As the Bay Area’s concert scene continues to roar back to life, we’re reconnecting with the series and venues that made it special and interesting in the “before time.” And the artists feel that way, too. “Greetings from a dude emerging from a cave & blinking at the sunlight,” composer Mason Bates wrote to us last week. He was pinging us with the news that his Mercury Soul project is reemerging with a new venue and a slightly new twist.
If you haven’t followed SFCV’s coverage of Mercury Soul, it’s a whole nonprofit dedicated to bridging classical music and club music, and thus Bates’s own two fields of activity: classical composer and DJ. The challenge is making the connection work within a dance club atmosphere. While the group has claimed success and an audience so far, the twist, this time, is that the event, the first since the pandemic took a piece of the city’s soul, is at Saint Joseph’s Society for the Arts in SoMa (South of Market Street).
As you can see from the website, the venue is in a 22,000-square-foot renovated church and National Historic Landmark. Founded by Ken Fulk in 2018, it has been attempting to fill the role of arts hub in its district, functioning as an art gallery/museum/event space. They’ve lured Audra McDonald to perform there and held exhibitions, initially funded by “subscribers who buy into it for $12,000 the first year; their subscriptions entitle them to use a private member lounge located in the former choir loft of the church and priority access to programming and members-only events,” according to Tony Bravo’s January 2020 article in the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2021, Fulk took advantage of the pandemic break to expand his vision into the nonprofit Saint Joseph’s Foundation, which now operates in Healdsburg and Provincetown, MA, as well as its SoMa base.
Bates says, “We love that elegant cathedral-turned-luxe-lounge” feel. He continues, “While the event features our characteristic mix of DJs and classical ensembles, the repertoire is the opposite of the more high-energy sound of our club shows. In between groovy downtempo DJ sets, we’re performing lush ambient music from across music history — from Erik Satie to Steve Reich, from Arvo Pärt to Brian Eno, plus some Renaissance string and choral music to fill the resonant space. It’s fascinating to hear Satie’s ‘furniture music’ next to Brian Eno, or Reich played alongside his favorite Perotin choral works.”
The April 22 show features DJs Rob Garza, from Thievery Corporation, and Justin Reed (Chicago, IL) and classical performers International Orange Chorale and, from the SF Conservatory of Music, the SFCM Baroque Ensemble and SFCM Percussion. Tickets are $50-$75, available here.