Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Congestion on the Choral Highway

Late February / early March is a very popular time for choral concerts. Why is this? My top guess is that this is when musicians and audiences have regathered their forces after the Christmas Choral Season for the next round. Unfortunately, it makes for weekends that are as compacted as those in December. This year, we also have the Song of Peace project adding events to the schedule. Here is the Bay Area, there are all too many wonderful selections to pick from over the next two weekends. I dont know if I will be able to attend any outside of those which I am engaged to perform in.

Feb 29 - March 3:
American Bach Soloists
California Bach Society
Sacred & Profane
Schola Cantorum San Francisco
Sonoma Valley Chorale (SF Performance)

March 7 - March 9:
Cantare Chorale
Chora Nova
SF Bach Choir
St. Mark's Episcopal Church of Berkeley Chancel Choir & Temple Sinai Choir

If it weren't for the Song of Peace initiative, I would shake my head and say "People! You can't all sing at the same time and each expect to get a good audience!" Hopefully the initiative will be driving more audience members to choral events this spring. Its for a great reason.

On a side note- I see that some groups spread their concerts over multiple weekends. My guess is that this does help. I speak for myself, but I usually only have the energy to go to one concert a weekend. If I'm already engaged on Friday, I still wont make it to your Saturday or Sunday show- but I may well be able to make the one that you are giving next weekend. This is understandably harder on the performing group, especially if artists travel from out of town to do the gig.

On the bright side, perhaps its a sign of general good health in the choral world if so many fabulous groups are all able to perform at the same time. We are lucky in the Bay Area to have such a vibrant choral community. I wish many broken legs to all the singers out there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Song of Peace: March 2008

Next month, the 5th anniversary of the latest US-led war in Iraq, choruses and choirs from around the globe will come together singing songs of peace. Rather than organize one mega-concert, choirs are showcasing songs of peace in their respective home-town concerts, raising awareness of the need for peace in these troubled times. Not only is this message stated in the lyrics of the music sung, but the music itself, should be a balm for peace.

This effort is being launched and documented by the creators of the Song of Peace website. This page lists participating choirs and concerts. There look to be somewhere between 50-60 documented performances in the works. The local Bay Area effort is documented in this Song of Peace blog. Would the contributor be willing to give an inside report on his or her group's preparation for their concert?

The mix of classical music and social/political/charitable issues is never guaranteed to be synergistic. In part, this is due to the perception that classical music lives in this refined bubble that has little to do with the rough and dirty workings of the real world. We go to classical music concerts to be transported away from all the bother and annoyance of our mundane lives- to dress in our opera frocks and experience refinement. ...or on a more serious note, to lift ourselves up and out of the bleakness and tragedy that fills the world, and attacks us from all angles. As I said... this is the perception. I think that this perception will only accelerate the demise of the relevance of classical music today. Pop musicians have been championing geopolitical/social causes for years, and with great success.

I believe that choral music lends itself incredibly well to furthering the cause of peace. I hope to make it to one of the local concerts.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Jorge Liderman

On Sunday February 3, UC Berkeley Professor of Music and composer Jorge Liderman was hit by a train at the El Cerrito Plaza bart station (north of Berkeley) and was killed. Joshua Kosman (SF Chronicle) reports on the tragedy here.

I had been fortunate enough when I was a member of the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus to perform two of his large-scale choral works. Sephardisms II, an a cappella setting of Sephardic folk songs, was very rewarding to sing. In 2002, I was part of the world premiere of Song of Songs, a symphonic cantata for chamber orchestra, soprano, tenor, and womens' chorus. The work was beautiful. In both cases, we got to work directly with Professor Liderman. He clearly understood the voice and loved writing for it. I know that his music will survive him and will continue to touch others.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Mercury Soul & self-expression at classical music events

Back in October, I mused on the audience member's experience at music events, comparing traditional format classical concerts with pop music concerts / club-nights.


Tonight, at Club Mezzanine in San Francisco, three intrepid artists are putting together a hybrid classical music / electronica / multi media event called Mercury Soul. The show features 20th/21st century chamber music of Ligeti, Webern, Nancarrow, Bates and others, performed by members of the SF Chamber Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Schwartz, interspersed with electronica DJ'ed by composer Mason Bates (aka DJ Masonic). Stage designer Anne Patterson completes the experience with stunning visuals. While classical music is the cornerstone of the mix, the format will be 100% club. Attendees can do whatever they want while the music is going; stand, dance, talk, drink, flirt, play pool, leave, come back...

I wont expound on the impact of the event, as this has been done quite well in this week's edition of San Francisco Classical Voice.