SF Contemporary Music Players
The SFCMP Ensemble | Credit: Valentina Sadiul

One of the oldest and most prominent advocates of “new music,” San Francisco Contemporary Music Players celebrated its half century last year online only, but is getting ready for a live and lively 51st season.

SFCMP Artistic Director Eric Dudley has announced a season of music by 26 composers, including 13 from California, four commissioning projects, eight world, U.S., or West Coast premieres, and a spotlight on large ensemble works.

SFCMP musicians in 1992, after a rehearsal of John Cage’s music; Cage is on the left, flanked by Toyoji Tomita (trombone), David Rosenthal (percussion), Stephen L. Mosko (conductor), William Winant (kneeling, percussion), Barbara Chaffe (flute), Charles Metzger (trumpet), Ruth Freeman (viola), Stephen Harrison (cello), Gordon Mumma (squatting, French horn), William Banovetz (oboe)

True to its distinguished beginnings with Jean-Louis LeRoux and Marcella DeCray, SFCMP is persisting in presenting the contemporary, with an impressive lineup of today’s classical music and works that point to the future. Still, the organization also must deal with the practical realities of music-making, especially after the hardship of the past year and a half.

“In an effort to rebuild our audience as we move back to live concerts,” says the announcement, “we are offering an all-access membership at $75, with single tickets to events being $15. We will also offer a digital option at $5 per view — with an edited video of the concert being available for a week approximately five days following the event.”

Of the 51st season, Artistic Director Eric Dudley says “we are extremely excited to be returning to the concert stage, while continuing to make our performances available online to widen our reach and provide a variety of options for our audience.”

The season features a celebration of composers Steve Reich at 85 and Sofia Gubaidulina at 90, and includes the delayed premieres of pieces by SF Search for Scores winner Taylor Joshua Rankin and Australian composer David Chisholm, both postponed from 2020, plus the world premiere of a new quartet with electronics and an improvised solo part by Creative Advisor and member of the SFJAZZ Collective Edward Simon.

Also of note are a world premiere piece by Bay Area composer and educator Edmund Campion, and a commissioned work of “instrumental theater” written expressly for the musicians of SFCMP by composer and Artistic Production Director Amadeus Regucera.


Eric Dudley
Music Director Eric Dudley | Credit: SFCMP

Dudley talked to SF Classical Voice about planning ahead while getting through the pandemic:

We, like many other organizations, had no choice but to think very hard about this and to think about how we are presenting music to our audience and what does it mean for us, now that we’ve spent more than a year out of the concert hall, and still be doing something that makes a difference.

What has changed and become a part of our thinking now and for all seasons going forward is what does it mean for us to be sharing our music in a way in which the concert hall is not the only point of contact? Because of that we’re now conceiving of our seasons as being both live and in-person and also digital. And that is essentially what we had to do over our whole 50th-anniversary season last year, which was fully online.

So we took all the repertory that we wanted to present and found a way to record it with our musicians and create it as webcasts so we could share it with our audiences that way. That’s one thing that we’re going to retain now; every live event that we offer [will be] also webcast and created as a digital concert presentation. And as you can imagine, there’s a lot of organizational change that goes along with making something like that happen.

A few highlights of the 51st season:

— Nov. 6, in the Laboratory Series “Reactivity and Response,” SF Conservatory of Music; presenting an array of works with electronic or visual components as the backbone of their compositional concepts. With Zeena Parkins, Fred Frith, and Alexander Schubert.

— Nov. 18, SFCMP masterclass, SF Conservatory of Music; featuring contemporary brass repertory, in collaboration with SFCM brass department. With Brendan Lai-Tong, trombone.

— Dec. 19, in the Community Series, Sound Encounters II, in collaboration with CNMAT, UC Berkeley, at Root Division Gallery, San Francisco; with CNMAT Director Edmund Campion, artists Hallie Smith, Jon Yu, Andrew Harlan, and Didem Coskunseven.

— April 2 and 3, Crossroads Series, Drama and Poetry, ODC Dance Commons, San Francisco; works by Sofia Gubaidulina, Amadeus Regucera, José Garcia Villa, Du Yun, and David Chisholm.

— May 22, in the Laboratory Series, Synergy and Synthesis, SFJAZZ; Edward Simon leads an exploration of works that combine live acoustic elements with different approaches to the incorporation of electronics. Works by Steve Reich and Orlando and Jacinto García.