November 4, 2019
Orchestras have taken lots of different routes to solve the problem of getting millennials to attend their concerts and maybe even enter a concert hall. As San Francisco Symphony’s SoundBox series enters its sixth season on Dec. 6–7, its formula has proven durable in enticing the genre-fluid listener into an upbeat room to hear an array of music all presented on the same footing.
The success of SoundBox does not rest solely on its club-like setting (a spiffed-up rehearsal room called Zellerbach A), which some (younger) SFCV attendees haven’t actually loved. SoundBox appeals precisely because it doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s not unlike clubs such as Le Poisson Rouge in New York or the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco, where lots of different musical groups set up shop for a night to the delight of the musically curious. (At Red Poppy this month: Venezuelan music, flamenco, contemporary Afro-Peruvian, klezmer, StringQuake – “new world fusion” – and more.) Except SoundBox plays up the collisions by having them all happen in one night.
The three-program series opens with three Symphony musicians sharing their non-symphonic passions. Violinist David Chernyavsky plays klezmer with clarinetist Ben Goldberg and accordionist Rob Reich. The trio plays some examples of 1960s chance music as well. Assistant Principal Viola Katie Kadarauch plays selections from Garth Knox’s Viola Spaces, and then Principal Bass Scott Pingel leads a jazz set that includes the Symphony’s Principal Trumpet Mark Inouye, Principal Percussion Jacob Nissly, as well as pianist Simon Rowe. None of these guys will be playing jazz for the first time.
On Feb. 7–8, 2020, celebrated composer Missy Mazzoli curates an evening, conducted by Edwin Outwater, that focuses on how music creates sacred spaces. That’s the concept behind Mazzoli’s Vespers for a New Dark Age, her 2017 work for her ensemble Victoire and DJ Lorna Dune, which will be heard on this concert. Music by Marcos Balter, Mario Diaz de Leon, John Luther Adams, and Arvo Pärt complete the program.
The final program, April 24–25, curated by soprano and SF Symphony Artist-in-Residence Julia Bullock, pairs jazz and blues greats alongside classical composers: Nina Simone with J.S. Bach and Hildegard of Bingen; Alberta Hunter, Lovie Austin, Maceo Pinkard, Pat Castleton, and Sonny White with Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson; and Josephine Baker with Francis Poulenc.
All SoundBox shows feature special lighting and video and, given the length of these shows, the extra visual interest seems needed. There’s a full bar serving specialty cocktails and gourmet bar bites for enjoyment during the performances. Audience members can access more information on the works performed during each concert at sfsoundbox.com. Tickets to the Dec. 6–7 SoundBox performances are available at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 5, via sfsoundbox.com. Tickets get snapped up within 5–10 minutes, so be ready.