there, this is a great, great place for little kids. Very hands-on, lots to do. Very Bay Area-centric. And of course with a beautiful view of the city.” The museum is located under the north foundation of the Golden Gate Bridge.

World of Winder With Alison Faith Levy: Nov. 3, 11 a.m.–12 p.m., Bay Area Discovery Museum, Members $5; General $14 (includes Museum admission). For ages 6 months and up, (415) 339-3900.

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.

Kids Take the House at the San Francisco Opera

Open House at the SFOIf it’s the responsibility of parents, as well as teachers, directors, and administrators — and students themselves — to help build the audience of tomorrow, then this is an event to consider strongly.

Every year the San Francisco Opera has an open house; this year it’s next weekend, on November 10.

Beyond face-painting, prop-making and kid-friendly tours, there are also technical and musical demonstrations; a viewing of the film Carmen for Families, and various contests, as well as a drawing for four tickets to the San Francisco Opera "family opera" premiere of The Secret Garden.

You also have a chance to meet General Director David Gockley along with some of the artists in the company. And admission is free.

Community Open House: Nov. 10, 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. War Memorial Opera House, Van Ness Ave., San Francisco.

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.

Young People's Symphony Orchestra Fall Concert

Young People's Symphony OrchestraIt just so happens that this weekend features several youth orchestras. And it’s SAT Saturday, to boot. Performances include the Oakland Youth Orchestra, which plays on Nov. 3, at 1 p.m. in Walnut Creek and then on Nov. 4 in Oakland at 3 p.m. The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra plays on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Davies Symphony Hall. Also on Sunday, The Peninsula Youth Orchestra plays at Carlmont High School in San Mateo at 5 p.m.

But if you can only attend one performance this weekend, our recommendation is to catch the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, which is California's oldest youth orchestra and the second oldest youth orchestra in the United States. They’re collaborating with the Oakland Symphony Chorus in a program featuring Music Director/Conductor David Ramadanoff and YPSO’s 95 young musicians in performances of Johannes Brahms' A German Requiem with the Oakland Symphony Chorus directed by Lynne Morrow and American composer Christopher Theophanidis’ Rainbow Body.

Young People's Symphony Orchestra Fall Concert: Nov. 3, 8 p.m., Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church General admission, $20; students and seniors, $15., (925) 935-1574.

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.