Each week, SFCV looks behind the scenes to give you a sneak peak of what's coming up on stages around the Bay you can learn about concerts before they happen.

Upcoming Concert
June 16, 2009
The Bay Area is gearing up for S.F. Pride, the annual GLBT celebration, and the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony is handling the classical contribution. Their concert, on June 20 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, will feature Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Copland’s suite from his opera The Tender Land, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and Gershwin’s An American in Paris. If you want a touch of the fabulousness, but are not looking forward to the crowds lining the parade route, this is your event. More about Bay Area Rainbow Symphony (BARS) »
Upcoming Concert
June 16, 2009
Not that you need another reason to visit Tiburon this summer, but pianist Paul Smith has organized a second iteration of his Tiburon Music Festival there, and this year it has a few tantalizing morsels, beyond the venue — lovely St. Hilary’s Church — the natural scenery, and the cool restaurants.

The Tiburon Chamber Players is a group of San Francisco Symphony musicians, which will be giving a concert of Mozart and Schubert on June 23. Yes, Anton von Webern is also on the program, but don’t wince — the Six Bagatelles are short. On June 20, 27, and 28, local singers perform an intriguing double bill for Contemporary Opera Marin: Leonard Bernstein’s underrated Trouble in Tahiti, and Claudio Monteverdi’s not-so-contemporary dramatic work The Combat of Tancred and Clorinda.

Tickets top out at a reasonable $20, and there are refreshments and wine offered after every performance. Sometimes small is good.

More about Tiburon Music Festival »
Artist Spotlight
June 15, 2009

Violinist/ violist Anthony Martin is one of the Bay Area’s core of string players who have specialized in early music, or “historically informed performance.” A cofounder of famous ensembles like Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Frans Brueggen's Orchestra of the 18th century, he has viewed the tremendous expansion and growing popularity of early music performance from the trenches.

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Upcoming Concert
June 9, 2009
The Bay Area has its own annual musical event to mark the summer solstice, the real beginning of the season of plenty. It’s the Garden of Memory concert hosted each year at the Chapel of the Chimes and presented by New Music Bay Area. The building was designed by Julia Morgan in 1926 in Mission style with Gothic interiors. Because the building and grounds feature enclosed areas (to increase privacy in this columbarium), Sarah Cahill, the event’s founder, discovered that it’s possible to sequester a number of separate performing groups or musicians in its recesses and spaces, without much sound overlap.

The concert’s concept is as intriguing as it is fun. You enter and wander about, pursuing distant, half-heard sounds, and come upon unexpected performers doing all kinds of new music from voice-and-electronica wizards like Amy X Neuburg and Pamela Z., to the lounge music group Orchestra Nostalgico, to new percussion music by the William Winant Percussion Ensemble, Joel Davel, or Nino Robair, to computer-music pioneer John Bischoff, to the Eastern European harmonies and folksongs of the choral group Kitka, to the whistling of Jason Victor Serinus.

Of course, the venue attracts lots of sound artists, people interested in exploring the musical (and anti-musical) properties of sound. But the event is not purely for hipsters. Cahill herself will be performing on a plain piano, and the Del Sol String Quartet will play a selection of pieces from their repertory.

If wandering just isn’t your thing, New Music Bay Area has a lineup posted at, and provide maps at the door for guests who want to find a particular performer. But you should be prepared for getting lost in the large number of beautifully-designed spaces, with their Florentine sculptures, unexpected skylights, and artful plantings. That’s more than half the fun of this event.

Many of the performers at Garden of Memory are “regulars.” One group, the Crank Ensemble, was created especially to play there. As artist arnie Fox describes it, on the group’s Web site).

It may not seem like it at first, but Garden of Memory has proved popular with children of different ages, so if you’re looking for family-friendly events, or if you’re interested in experiencing music in an out-of-the-ordinary environment, mark this event on your calendars.

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Upcoming Concert
June 9, 2009

Yes, symphony musicians play music outside of their orchestral obbligations. It keeps them creative and engaged.

So if you’ve only heard Peter Wyrick, associate principal cellist of the San Francisco Opera, play from the stage of Davies Symphony Hall, you might be delighted to encounter this superb musician in a chamber setting with his long-time recital partner, pianist June Choi Oh.

A beautiful sonata by Rachmaninov, another one by master melodist Sergei Prokofiev, and Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne based on his Giovanni Pergolesi arrangements for the ballet Pulcinella, make a finely balanced program that mixes spunkiness with heartfelt emotion.

And, as always at Old First Concerts, the price is right.

More about Old First Concerts »
Upcoming Concert
June 9, 2009

Artists, along with dung beetles and leafcutter ants, are among the most efficient recyclers in the world. They’re always creating new works out of old, so much so that we have literally dozens of words to describe the process — remix, cover, troping, parody, and so on.

In their upcoming concerts, Re-Cycle, Re-Sing, Sing New the San Francisco Choral Artists perform new works that give you some insight into the artistic process as well as being entertaining on their own. Lluvia/ Primavera takes a poem by California poet Lucha Corpi, and sets it to music taken from a 19th-century Spanish folksong.

Funeral Sentences is a choral remix of a piece by Henry Purcell, the 17th-century English composer. And then there’s my favorite, based on the title, Missa L’Homme on the Range, which gives “Home on the Range” the 16th-century polyphony treatment, a la Palestrina. Dress retro and enjoy.

More about San Francisco Choral Artists »
Upcoming Concert
June 9, 2009
For most of their long and fruitful collaboration, East Bay composer Peter Josheff made the music-first move and counted on librettist Jaime Robles to follow. “I would ask for her text, and she would give me exactly what I wanted,” said Josheff, 54, in a recent conversation. He once requested the words for six male voices. Robles responded with a libretto for a poker game (Three Hands).

The pattern changed decisively with Inferno, an ambitious two-part opera based on Dante’s epic poem. This was Robles’ idea from the start, a dramatic work in which hell is treated as a music-theater analog for the psychological stages of depression. “It might have been called Melancholia,” noted Josheff. “The spirit is immobilized.”

Previewed in an instrumental suite that was performed at San Francisco’s Temple Emanuel-El in April, the first half of Inferno receives its theatrical world premiere June 17, 18, and 21 in a San Francisco Cabaret Opera staging at the Live Oak Theater in Berkeley.

Tenor Adam Flowers and soprano Eliza O’Malley star as the doom-kissed lovers Paolo and Francesca, with bass Richard Mix cast as Hell’s Wind, the story’s detached, demonic force. An ensemble from the Huckabay McAllister Dance troupe embodies the chorus. Eric Zivian, Josheff’s comrade in the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, performs the piano-reduction score. Cabaret Opera’s Harriet March Page directs, with choreography by Jenny McAllister. Robles designed the urban, dead-end alley set.

Josheff’s musical touchstone for his Inferno – The Second Circle of Hell: The Lustful is “popular song and the way it influences our emotions.” When Paolo launches into his doo-wop inflected crooning, the composer wants listeners to feel complicit in the seduction this “washed-up singer” is spinning for his beloved.

Francesca, by contrast, “is very aware of what’s going on. She’s stuck in hell, and pleading — sometimes directly with the audience.” Josheff likened the characters to a street person, “someone who’s in this loop of telling her story over and over again. You can identify with her pain and still mistrust it a little.”

As for Hell’s Wind, the final singing role of this operatic triad, a slight resonance with Baroque recitative and aria is meant to characterize a figure who is both tormenting and commenting on the lovers. “The characters are blown about by a wind,” said Josheff, “an infernal wind that represents the passions they could never control in life.”

Josheff, a noted new-music clarinetist as well as a composer, and Robles, a writer and editor/publisher of the Five Fingers Review, have been approaching the idea of a full-length opera since the early 1990s, when they contemplated a project about the first Gulf War. Getting Inferno up onstage after a long wait has Josheff feeling “ecstatic. It’s a fulfillment of something that’s been developing for a very long time.”

Writing frankly lyrical vocal music for this 70-minute opera has freed Josheff to give his musical ideas “their natural size and length.” He continued, “I make my living playing complex, virtuosic, contemporary music. The music I compose is in some sense therapy for the music I perform.”

Further treatments await. Inferno – Part Two: The Ninth Circle of Hell is already in the works, with hopes for a production sometime in the next several years.

More about Goat Hall Productions »
Artist Spotlight
June 8, 2009

Sarah Cahill is a pianist who wears a lot of hats, which may account for her high profile among local, Bay Area pianists. She hosts the radio program Then and Now on KALW on Sunday evenings, wrote music reviews for The East Bay Express until the late 1990s, and for San Francisco Classical Voice, when it began, and has commissioned a number of new works for piano. She talked to SFCV about her current projects and upcoming concerts.

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Upcoming Concert
June 7, 2009
Pride comes naturally when you’re a singer with the San Francisco Boys Chorus. Just ask eighth-grader Dominique Shaw about the delightfully eclectic program that he and fellow choristers will be presenting at Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco on June 13.

“We take chances, we try different things,” Shaw points out. “We just don’t stick to regular old classics.”

“Which chorus gets to go to the Inauguration and sing in the presence of the first African-American president?,” adds fifth-grader Julian Moreno, another boy soprano in the SFBC’s advanced Concert Chorus Group. “That was a big honor!”

Several of the patriotic pieces from that historic performance will be showcased at the upcoming concert. But “I didn’t want to do an entire concert of Americana,” notes SFBC Artistic Director and Conductor Ian Robertson. “I wanted to broaden it to the American hemisphere.”

Opening the evening is the magnificent Missa Criolla, a setting of the Catholic mass in Rioplatense Spanish, the dialect of the piece’s Argentinian composer, Ariel Ramírez. (The dialectal pronunciation of the second word of the title is ‘Cree-o-ja’.) In place of the usual classical ensemble, the Missa makes use of Latin American percussion, a string bass, and piano, as well as unfamiliar rhythms based on regional Argentinian dances. Robertson was impressed with how “The opening movement [Kyrie eleison] and the final movement [Agnus Dei] draw from that sense of spiritual stillness which the people on those flat open grasslands feel. And there’s this rambunctious stuff in the middle, which takes these rhythms and thrusts them up to their God.”

Following the transcendent drama of the Missa and an interlude by the SFBC Bellringers will be a Mexican folk lullaby, a favorite of choristers Shaw and Moreno. “It’s peaceful,” says Moreno, who sang it for his grandmother’s funeral. Then comes a kalenda, a precursor of the calypso from Trinidad, sung in pidgin French. A second Argentinian selection, based on a poem, is “altogether more astringent harmonically, very expressive,” says Robertson. San Sereni is a Puerto Rican children’s song with hand movements depicting characters, and for El Barquito, a Venezuelan folk song, “you get to do your own percussion with your hands and feet,” notes Shaw, “and you have to keep the [separate] rhythm of your voice. It’s tough!” A contemporary Venezuelan song is accompanied on the four-stringed cuatro by voice coach Jimmy Kansau, who also sings tenor in this and some other selections. The Chorus closes out the first half of the program with its three souvenirs from the Inauguration, including a setting by Bay Area composer David Conte of words from Obama’s nomination acceptance speech.

After intermission, the younger members of the SFBC's Apprentice, Junior Apprentice, and Intermediate Choruses offer music from Central and North America, as well as France and England. The older Concert and Intermediate Chorus boys will rock out with hits from Bill Haley and the Beach Boys, and all 250 choristers convene for the finale, Irving Berlin’s perennial God Bless America, “With the purity of the boys’ voices,” Robertson says, “there’s always that extra frisson, if you will, of ‘I didn’t expect it to sound like this.’”

More about San Francisco Boys Chorus »
Upcoming Concert
June 4, 2009
I meet with each of the contestants several times over the course of competition week, often driving them to and from events, to get an instrument repaired, sometimes just to get a milkshake or a burger between performances.

I'm amazed at the split and multiple lives they all lead — on one hand, skateboarding, playing video games, checking out the NBA finals, and text messaging their friends, doing everything that 15-23 year olds do. Talk can range from a favorite pair of sneakers to their pick for American Idol.

On the other hand, they are each consummate and oftentimes seasoned professional musicians, performing incredibly demanding works by Bach and Beethoven, interpreting the Klein commissioned works, and carefully preparing their next performances while keeping their ears tuned to each of the competitors' rounds.

That is Larry Chung's experience of the Irving M. Klein International String Competition, of which he has been executive director for the past 12 years. Says Competition Director Mitchell Sardou Klein:

This competition was inspired by my father, Irving M. Klein, the cellist of the Claremont Quartet, and a devoted and inspiring cello and chamber music pedagogue. When he died in 1984, many of his colleagues and I searched for a suitable memorial to continue his belief in service to young musicians. Knowing that the Irving Klein Competition has become a permanent and respected part of the musical world gives us great personal satisfaction.

The California Music Center and San Francisco State University's College of Creative Arts present the 24th annual competition, June 11-14, with public concerts on June 13-14 at SFSU's Knuth Hall; tickets range from $5 to $20.

From a field of 62 entrants from nine countries, eight semifinalists are now vying for solo and recital appearances, with cash prizes, ranging from $1,500 to $14,000, to be applied to their education expenses. They include San Francisco-born cellist Meta Weiss, 21, a student of Norman Fischer at Rice University in Houston; and violinist Eunice Kim, 17, from Daly City, who studies with Wei He at the S.F. Conservatory of Music, and is also a member of the Formerly Known As Classical ensemble.

The others are Jacqueline Choi, 22-year-old cellist from Old Tappan, N.J., who studies with Paul Katz at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston; SuJin Lee, 17-year-old cellist from South Korea, who studies with Paul Katz at the New England Conservatory; Vicki Powell, 20-year-old violist from Chicago, who studies with Roberto Diaz at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; So Jin Kim, 23-year-old violinist from South Korea, a student of Cho-Liang Lin at Rice University in Houston; Nikki Chooi, 19-year-old violinist from Victoria, Canada, student of Joseph Silverstein and Ida Kavafian at Curtis; Xiang Yu, 20-year-old violinist from Shanghai, China, studying with Donald Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory.

The jury for the competition includes members of the Alexander String Quartet, members of the Cypress String Quartet, Peter Gelfand, Marc Gottlieb, Alan Grishman, Joel Hoffman, Joshua Kosman, Patricia Taylor Lee, Jeffrey Miller, and Alice Schoenfeld.

More about Irving M. Klein International String Competition »