Brooklyn Basin
The performance area at Brooklyn Basin

The outdoor concerts at Rocky’s Market in Oakland are back this year, proving that the impromptu experiment during the pandemic has legs. The fun continues this Friday with Flamenco at the Basin (with Melissa Cruz) and then, on Sunday, the Brazilian band Boca do Rio, which combines traditional samba and dance grooves with electronica, making what they call “Brazilian space funk.” That event is a benefit concert for Boca do Rio’s frontman, Kevin Welch, whose home burned to the ground last month in the Rices Fire in North San Juan.

Lots more world music follows, and then, on Aug. 14, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir sings a two-hour program beginning at 5 p.m., led by its director, Terrance Kelly. SFCV readers know the chorus through the Oakland Symphony’s “Let Us Break Bread Together” holiday concerts, which are always sold out. This is definitely a concert to mark down in your calendar.

Later, on Aug. 19 (7 p.m.), note an interesting concert from the Renegade Orchestra. If you haven’t heard of the ensemble, this is a strings-plus-rhythm section group of 20 gigging orchestra musicians who want to “let their hair down,” as cellist Rebecca Roudman put it, and play rock classics. “We don’t do any overly lush, cheesy arrangements,” says conductor Jason Eckl. “Imagine the skill of these amazing string players turned loose on everyone’s favorite rock songs.” Eckl, a guitarist and co-founder of Renegade, is promising arrangements of Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman,” Lennon and McCartney’s “Helter Skelter,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” among others.

Kedrick Armstrong
Kedrick Armstrong will lead the Oakland Symphony in a concert at City Hall on Aug. 4 | Credit: Matt Adams Photography

One group that won’t play Brooklyn Basin this year is the Oakland Symphony itself, which graced that space in the series’ first year. Instead, 45 musicians of the orchestra are appearing for a free summer concert at Oakland City Hall on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. Appropriately, the orchestra will play William Grant Still’s Summerland, and young violin star Amaryn Olmeda will play Camille Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo capriccioso. Also on the program are Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 and Darius Milhaud’s Le Boeuf sur le toit.

The conductor for this concert is Kedrick Armstrong, who, I was told, met the Oakland Symphony’s former music director, Michael Morgan, at a young conductor’s seminar at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival. Morgan was famously interested in nurturing young talent, and Symphony Executive Director Mieko Hatano has said she intends to continue that legacy. Armstrong has also conducted at Chicago Opera Theater and will be returning to Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2023 to conduct the premiere of a new opera, The Factotum, by Will Liverman and K-Rico. Armstrong is an alumnus of the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellowship, and his website says, “He uses his voice and platform as a Black conductor to advocate for the performance, publication, and preservation of minority voices in classical music.”

Tickets for the concerts at Rocky’s Market in Brooklyn Basin can be purchased on Eventbrite. The Oakland Symphony’s SummerStage concert is free and BART-accessible. Some food and refreshments are advertised as being available, but a blanket and a picnic basket would also be a good option.