April 28, 2019
San Francisco’s long, extensive, and heartfelt “French connection” will come to the fore again on Monday at 6 p.m. in Grace Cathedral, when the City, the French Consulate, S.F. Symphony, and famous artists join in the public solidarity concert for the fire-ravaged Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral.
Attendance is free, but reservations are required. Such events can take weeks or months to pull together while carefully navigating around existing programs and obligations, but this one is virtually instant, announced on Thursday and taking place on Monday. If reservations close — as they are likely to be within hours — it is still possible to attend, only expect not to find a seat.
Three artists among many participants headline the concert: Notre-Dame organist Johann Vexo, mezzo Frederica von Stade, and countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen.
Vexo, one of Notre-Dame’s three chief organists, was performing for daily mass on the church’s grand organ when the fire broke out on April 15. He learned only later that the instrument was covered in dust and soot, but not damaged. Vexo and the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys will perform on Monday the Sanctus and Benedictus of Vierne’s Messe solennelle, Op. 16.
Few great American singers have been as closely associated with French repertory as Frederica von Stade, who will sing two songs by Poulenc, “Les Anges musiciens” from La Courte Paille, and “Priez pour paix,” accompanied by Adler Fellow pianist Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad.
Cohen, a rare success story for a countertenor in his 20s, is everywhere you look, from an upcoming debut with S.F. Opera to publishing his first CD — the Grammy-winning Kenneth Fuchs’ Poems of Life. Cohen too will be accompanied by Barrad on Monday, performing Duparc’s “Chanson triste” and “L’invitation au voyage.”
Debussy will be represented by the third movement of his String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10, performed by violinists Wyatt Underhill and Jesse Fellows, violist Matthew Young, and cellist Barbara Bogatin.
Other performances are by the American Bach Soloists and American Bach Choir, conducted by Jeffrey Thomas, including selections from Cassanéa de Mondonville’s Cantate Domino grand motet, with the participation of Steven Brennfleck, haute-contre, and Constantine Novotny, basse-taille.
San Francisco Symphony CEO Mark C. Hanson says members of the orchestra will participate in the concert because “in times of loss, music has the unique power to bring people together, to illuminate a path forward, and to remind us of the humanity that we all share around the globe.
“As our sister city navigates the aftermath of this devastating fire at Notre-Dame de Paris, the San Francisco Symphony looks forward to joining with our friends and colleagues at Grace Cathedral, Mayor London N. Breed’s office, San Francisco’s French Consulate, and our fellow arts organizations to stand in solidarity with the people of Paris and to offer a message of solace and healing.”
The program also includes remarks by San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed, Bishop of California the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, the Dean of Grace Cathedral the Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young, and the Consul General of France Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens.
“San Francisco is proud to stand in solidarity with the people of Paris, our sister city, and the world to celebrate the beauty, spirit, and resilience of Notre-Dame de Paris,” said Mayor Breed.
“Watching Notre-Dame burn was devastating, just as it was also horrible to witness a series of historic Louisiana churches burnt in recent arson attacks. Our houses of worship hold a special place for our cities and our people, and we are proud to support the people of Paris as they begin the work to rebuild the iconic monument in the heart of their city.”