SF Girls Chorus Responds to COVID-19 With a Virtual Festival

Janos Gereben on June 8, 2020
The San Francisco chorus with Philip Glass in Carnegie Hall | Credit: Carlin Ma

A performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and collaborations with the Berkeley Ballet Theater and the Philip Glass Ensemble are among the highlights of the San Francisco Girls Chorus’ current Virtual Festival, being streamed during the month of June on the organization’s website.

Having provided splendid video streaming for the initial Rightfully Ours coproduction (which remains available on the website), SFGC is offering these weekly attractions:

Dido and Aeneas, coproduction with Voices of Music
Saturday, June 13 at noon PDT

Songs from the Archipelago includes a performance preview of a scene from Tomorrow’s Memories, an SFGC-commissioned choral-opera by Matthew Welch
Saturday, June 20 at 7 p.m. PDT

Music with Changing Parts, with Philip Glass and his Ensemble
Friday, June 26 at 7 a.m. PDT [with a 10 a.m. East Coast release]

“Although we cannot perform live together, we can still share our passion for music and preserve our sense of community,” says SFGC Artistic Director Valérie Sainte-Agathe.

Last year, SFGC toured Europe in real time, not virtually | Credit Ben Tomlin

“In that spirit, I am thrilled to present a virtual festival of video and audio presentations that highlight past and new works, in collaboration with artists from around the globe. Through these projects and online learning, our singers stay engaged, become better musicians, and experience performance in a whole new way.

“We are looking at this as a time to experiment, to embrace new challenges, and to learn from each other. I believe our young singers are learning that curiosity and creativity will always help them during unexpected situations.”

Rightfully Ours was inspired by the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, first presented in February, in Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, just before the coronavirus quarantine.

Eight new pieces of choreography by Berkeley Ballet Theater were set to choral works by eight contemporary composers, including world premiere performances of I Shouldn’t Be Up Here by Angélica Negrón and Belong Not by Aviya Kopelman, commissioned and cocommissioned, respectively, by SFGC with the Israel Institute.

Some 25 dancers and 40 singers joined guest artists the Living Earth Show, Amaranth Quartet, and Post:Ballet for this project, which also featured works by Ysaÿe Maria Barnwell, Sahba Aminikia, Carla Kihlstedt, Steve Reich, Libby Larsen, and Meredith Monk.

Scene from Rightfully Ours | Credit: Alexander Reneff-Olson

Henry Purcell’s complete Dido and Aeneas is a coproduction with Voices of Music and the SF Early Music Society, recorded live at the 2018 Berkeley Festival & Exhibition. Mindy Ella Chu sings the role of Dido, Jesse Blumberg is the Aeneas; all other roles are taken by girls of the chorus.

The virtual festival concludes on June 26, with the rebroadcast by Medici TV of SFGC’s February 2018 Carnegie Hall debut performance with Philip Glass and the Philip Glass Ensemble, featuring the composer’s groundbreaking 1970 work Music with Changing Parts.

In response to the arrival of COVID-19 and local shelter-in-place directives, SFGC has launched a comprehensive online learning program bringing its choral music education into the homes of more than 400 choristers across the Premier Ensemble and all seven levels of the Chorus School.

Led by SFGC Directors and Faculty members, choristers continue to follow the curriculum through private and group classes, rehearsals, masterclasses and solo recitals. SFGC will continue its commitment to collaborating with professional artists and ensembles across the Bay Area and beyond, including special upcoming projects with Kronos, PUSH Dance Company, and DJ Spooky.