29 March 2015

fun stuff I may or may not get to: April 2015

a warning about BART
So once again I have to start off a monthly preview with a long-range warning about BART: on certain weekends starting in April and continuing through August, they will not be running trains between the Fruitvale and Oakland Coliseum stations. They will instead have a "bus bridge" between the two, and are predicting delays of up to an hour – also, they won't be keeping to any schedules or timed transfers. (If past experience is any guideline, the delays will be longer and service even more inefficient than predicted.) The biggest effect will obviously be on those who take the Fremont or the Dublin/Pleasanton lines, but undoubtedly delays will ripple throughout the system and since BART is basically suggesting you just drive on those weekends, traffic will be that much worse (the weekends, by the way, include Easter Sunday and all of Memorial Day weekend – enjoy the holidays, everyone!). And though the buses will be free to BART riders, presumably once you reach Coliseum by bus you then need to re-enter the system and pay an additional fare to get where you're going after that. Oh, BART: your dedication to making every trip as irksome as possible is truly overwhelming. When it comes to letting me down, you never let me down.

Even setting aside the inconvenience and waste of time involved, I can't be the only one who is given pause at the thought of standing out at Fruitvale for up to an hour late at night waiting for a bus. So I now have to figure out what to do about several concerts for which I've already bought tickets, and I guess I'll just have to give up several other performances I was hoping to go to. You may find the list of dates here, and even if you've seen the list somewhere before you may want to check it again, since as I just noticed when I went to get the link the dates have been revised since the original announcement about a week ago, which makes me wonder how thought-through this thing is.

The reason for the shut-down is to replace the track between the two stations. Sure, maintenance is crucial (and clearly they've been neglecting it for years), but even if I take their word for it (because, you know, BART has been so trustworthy!) that they need to stop operations for 11 or 12 weekends to make the fix . . . well, I find it hard to believe that the track between Fruitvale and Oakland Coliseum is the only one that needs replacing. Are we going to have to deal with this sort of thing sneaking up on us randomly for the next decade?

I'm just not willing to cut this incompetently managed system any slack. It's typical of my feelings about them that several years ago, when I was at the Berkeley station waiting for a train late at night after a concert, and I heard the station agent on the loudspeaker saying, "To the young man urinating on the platform: please do not do that" my first thought was not how gross the guy was being but that if BART would re-open its already inadequate bathrooms maybe he wouldn't need to piss on the platform – I mean, I doubt he was doing it for kicks. (After 9/11 the bathrooms were closed in several stations "for security reasons" because the terrorists; those stations all tended to be in areas with a high concentration of homeless people, which I'm sure was a complete coincidence. I should point out that in this case the platform pisser was not a homeless guy but probably a student at Cal, who looked as if he were going to the city with friends to go clubbing.)

Even the way BART slipped this news out shows how inept they are: None of the regular BART riders I have spoken to about this had heard anything about it. I, who ride BART almost every day, have heard no announcements and seen no messages in the stations; nothing has been sent to Clipper Card holders. . . . Who knows when I would have heard about this if I hadn't chanced upon an article on SFGate.com one recent morning – but when I went back an hour later the article was off their main page. There's just a discreet little link off to the side on the BART website to reassure me that I didn't just hallucinate the whole thing. Honestly: you cannot repeat information like this too often, because people just don't pay attention. Case in point: the SFGate article clearly mentioned that the closures were planned around the Oakland A's homestands, yet at least three comments of the maybe two dozen I read complained that this would affect people going to A's games at the Coliseum – even though, you know, it was right there in the article that the dates were picked so that it wouldn't affect those people. Of course, when the A's are away, the Giants usually are playing at home in San Francisco, so I guess if you're a Giants fan who lives in the East Bay, you're boned.

What really breaks what's left of my heart about this is that I truly believe in public transportation. I don't drive and rely on BART, but even more than that, I believe it's necessary for the environment that public transportation be made as desirable and convenient as possible – and even more than that, I believe it's crucial for us as a society to learn how to share public spaces together. Car culture is sick for more than the environmental reasons. I used to vote automatically in favor of any public-transportation measure. Now I automatically vote against anything that will give more money to BART, at least until transit strikes are banned and they get their spending under control (to make it clear: this is not an anti-union dog-whistle; I've discussed my feelings about the BART unions before so I won't repeat them, but I'm also talking about the incompetent management and the general amount they waste on things like, random example, overheating the cars when everyone who's riding is dressed for outdoors anyway). Voting against more funds for BART may seem like shooting myself in the foot, but what am I getting out of my increased fees and taxes? BART has shown itself an incompetent manager of public money; they get more and more and we've been getting less and less. I'll define what I mean by the "improved service" I'd like to see: (1) full-length trains (and I mean ten cars, which I rarely see even at rush hours, and I ride three of the four BART lines regularly) that (2) come more often (it's ridiculous to wait 20 minutes or more for a train). Oh, there are other things that should be dealt with – the poor station design, the inadequate train announcements, and so forth – but really: full-length trains, and more often. But BART can't even get that much right.

Anyway: exercise caution when buying weekend tickets, if you are BART-dependent, and even if you're not make sure you know the dates and leave yourself plenty of driving time.

Shotgun Players presents a reading of Adrienne Kennedy's The Ohio State Murders, 27 - 28 April, starting at 7:00 each night.

This may make it look as if there are slim theatrical pickings for April, but many of the shows listed last month are continuing into this month, so check those out as well.

The Lamplighters present an attractive rarity: The Grand Duke, the last collaboration between WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, for four performances only: 25 - 26 April at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, 30 April in Mountain View, and 2 May in Walnut Creek.

Soloists from San Francisco Opera's Adler program will join Philharmonia Baroque in a production of Rossini's La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract), along with some Mozart numbers. That's 15 and 17 - 19 April in their usual various locations.

The San Francisco Symphony presents John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo on 27 April. Sadly it's in Davies Hall, which is about as far as you can get from an intimate Renaissance court theater, but you can't have everything.

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore, fully staged (by Jose Maria Condemi) and with a full orchestra (conducted by Scott Sandmeier), on 2 and 4 April.

San Francisco Performances presents violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist Corey Smythe in a program of works by Cage, Lang, Bach, Auerbach, and Schumann on 18 April.

San Francisco Performances presents Garrick Ohlsson in an all-Scriabin program on 6 April (this concert was rescheduled from 14 March) and Dubravka Tomsic in a program of Haydn, Beethoven, and Chopin on 19 April.

San Francisco Performances presents the Paul Taylor Dance Company in three different programs, 15 - 18 April at the Yerba Buena Center.

Cal Performances presents the annual visit of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, with three different programs from 21 to 26 April.

The Shostakovich Trilogy, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, returns to San Francisco Ballet from 8 - 19 April; their other offering this month is a mixed bill of Caprice by Helgi Tomasson, the world premiere of Swimmer by Yuri Possokhov, and Balanchine's Four Temperaments, and that runs 10 - 21 April.

Cappella SF, led by Ragnar Bohlin, returns on 11 April with a program of "vocal music written in an orchestral style" with composers ranging from Gabrieli and Bach to contemporary composers like David Conte and Elliott Encarnación (who also sings tenor in the group). That's at the Mission Dolores Basilica (right next to Mission Dolores itself, an easy walk from the 16th Street BART station).

Early/Baroque Music
Cal Performances presents the Tallis Scholars on 10 - 11 April, in a different program each night.

Modern/Contemporary Music
The California Institute of Integral Studies presents the complete string quartets of John Zorn, played by the JACK Quartet (with soprano Tony Arnold). That's 30 April at the Palace of Fine Arts (seems like an odd venue to me – not that easy to get to; I've been to the Palace of Fine Arts but never for a concert so I don't know how suitable the hall is there).

Cal Performances presents the eco ensemble, conducted by David Milnes, playing works by Bedrossian, Leroux, and Campion on 25 April.

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music's baroque ensemble ventures into new music with Elinor Armer's Leonardo's Riddle, featuring Adam Cockerham on archlute. That's on 19 April, in the afternoon.

At the Center for New Music, the Plath Project concert I mentioned last month is now scheduled for 26 April.

Old First Concerts presents the Wooden Fish Ensemble in a celebration of the 70th birthday of Belgian composer Boudewijn Buckinx. The works by Buckinx include The Floating World, a large-scale piano piece written for Thomas Schultz, a founding member of Wooden Fish, as well as works by Hyo-shin Na in honor of Buckinx. That's on 12 April. On 24 April, they present the Friction Quartet playing the John Adams String Quartet along with world premieres by Max Stoffregen and Eric Tran.

Cal Performances presents tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Wenwen Du in a program exploring the music and poetry of World War I. That's on 12 April. This looks like a highlight for this month!

Pablo Heras-Casado leads the San Francisco Symphony in a couple of programs: the first features Joshua Bell playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto along with Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No 1 and John Adams's Chamber Symphony, and you can catch that on 9 - 12 April; he's then leading a program of the Haydn 44, the Mozart Piano Concerto 9 with Igor Levit, Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and the Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movement on 18 - 19 April. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts Ravel's Mother Goose Suite, Stravinsky's Firebird, and his own Nyx on 30 April and 1 - 3 May.

Joana Carneiro leads the Berkeley Symphony in a thoughtful coupling of Mozart's Requiem with Choruses from the Death of Klinghoffer by John Adams; that's on 30 April.


Michael Strickland said...

Depending on BART for any serious transportation between life, work, and play is just asking for heartbreak. Does it need to be this way? No. Is it this way? Yes.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

beautifully put