Lawrence Ewing as the Major General in "Pirates of Penzance"
Lawrence Ewing as the Major General in Pirates of Penzance

Organized by the SF Lamplighters, eight local performing-arts companies present a free, in-person concert at the Yerba Buena Gardens Esplanade at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22.

Welcome Back to the Performing Arts” combines talent from Lamplighters, Ars Minerva, 42nd Street Moon, Opera Parallèle, Pocket Opera, Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco, Urban Jazz SF Dance Company, and Volti.

The invitation: “Join our Master of Ceremonies Omari Tau for a celebration of music and dance, sharing the variety of our art, and introducing our audiences to the work of these partner organizations.

“During the past year, we have grown to understand just how important collaboration has been to each of us to survive and thrive. Therefore, we want to come back together and support each other through this next stage of reopening.”

Frank Johnson
Frank Johnson and Lamplighters Salon Orchestra will accompany Pocket Opera selections | Credit: Yen Bachmeier

Those planning to attend should note: “There will be a limited number of chairs, patrons are invited to bring low lawn chairs or blankets and a picnic.” (The picnic is not compulsory.)

Lamplighters Executive Director Cheryl Blalock traces the development of the plan for the concert:

“I had this idea back at the end of November, when Marc Scorca, President of Opera America, challenged all of the general directors to come back in a different way — a bigger way. I had the idea of a collaborative project, outdoors, with multiple companies back in December 2020, and began reaching out then. Working with my peers all through the past year has been so important and such an experience of mutual learning.”

The Bell Trio
The Bell Trio — with Michael Grammer, Jennifer Mitchell, and Lawrence Ewing — will be performed at the Yerba Buena concert | Credit: Lucas Buxman

The most immediate and enthusiastic responses came from Céline Ricci of Ars Minerva and Barbara Heroux of Volti. A few companies said yes then dropped due to the vagaries of dealing with Covid this summer.

Yerba Buena Garden
Yerba Buena Garden Esplanade seen from behind the MLK memorial waterfall and fountain | Credit: Janos Gereben

“I chose Yerba Buena Gardens,” Blalock says, “because it is outdoors, close to one of our primary venues, easy access for folks via transit, etc. It has taken monthly check-ins to determine just how we could ‘come back.’ We always knew that the details would probably not be available until the end of June, which was quite true. It went from distanced seating, screening for vaccines or tests, etc., to being quite open since it is outdoors, with masks encouraged.

“I love that there is really different music being performed: new music, Baroque music, mainstream opera, classic operetta, classic musical theater, jazz, flamenco, and a cappella choral. Whew!”

Sponsored by Lamplighters, SF Grants for the Arts, First Republic Bank, and Nikon Research Corporation of America, the event includes the following highlights:

– From the Lamplighters, the Bell Trio from H.M.S. Pinafore; “Who Are You, Sir?” from Cox & Box; Major General’s Song from The Pirates of Penzance
– From Pocket Opera, “Libiamo” and “Sempre Libera” from Traviata
– An original work from the Urban Jazz SF Dance Company, with Antoine Hunter
– Opera Parallèle presents selections from Harriet’s Spirit
– From Ars Minerva, scenes from Messalina
– Carola Zertuche’s solo from Theatre Flamenco
– From Volti, songs by Stözel and Winges
– From 42nd Street Moon, “A Grand Night for Singing” from State Fair; “Home” from The Wiz; “It’s Today” from Mame

The program concludes with a community sing of “San Francisco.”

Cox and Box
Cox and Box will receive its first live performance, having been filmed and streamed before, with Marcus J. Paige, Jonathan Spencer, and Darron Flagg | Credit: SF Lamplighters