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IN Music News THIS WEEK:

Choral Regionalism

February 26, 2002

By Janos Gereben

Choral Regionalism

Bay Area theaters have been working together for years — exchanging actors and directors, sharing facilities, even subscriptions lists — but musical organizations are more standoffish. Against that background, a Berkeley concert called In Praise of Music, on March 4, in Zellerbach Hall, is significant even beyond its noteworthy purpose of contributing to the Musicians' Pension Fund.

Presented by the Berkeley Symphony and conducted by San Francisco Symphony Chorus director Vance George, the concert will unite 200 singers from around the region, including members of Bella Musica Chorus, Berkeley Communicty Chorus, CSUH Oratorio Society, First Congregational Church Chancel Choir, Pacific Boychoir Academy, UC Alumni Chorus and the St. Marks Choir Association. Hosting the evening on-stage will be Berkeley Symphony music director Kent Nagano and SFCV senior editor Robert Commanday.

The program includes excerpts from Orff's Carmina Burana, Mendelssohn's Elijah and Faure's Requiem Sanctus. For information and tickets, call (510) 841-2800 or visit www.berkeleysymphony.org.

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Oldest in the West?

The San Francisco Symphony's next season, announced last week, will be its 91st, but the Minnesota Orchestra will hit 100, and so does the Seattle Symphony. Still, they, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (born in 1919) are all younger than the Honolulu Symphony, which already celebrated its centennial in 2000.

Minnesota will celebrate in style, not only with soloists such as Renée Fleming, Hélène Grimaud, Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, Christopher Plummer, Thomas Quasthoff and André Watts, but also a music directors' reunion. Joining music director designate Osmo Vänskä will be the orchestra's former music directors and principal guest conductors: Charles Dutoit, Neville Marriner, Eiji Oue, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Leonard Slatkin and Edo de Waart.

If the San Jose Symphony didn't fall by the wayside (see next item), it would be the winner of the "Oldest in the West" title by far, having been formed an amazing 125 years ago.

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San Jose Symphony in Operation Bootstrap

Musicians of the San Jose Symphony, which suspended operations four months ago when its deficit exceeded $3 million, are doing their best to get back into the music-making game. On Saturday, they gave a benefit concert to support the San Jose Music Fund, created by Community Foundation Silicon Valley. The event was a sellout in the 2,600-seat Center for the Performing Arts, bringing in $65,000 in revenue, $15,000 more than hoped for.

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Mechem Operas in NY, Vienna

San Francisco composer Kirke Mechem will attend the New York City Opera's May 9 concert performance of a scene from his new opera, The Newport Rivals. The performance of the excerpt is part of NYCO's Showcasing American Composers project, organized by the company's composer-in-residence, Mark Adamo.

The new opera, according to the composer, is "a very free Americanization of Richard Sheridan's 1775 play, `The Rivals.' I have changed the action from Bath, England to Newport, Rhode Island in its gilded age, about 1900." Mechem is also attending the May 2 opening of the Wiener Kammeroper's month-long series of performances of his Tartuffe, a rare contemporary opera with scores of productions and more than 200 performances.

Company director Paul Kellogg originated the NYCO American Composers series, administered by special projects assistant Matthew Price and artistic planning director Keith Viagas. There are six evenings of half-hour excerpts from the works of three composers each between April 30 and May 9.

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Singing Against AIDS

The San Francisco Opera Center's Adler Fellows are organizing a benefit concert for the Oakland Center for AIDS Services, at 3 p.m., Sunday, March 3, in the Claremont Hotel. With the Center's Monica Vanderveen as the accompanist, singers include sopranos Tiffany Abban, Saundra DeAthos and Greta Feeney, mezzo Elena Bocharova, tenor Brian Anderson, baritones Kwang Shik Pang and Hugh Russell. For information, contact Debbie Ruh at the Center for AIDS Services, (510) 872-0656 or 655-3435. For tickets: (510) 655-3435 or email TCFAS@aol.com. Nothing is official yet, but a number of "very interesting" guest singers is expected as well.

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A Hall Grows in Davis

The opening this fall of the $20-million Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC-Davis is on schedule. An 1,800-seat performance hall and a 250-seat studio theater will provide a big boost for UC Davis Presents, now in its 47th year.

Until the happy day arrives, UC-Davis makes do with the old Music Building facilities, and an active schedule. On Thursday, February 28, mezzo Judith Malafronte, artist-in-residence, will give a free noontime concert there, with Steven Lehning, viola da gamba. Malafronte appears again, in Monteverdi Vespers and other works, at 8 p.m., March 2, in Davis Community Church, with the UC Davis Early Music Ensemble, directed by David Nutter, and the UC Davis Baroque Ensemble, directed by Phebe Craig and Michael Sand. Tanya Tomkins, cello, and Eric Zivian, fortepiano, play the music of Beethoven in the Main Theater at 3 p.m. on Sunday. For additional information, see music.ucdavis.edu/calendar

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Two Decades of Young Voices

Here's help for a future trivia quiz about "when and where did Tenor X or Soprano Y make his or her recital debut?" The occasion is the 20th anniversary of James Schwabacher's creation of the San Francisco Opera Center's debut recital series, later named in his honor. While the importance of the series is obvious, the record-keeping aspect is somewhat unreliable: some of the singers made their debut before the event listed here, although in most cases, they sang in opera performance, not at a lieder concert. At any rate, here they are. (In case of multiple appearances, only the first one is shown.)

1983-84: Cheryl Parrish, Laura Brooks Rice, James Busterud, Jeffrey Thomas

1984-85: Nikki Li Hartliep, David Malis, Li-Chan Chen, Thomas Hampson

1985-86: Jacob Will, Cheryl Parrish, David Malis, Donna Bruno, Frank Kelley, Wendy Hillhouse

1986-87: Kathryn Cowdrick, Robert Swensen, Ben Holt, John David de Haan

1987-88: Kevin Langan, Sara Ganz, Donna Bruno, Monte Pederson, Deborah Voight, Dennis Petersen

1988-89: Victor Ledbetter, Ann Panagulias, Robert Tate, Barbara Kilduff

1989-90: Tracy Dahl, Reveka Mavrovitis, Philip Skinner, LeRoy Villanueva

1990-91: Dale Travis, Michael Schade, Janet Williams, Catherine Keen

1991-92: James Michael McGuire, Maria Fortuna, Laura Claycomb, Brian Asawa

1992-93: David Malis, Susan Graham, Zheng Zhou, Robert Breault

1993-94: Mika Shigematsu, Catherine Cook, David Quah, Hector Vasquez

1994-95: Earle Patriarco, Chester Patton, Pamela Dillard, Eduardo del Campo

1996: Alison Buchanan, Robert Breault, Zheng Cao, David Okerlund, Kristin Clayton

1997: Sari Gruber, Kamel Boutros, Nicolle Foland, John Reylea

1998: Anna Netrebko, Tammy Jenkins, Alfredo Daza, Armando Gama, Joyce DiDonato

1999: James Westman, Mel Ulrich, Peggy Kriha Dye, Norman Shankle

2000: Allyson McHardy, Todd Geer, Donita Volkwijn, Twyla Robinson, Katia Escalera, Kyu Won Han

2001: Suzanne Ramo, Allyson McHardy, Brian Anderson, Daniel Teadt, Elizabeth Bishop

2002: Hugh Russell; scheduled: Elena Bocharova, Brad Alexander, Elizabeth Caballero, Jeffrey Picon

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(Janos Gereben, a regular contributor to www.sfcv.org, is arts editor of the Post Newspaper Group. His e-mail address is janos451@earthlink.net.)

©2002 Janos Gereben, all rights reserved