24 September 2017

New Century Chamber Orchestra: season opener

Last Thursday I went to First Congregational Church in Berkeley to hear the New Century Chamber Orchestra. The concert was not only this excellent group's season opener, it was the first under new Artistic Partner Daniel Hope after Artistic Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg's departure and the first concert (at least that I've been to) at First Congregational since the terrible fire there about a year ago. There was new music, too, so the concert's official title – New Horizons – seemed more appropriate than these things usually are.

The red brick church itself, in its stripped-down New England Protestant style, looks as good as ever, though a little more bare than it used to be inside (if there is an altar it was moved, and their usual banners were not hanging). Outside things are a little rougher than I expected; some of the yard in front of the church is fenced off, and there is a burnt-out parish building still braced and blockaded. I don't know if something is not yet settled in the back of the church, because the players entered and exited by walking down the center aisle. So the rebuilding is still in progress, but it's nice to have this familiar and beloved venue available again.

The new pieces on the program were framed by old favorites; the concert opened with Mendelssohn's Octet and closed with Tchaikovsky's Serenade, both performed with NCCO's familiar sound, lush and deep. I hadn't heard either piece for quite a while and it's nice to have that "oh, yeah, this is that piece" feeling as the music returns to memory. Hope spoke before each piece; his remarks were brief and pertinent, though I continue to feel that if your work-night concert is not even starting until 8:00, then you should eschew the chatting.

Before the second piece we heard a brief introduction from Alan Fletcher, which was fine since he was the composer and this was its world premiere. A co-commission among NCCO, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, and the Savannah Festival, this violin concerto (titled Violin Concerto) featured Daniel Hope as the soloist and is dedicated to him. Fletcher mentioned some of the influences on him while writing it – mostly visual, like moonlight on the ocean off the Maine coast, but also aural, from the natural world, as in the sound of waves and lapping water. (I was a bit amused that in his remarks he mentioned inspirational waters around the Bay Area, along with other connections to this area, while in the program book his notes mostly linked these elements to Zurich and its lake: why not, water is everywhere, and necessary everywhere. There is also a chorale by Reformation leader Zwingli worked into and varied in the music; Zwingli is ineluctably Zurich, but Fletcher did point out how appropriate it was that we were in a Protestant church (though one inclusive beyond the Reformer's dreams or fears).) The piece opens with a cleaner, more stylized "tuning" segment of the sort that gets done informally before each concert, and then it moves off into a more romantic sound world, though instead of working up a few big tunes that get repeated the music frequently swerves off into another view until finally it swirls up and vanishes. There is a lot of landscape-inspired music now, much of it evoking wide-open spaces and airier more evanescent qualities; this piece sounded heftier – more mountainous, if you will. It's a very attractive piece, which I enjoyed quite a lot.

The other new or newish piece on the program came after the intermission, Orawa by Wojciech Kilar. The title refers to a region in Poland, named for the river that runs through it. So as with the Fletcher piece, we had music inspired by landscapes, particularly those involving water, but in this case there was also a concentration on the peasant dances of the region. There is a repeating figure that gets louder, somewhat in the style of Ravel's Bolero, and it ends with the orchestra players all crying out Hey! It was a fun piece. Then came the melodious enchantments of the Tchaikovsky Serenade, followed after applause by a brief encore, a setting of America the Beautiful, and here's where for once I wanted to hear something from the stage, because I was curious who did this arrangement, which managed to shed a poignant grace on the exhausted sentiments of the overly familiar song.

Next up for New Century is a concert series on 8 - 12 November, with violinist Benjamin Beilman leading another combination of music both old (Bach, Biber, Beethoven) and new (Andrew Norman; and should Stravinsky go here or, at this point, under old music?). Check here for more details.

23 September 2017

21 September 2017

20 September 2017

Haiku 2017/263

leaves rattle past us
birds like black specks wheel above
the sun sets early

19 September 2017

Haiku 2017/262

cat perched on a fence
glaring with his mean green eyes
I stroll by, smiling

17 September 2017

Haiku 2017/260

grey haze of twilight . . .
has night fallen already . . .
a passing shadow

16 September 2017

14 September 2017

13 September 2017

12 September 2017

11 September 2017

Haiku 2017/254

when the thunder cracks
even the stately cats stop
then bolt like lightning

10 September 2017

Ars Minerva: La Circe

This Friday and Saturday I was at the ODC Theater in the Mission to see La Circe, Ars Minerva's revival of an opera unheard since 1665, when Pietro Andrea Ziani (and perhaps a few other hands) composed it for the birthday celebrations of the Holy Roman Emperor. This is only the third production by Ars Minerva, an enterprising and invaluable company dedicated to reviving forgotten works of the Venetian baroque, but each production has been outstanding and delightful and a useful reminder of the operatic riches that remain yet uncovered beyond the constant revivals of Traviata and Bohème. Local opera lovers are deeply in debt to mezzo-soprano Céline Ricci, the founder, Artistic Director, and guiding force of the group.

She took on the title role of the ancient Greek enchantress Circe with her usual conviction and force. Although Circe is best remembered for her ultimate failure to enchant Ulysses, who persuaded her not to turn his sailors into domestic animals and who eventually left her to return to Ithaca and the faithful Penelope, that wanderer does not appear in this work. Instead, the whole thing takes place right after his abrupt departure, which hangs over the geometrically complicated love affairs and grounds Circe's anger in her recent betrayal by him. The opera opens with two sly and cheerful nymphs singing about the joys of youth, an ebullience rapidly pushed aside when the mournful and shrouded Circe enters, shadowed by an also shrouded dancer, wondering where her lover has gone.

The production (by Ricci) was described in the program as semi-staged, but it seemed fully realized to me. Clever use is made of the intimate theater space, with some characters entering from the back of the audience, others going off to the sides to eavesdrop, either by the exit or by the band on the far edge of the stage. We were close enough to the action for Scylla to hand out lovely chaplets of tiny orange roses to some in the first and second rows, as well as to the musicians. (I was skipped on Friday, but last night she gave me a garland, though sadly it was not large enough for my massive cranium, as otherwise I would have worn it all the way on BART back to my house.) As with Ars Minerva's previous productions, the setting is mostly provided by projections, including lovely and evocative watercolorish paintings by Patricia Nardi as well as stylish black-and-white photographs and collaged old engravings. One filmed view of the island trees showed them opening up so we could see the heroes captivated and transformed by Circe; one composite shot of sottish grinning half-pigs-half-humans was particularly comic and unsettling. There were a couple of dance sequences, performed here by a single aerial acrobat/dancer, Katherine Hutchinson, who also choreographed her striking routines. Her elegant entanglements in a hanging black drapery perfectly symbolized the often self-inflicted love complications of the story.

The main action is the transformation of Scylla into a sea monster by the scheming Circe; as is often the case with water-women in myth and folklore, Scylla has a coy, flirtations, but cold personality, rejecting the love of Glaucus, whose desirability is the fulcrum of the plot. He, passionately in love with the indifferent Scylla, in turn has abandoned the faithful Aegle, who has disguised herself as a man, Floreno, in order to find him. . . . but there's really no point in spelling out the love complications. They are conventional yet also personal to the lamenting individuals affected. This way of feeling universal and even standard-issue troubles as new and particular to oneself is one of the surprisingly realistic aspects of baroque opera, a genre that often spends its time among the nymphs, gentle shepherds, and doughty heroes of bygone times. There are melancholy and thoughtful arias on the relations among grief, anger, longing, and love.

Ars Minerva is a young company without a lot of spare cash, but I never look at their productions and think they're cutting corners to cut costs, the way I sometimes do at better-funded houses. This observation is particularly true of the projections, but the costumes (by Matthew Nash for the men and Lindsi Bristow for the women)  also ranged from suitable to delightful, from the black robes of the sorceress to the ensemble of glittering white-and-gold pants and jacket (no shirt), with their wave- or fin-like scalloping, for the watery Glaucus. In a neat reminder of the island setting, shoes were not worn.

The cast was strong: beautiful voices in the service of memorable performances. As mentioned earlier, Ricci was an intense Circe. Kyle Stegall gave a silken lissomeness to Glauco (Glaucus), and Kindra Scharich gave gorgeous and touching voice to the faithful Andromaca (as well as the Second Nymph at the beginning). Jasmine Johnson was an ardent and striking powerhouse as Aegle/Floreno, whose pain at her abandonment by Glauco kept breaking through her masquerade; though she gets her man at the end, she seems still angry in her triumph and he seems less than happy in his acquiescence, which was one of the clever and insightful touches in the staging. (I would love to know if it was played this way originally, or if there was just a conventional "we're all happy and in love now" moment to seal off the story). Ryan Belongie was a graceful Pyrrhus, the faithful lover of Andromaca (in a minor flub on Saturday night he seemed to forget his place for a moment and had to go over to Derek Tam at the harpsichord for a prompt). Aurélie Veruni was pert perfection as the chaste Scylla (as well as the First Nymph), but also well able to express her grief at her unwonted metamorphosis. Jonathan Smucker was sharply amusing as the cynical comic sidekick Gligoro, and Igor Viera brought a commanding and authoritative presence to several smaller roles.

The music was consistently engaging, ranging from occasional sprightliness to rage and grief. Though it is believed Ziani composed the opera, there were some parts – a dance sequence, a passacaglia towards the end – that are attributed to other composers who are roughly his contemporaries. The collaborative nature of early modern theater is a hot topic right now, and it is interesting to see that it is as true of Venetian opera as it was of Elizabethan theater. The information about the different composers was explained to us beforehand by Paul Miller, who also wrote the program notes; I am not a big fan of chat from the stage and frankly would have preferred to have this information (which is interesting but not really relevant to our immediate understanding and enjoyment of the show) restricted to the program notes. Derek Tam led from the harpsichord, and the excellent ensemble was made up of Adam Cockerham on theorbo, Gretchen Claassen on cello, Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo and Nathalie Carducci on violin, and Addi Liu on viola.

The opera ends rather abruptly, not with a chorus or a big number but with Circe in solitude, quietly vowing to dedicate herself to the infernal powers. I was reminded of the way some movies end with what is clearly meant to be the set-up for a sequel. Though I suspect no one is going to discover a score of Circe 2: The Enchantening, I still can't wait to see what Ricci and company come up with for their next season.

Haiku 2017/253

no stars can be seen
they hide under cloud covers
such fluffy blankets

09 September 2017

Haiku 2017/252

The train rolls in, late.
The sun does not seem to sink.
Pigeons sit, staring.

07 September 2017

06 September 2017

05 September 2017

04 September 2017

03 September 2017

Haiku 2017/246

what moves in this heat?
the world, away from the sun;
the rivers of sweat

02 September 2017

fun stuff I may or may not get to: September 2017

We are lucky to have several small and adventurous opera companies in the Bay Area and one of the most exciting is Ars Minerva, now in its third season of reviving operas of the Venetian baroque. This year's offering, which will be heard for the first time since the birthday celebrations of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I in 1665, is Pietro Andrea Ziani's La Circe, a tale of the ancient Greek enchantress Circe. If this is anything like their two previous productions (La Cleopatra and The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles) it is sure to be a delight. You can check it out 8 - 9 September at the ODC Theater in San Francisco.

San Francisco Opera opens its fall season with Puccini's Turandot in the familiar Hockney production; Martina Serafin sings the title role in the six September performances and Nina Stemme takes over for the six performances in November and December. The 8 September performance is Opening Night, so you may embrace or avoid that depending on your taste. Verdi's La Traviata returns for ten performances in September and October.

The big event at SF Opera this month, though, is undoubtedly Strauss's Elektra with Christine Goerke in the title role; there are only six performances, from 9 to 27 September, so catch it while you can.

The Curran Theater presents Taylor Mac in A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, in four six-hour parts; Part 1 (15 September) covers 1776 - 1836, Part 2 (17 September) covers 1836 - 1896, Part 3 (22 September) covers 1896 - 1956, and Part 4 (24 September) covers 1956 to the present.

Custom Made Theatre presents How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel from 7 September to 7 October.

You can see another play by Paula Vogel, The Mineola Twins, directed by Ariel Craft, when Cutting Ball Theater opens its season; the run starts 28 September and goes to 29 October.

ACT presents Hamlet, starring John Douglas Thompson and directed by Carey Perloff, from 20 September to 15 October at the Geary Theater.

Shotgun Players presents Sarah Kane's Blasted, directed by Jon Tracy, from 21 September to 22 October.

At the San Francisco Symphony, you can hear Michael Tilson Thomas conduct the Berlioz Symphonie fantastique, along with Jeremy Denk as the soloist in Bartók's Piano Concerto #2, and that's on 28 and 30 September and 1 October. The Symphony is also launching a season-long celebration of the centennial of Leonard Bernstein, and OK, I know he is a Major Figure and much beloved by many people who don't happen to be me, but with the exception of Candide I don't really respond to his music or his personality, so when I look at the all-Bernstein concert on 22 - 24 September, my interest in hearing the always wonderful mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard is, I'm afraid, outweighed by my complete lack of interest in yet another go-through of the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story; your mileage may vary and my indifference to Bernstein says more about me than about the artist, which is usually the case with these things.

New Century Chamber Orchestra kicks off its first season under new Artistic Partner Daniel Hope, the British violinist who replaced Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg in a similar role, with the world premiere of a Violin Concerto by Alan Fletcher, Orawa by Wojciech Kilar, the Tchaikovsky Serenade and the Mendelssohn Octet. You can hear the band in an open rehearsal on 20 September at the Kanbar Performing Arts Center and then 21 September at First Congregational Church in Berkeley, 22 (matinee on a Friday) and 23 September at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and 24 September at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael.

Chanticleer sings songs of war and peace from the English Reformation up to our own time, including works by Mason Bates, John Musto, and Jennifer Higdon (excerpts from her opera Cold Mountain). The program is 16 September in Santa Clara, 17 September in Sacramento, 22 and 24 September in San Francisco, and 23 September in Pleasanton.

Visual Arts
SFMoMA opens a Walker Evans exhibit on 30 September; it closes on 4 February 2018, and speaking of closing, you only have until 9 October to see the Edvard Munch exhibit, which is worth seeing more than once.

Haiku 2017/245

the smell of berries
bursting in the summer sun
I'm a boy again

31 August 2017

30 August 2017

29 August 2017

Haiku 2017/241

a bird and a cloud
the bird flies off with a squawk
the cloud floats away

28 August 2017

27 August 2017

Haiku 2017/239

those leaves turning brown:
is it the summer heat or
the approach of fall

26 August 2017

24 August 2017

23 August 2017

22 August 2017

21 August 2017

20 August 2017

19 August 2017

Haiku 2017/231

somewhere a song plays
that underscores your strange mood
whatever it is

18 August 2017

Haiku 2017/230

Friday afternoon
last worker in the office
staring straight ahead

Friday photo 2017/33

detail of The Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment by Augustus Saint-Gaudens on Boston Common, June 2017

17 August 2017

Haiku 2017/229

have I really seen
these things I walk past each day?
how strange it all is

16 August 2017

15 August 2017

14 August 2017

13 August 2017

Haiku 2017/225

turning on the stage
how much does the actor see
beyond the bright lights

12 August 2017

Haiku 2017/224

floating in the blue
we might be clouds or perhaps
reflections of clouds

10 August 2017

09 August 2017

08 August 2017

07 August 2017

06 August 2017

05 August 2017

03 August 2017

Haiku 2017/215

Spring's tender seedlings
are now this tangle of vines
and overripe fruit

02 August 2017

01 August 2017

31 July 2017

fun stuff I may or may not get to: August 2017

Shotgun Players presents The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence by Madeleine George, directed by Nancy Carlin, from 3 August to 3 September.

West Edge Opera has been rightly acclaimed the last few years for its bold programming and inventive staging; this year's festival includes: (1) Ambrose Thomas's Hamlet, which as a version of Shakespeare's great play is not worth bothering with but which as a fairly rare example of French grand opera holds some interest, particularly with baritone Edward Nelson in the title role and Emma McNairy as Ophelia, and that's 5, 13, and 19 August; (2) The Chastity Tree by Vicente Martín y Soler, who is now mostly familiar for the bit of his music that Mozart quotes in the banquet scene in Don Giovanni (bravi, Cosa rara) – speaking of which, the libretto for this work, which sounds enjoyably weird and wild (it features a judgmental plant), is also by Lorenzo da Ponte – so this is a wonderful chance to see a work by someone who rivaled Mozart in popularity in his own day, and that will be 6, 12, and 19 August; and (3) Frankenstein, a new opera by Libby Larsen, based of course on Mary Shelley's novel, which like Hamlet is one of the endlessly fructifying works of English literature, and that's on 12, 17, and 20 August. I was not a big fan of the abandoned train station in Oakland where West Edge has performed the last few years – I thought it was too inaccessible to public transportation, with poor sightlines, poor acoustics, and substandard facilities – but I was sorry to hear that the city of Oakland decided just a few months before their summer festival to boot West Edge out of there. All performances will now be at the empty Pacific Pipe factory at 1391 W Grand Avenue in Oakland. I suspect it has all of the disadvantages of the train station without its necrotic charms. There will fortunately be a shuttle from the West Oakland BART station starting two hours before curtain time.

Opera on the Spot presents Barber's A Hand of Bridge and Menotti's The Old Maid and the Thief at the Center for New Music on 4 August and at the Caffe delle Stelle on Hayes Street on 7 August.

San Francisco Opera's Merola program presents Rossini's La Cenerentola on 3 and 5 August at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. You can also hear their summer season climax at the annual Grand Finale on 19 August at the Opera House.

The Lamplighters present one of Gilbert & Sullivan's finest works, The Yeomen of the Guard, on 4 - 6 August at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, 12 - 13 August at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 18 - 20 August at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, and 26 - 27 August at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore.

Robert Geary leads the San Francisco Choral Society in Mendelssohn's Elijah on 18 - 19 August at Davies Hall.

Gaude sings choral music from the Renaissance "and beyond" at Old First Concerts on 27 August.

Early / Baroque Music
American Bach Soloists is having its annual summer festival from 4 to 13 August; the theme this year is English Majesty, so in addition to their traditional performances of Bach's B Minor Mass on 6 and 13 August, Jeffrey Thomas will be leading Water Music by Handel and water music by Telemann on 4 August, a program on 5 August called Orpheus in Britannia featuring a dazzling array of composers prominent in baroque-period England, Purcell's King Arthur on 10 and 11 August, and (another Bach-related departure from the festival's main theme) a concert on 12 August exploring the music of JS Bach and his sons. The performances are mostly at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, with a few at nearby and lovely St Mark's Lutheran. Most of the evening concerts (except on Sunday night) start at 8:00, which is a real shame, particularly for something like King Arthur, which only has weeknight performances. There are also some free public colloquia, master classes, and concerts including a baroque marathon; you can check out the whole schedule here.

Baritone Sven Edward Olbash and pianist Kevin Korth present works by Caccini, Monteverdi, and Britten on 28 August at the Center for New Music. The program is a benefit for Lacuna Arts, the choral program run by Olbash.

Modern / New Music
The Sun Ra Arkestra is appearing at the SF Jazz Center from 3 to 6 August.

Pianist Michael Tan plays works by Messiaen, Boulez, Michael Finnissy, and Salvatore Sciarrino on 6 August at the Center for New Music.

BAM/PFA is presenting Novyi Vavilon (The New Babylon), a 1929 Soviet film by Grigori Kozintsey and Leonid Trauberg with its original score by Dmitri Shostakovich on 6 and 10 August. Based (I assume somewhat loosely) on Zola's department store novel Au bonheur des dames, the PFA describes the film as "an energetic avant-garde extravaganza" which is really all I need to hear.

Haiku 2017/212

a cat stares at me
he only wants some time off
from being a cat

30 July 2017

29 July 2017

27 July 2017

26 July 2017

25 July 2017

Haiku 2017/206

ants swarm in the sink
a few swipes with a wet sponge
and all have perished

24 July 2017

23 July 2017

22 July 2017

Haiku 2017/203

where have the birds gone?
hiding in leafy darkness,
waiting for morning

20 July 2017

19 July 2017

18 July 2017

17 July 2017

16 July 2017

15 July 2017

14 July 2017

Haiku 2017/195

the warmth of the sun
the coolness under the shade
divided pleasures

Friday photo 2017/28

a seagull realizing his picture was being taken, on the banks of the Charles River, Boston, June 2017

13 July 2017

10 July 2017

Haiku 2017/191

this grey morning sky:
when will this quiet return?
when light goes, maybe

09 July 2017

Haiku 2017/190

hummingbird hovers
sparkling against the green leaves
bright flying jewel

08 July 2017

06 July 2017

Haiku 2017/187

silver light shining
from the low-set summer moon
where were you all day

05 July 2017

Haiku 2017/186

the digital clock
glowing green through blurry gloom:
waking at midnight

04 July 2017

Haiku 2017/185

dumbass holiday
the explosions we get are
never ones we need

What can you say about a holiday whose greeting is "have a safe & sane fourth"? I wish my country were anywhere near safe & sane.

03 July 2017

Haiku 2017/184

more than a flower –
just a single soft petal –
and worlds bloom for you

02 July 2017

01 July 2017

fun stuff I may or may not get to: July 2017

July is usually a fairly slow month for performances but of course there are always a few interesting things going on. In addition, some of the plays and exhibits mentioned last month are still around.

San Francisco Playhouse presents La Cage aux Folles, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and book by Harvey Fierstein, from 12 July to 16 September.

The young artists at San Francisco Opera's Merola program will be performing an intriguing triple-bill of one-act rarities: Pergolesi's La serva padrona, Holst's Sävitri, and Walton's The Bear; you can experience all three at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on 20 or 22 (matinee) July. You can also hear the Merolini playing scenes from Cavalleria rusticana, The Ballad of Baby Doe, Thaïs, Der Freischütz, and Lucrezia Borgia on 6 July at the Conservatory. Though tickets are available on-line, they do not have a choose-your-own seat option so if you're like me and refuse to buy a seat you don't get to choose, you can call the very helpful folks at the Opera box office at 415/864-3330.

Opera Theater Unlimited presents a new opera, Hunter, with music by Joseph Colombo and a libretto by Caitlin Mullan, on 14 - 15 and 21 - 22 July at the Exit Theater in San Francisco.

Modern / Contemporary Music
Pianist Sarah Cahill will perform works by Luciano Chessa, Ricky Crews, Lou Harrison, Kyle Hovatter, and Ann Southam at Old First Concerts on 7 July.

The Friction Quartet will perform the US premiere of Piers Hellawell's The Still Dancers along with other works at Old First Concerts on 21 July.

Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, and James McAlister will perform a live version of their new album Planetarium on 21 July at the Fox Theater in Oakland.

The SF Jazz Center presents a John Luther Adams festival from 26 - 30 July; the composer himself will be in residence, with the JACK Quartet performing several works, including a world premiere, over several evenings. Most performances are at the Jazz Center but there will be a performance of Inuksuit at Sutro Baths and a sound installation at Grace Cathedral. You can check out the full schedule here.

Ali Paris plays flamenco on his Qanun, a Middle Eastern 76-string zither that dates back to the fourteenth century, at Old First Concerts on 28 July.

Chamber Music
Old First Concerts presents Le Due Muse in a program of Rachmaninoff, Myaskovsky, and Shostakovich on 23 July.

Haiku 2017/182

the bushes rustle
a cautious shape emerges
cat follows kitten

30 June 2017

Haiku 2017/181

pressing against time
as the dull clouds pass over
sing an angry song

Friday photo 2017/26

lectern at Trinity Church, Boston, June 2017

As is often the case, the lectern takes the form of the eagle associated with St John, traditional author of the fourth gospel and the Apocalypse

29 June 2017

27 June 2017

26 June 2017

25 June 2017

24 June 2017

22 June 2017

Haiku 2017/173

imagined birdsong
filled the space between the clouds
and the dull office

21 June 2017

Haiku 2017/172

lots of wine for sale
but who will sell me moonlight
and a spring evening

20 June 2017

19 June 2017

18 June 2017

17 June 2017

Haiku 2017/168

it's summer outside
but leaves continue to fall
will they be swept up

Haiku 2017/159-167

2017/167 (16 June 2017)
wilting in the sun
cut flowers in the market
the bees buzz away


2017/166 (15 June 2017)
the rock continues
washed by unending waters
pebbles roll away


2017/165 (14 June 2017)
winds direct the clouds
winds pull leaves from off the trees
they swirl around me


2017/164 (13 June 2017)
within this building
an unexpected fountain
drowning the city


2017/163 (12 June 2017)
New England gravestones
knocked sideways by wind and rain
O the fresh green grass


2017/162 (11 June 2017)
in my old station
a frail voice sings this warning:
que sera, sera


2017/161 (10 June 2017)
these drooping blossoms
lovely in their long pale deaths
there is only now


2017/160 (9 June 2017)
New things shock old eyes.
New things turn into old things.
This is what happens.


2017/159 (8 June 2017)
climbing up the hills
serried ranks of boxy homes
as the trees retreat

16 June 2017

The chap in the macintosh is thirteen

     Now who is that lankylooking galoot over there in the macintosh? Now who is he I'd like to know? Now, I'd give a trifle to know who he is. Always someone turns up you never dreamt of. A fellow could live on his lonesome all his life. Yes, he could. Still he'd have to get someone to sod him after he died though he could dig his own grave. We all do. Only man buries. No ants too. First thing strikes anybody. Bury the dead. Say Robinson Crusoe was true to life. Well then Friday buried him. Every Friday buries a Thursday if you come to look at it.

                           O poor Robinson Crusoe,
                           How could you possibly do so?

     Poor Dignam! His last lie on the earth in his box. When you think of them all it does seem a waste of wood. All gnawed through. They could invent a handsome bier with a kind of panel sliding let it down that way. Ay but they might object to be buried out of another fellow's. They're so particular. Lay me in my native earth. Bit of clay from the holy land. Only a mother and deadborn child ever buried in the one coffin. I see what it means. I see. To protect him as long as possible even in the earth. The Irishman's house is his coffin. Embalming in catacombs, mummies, the same idea.

     Mr. Bloom stood far back, his hat in his hand, counting the bared heads. Twelve. I'm thirteen. No. The chap in the macintosh is thirteen. Death's number. Where the deuce did he pop out of? He wasn't in the chapel, that I'll swear. Silly superstition that about thirteen.

And once again a very happy Bloomsday to all my mountain flowers.

Friday photo 2017/24

window at St Mark's Lutheran, San Francisco, May 2017

07 June 2017

Haiku 2017/158

sun-like little blooms
swaying on their slender stalks
rain clouds overhead

(I may or may not have computer access for the next week or so. . . .)

06 June 2017

Haiku 2017/157

another wind blew
a different set of dry leaves
through this same valley

04 June 2017

Haiku 2017/155

the sky turns sapphire
trees dance with the evening breeze
the light lingers late

03 June 2017

Haiku 2017/154

The night wind rises.
Birds huddle on their branches.
There is no moonlight.

01 June 2017

31 May 2017

Haiku 2017/151

shrimp curled on a plate
swimming in seas of strange sauce
we're so far from home

30 May 2017

29 May 2017

fun stuff I may or may not get to: June 2017

Again we begin with a warning about our ridiculous public transit system, BART, which seems to get worse by the day. As previously mentioned, on certain weekends between April and July they are rebuilding tracks between the Fruitvale and 19th Street stations, with free shuttle buses running between the two; the Lake Merritt station will be closed. Expect major delays and hassles, so if you are a BART user you may want to avoid buying expensive performance tickets on those weekends, or at least plan on leaving your residence an hour earlier than usual. Since BART tends to switch around the shut-down dates with little advance notice or publicity, you should also check their site for the current schedule. I ended up using the bus bridge a few weeks ago, since they changed their dates but I did not change my theater ticket. The bus bridge works but it is indeed a hassle and a time-suck. We had a "character" as a fellow passenger, one of those semi-crazy semi-street people who are engaging until they're annoying. We had an entertaining conversation as I helped him understand what the bus bridge was and how it worked (he was claiming he was late for a party in San Francisco with Cissie Houston, as in Whitney Houston's mother), but by the time our bus was pulling up to 19th Street and he was screaming, "We're on the bus to Dachau!" I had pretty much had enough. After shutting down most weekends in May, including the three-day holiday weekend, BART is currently scheduled for only one June shut-down, from 10 to 11 June – but as previously mentioned that could change. I only wish I could feel the service would be improved after all this, instead of just slightly less tragic.

San Francisco Playhouse presents The Roommate by Jen Silverman, directed by Becca Wolff, from 23 May to 1 July.

42nd Street Moon presents Kismet in Concert, a special two performance run on 2 - 3 June of the Borodin-based musical at the Marines Memorial Theater, directed by Daren A.C. Carollo with music director Daniel Thomas.

Shotgun Players presents brownsville song (b-side for tray) by Kimber Lee, directed by Margo Hall, from 15 June to 9 July.

The African-American Shakespeare Company presents The Winter's Tale, directed by L. Peter Callender, from 10 to 18 June in the Taube Atrium Theater (next to the Opera House).

Berkeley Rep presents the west coast premiere of An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Eric Ting, from 23 June to 23 July.

Modern / New Music
Cal Performances continues its sponsorship of Ojai at Berkeley, the Bay Area version of the famous Ojai festival. This year's music director is Vijay Iyer, who will be joined by performers including Zakir Hussain, Jennifer Koh, Tyshawn Sorey, Wadada Leo Smith, Aruna Sairam, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Steven Schick, and Stephan Crump to perform music by composers including Iyer himself, George Lewis, and Stravinsky. That's 15 - 17 June on the Berkeley campus; you can check out the full schedule here.

San Francisco Opera closes out this season with Rigoletto (31 May - 1 July), Don Giovanni (4 - 30 June), and La Bohème (10 June - 2 July).

The San Francisco Girls Chorus will be joined by the Trinity Youth Chorus, soprano Mellissa Hughes, and bass Jonathan Woody, in a program with the appealing (to me) title Mystics and Ecstatics, featuring music by Vivaldi, John Tavener, the US premiere of Song of Seals by Emily Doolittle, and choral improvisations led by Hughes. That's 4 June at Herbst Theater in San Francisco.

Chanticleer, in a program they call Psalm, will perform songs of praise and thanksgiving by Dufay, Poulenc, Weelkes, Victoria, and Palestrina, as well as a world premiere of a new work by John Harbison; the concerts take place from 3 to 11 June; check here for specific dates and the various locations.

The San Francisco Symphony closes out its season with some enticing concerts, including: Susanna Mälkki conducting Stravinsky's Scherzo fantastique as well as Le Sacre du printemps along with Beethoven's Piano Concerto 1 (Garrick Ohlsson, soloist) from 9 to 11 June; Vasily Petrenko conducting Glinka's Capriccio brillante on the Jota Aragonesa, the Rachmaninoff Symphony 1, and Lalo's Symphonie espagnole (with violinist Joshua Bell) from 15 to 18 June; and then two programs led by Michael Tilson Thomas – first Music for a Modern Age, featuring works by George Antheil, Lou Harrison, Charles Ives, and Michael Tilson Thomas himself, and it looks as if it will be a multi-media extravaganza, directed by Patricia Birch, featuring projections as well as vocalists (mezzo-soprano Measha Brueggergosman, Mikaela Bennett, and Kara Dugan) and dancers (Kiva Dawson and Erin Moore), and that's 23 - 25 June, and then there's Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette, with soloists Sasha Cooke (mezzo-soprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor), and Luca Pisaroni (bass-baritone), on 28 - 30 June and 1 July.

Dawn Harms leads the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony in a program that includes works by Clarice Assad, Laura Karpman, and Joe W. Moore III as well as Rossini and Ravel on 17 June at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Old First Concerts presents Zofo (the piano-playing duo of Eva-Maria Zimmermann and Keisuke Nakagoshi, performing the west coast premiere of Akira Nishimura's Samudra Manthan (The Churning of the Ocean Milk) and Holst's The Planets, arranged by Nakagoshi, on 30 June at Old First on Van Ness Avenue.

Visual Arts
The Oakland Museum has a couple of interesting shows: Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing examines the photographer's work, particularly her shots of Dust Bowl migrants and Japanese-Americans in the camps during World War II; and Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest is the first full career retrospective for the artist, who died ten years ago. The Lange show runs from 13 May to 13 August and the De Forest show from 29 April to 20 August.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art presents Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, from 24 June to 9 October.

The Legion of Honor has an exhibit with the self-explanatory title Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade; the show runs from 24 June to 24 September.

The annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival will take place from 1 to 4 June; as usual everything is at the beauteous Castro Theater with wonderful live music, and as usual they have a rich array of silent films, from the familiar to the obscure. This year's programs look so enticing I finally decided just to buy a membership and a pass so that I wouldn't have to decide what to see in advance. Sometimes it's just too difficult to cull the herd!

That's the Bay Area stuff. But since I'm taking a long-overdue trip, I should mention that the Boston Early Music Festival is going on between 11 and 18 June, with an exciting line-up including a fully staged production of André Campra's opera Le Carnaval de Venise.

Haiku 2017/149

rising with the sun
people whisper, talk, cry, shout
many-voiced music

28 May 2017

27 May 2017

25 May 2017

24 May 2017

Haiku 2017/144

when the fog rolls in
when the birds have stopped singing
when night has fallen

23 May 2017

22 May 2017

21 May 2017

Haiku 2017/141

The sky did nothing.
All day it shone, clear and blue.
Then it disappeared.

20 May 2017

18 May 2017

17 May 2017

16 May 2017

Haiku 2017/136

blow briskly, breezes;
bending branches arabesque,
all flags are flapping

15 May 2017

Haiku 2017/135

the wind was graceful
dancing through the bending trees
but left quite a mess

13 May 2017

Haiku 2017/133

fallen rose petals
carpet last year's fallen leaves:
pink and red on brown

11 May 2017

Haiku 2017/131

a tree's tangled roots,
twisted and grey like granite:
the sidewalk buckles

10 May 2017

09 May 2017

08 May 2017

Haiku 2017/128

woke up, went to work
stayed there all day, left for home . . .
was this a new day

07 May 2017

Haiku 2017/127

leaning on a ledge
the stone still warm from the sun
though it's now in shade

06 May 2017

Haiku 2017/126

this is where we put
the shaft of light or bird-song
that changed time for us

04 May 2017

03 May 2017

Haiku 2017/123

gardens in full bloom
waiting for the night-time dews
to freshen them up

02 May 2017

01 May 2017

30 April 2017

29 April 2017

Haiku 2017/119

The hot sun beats down.
Somewhere a dog barks and barks.
And my heart feels fear.

28 April 2017

Haiku 2017/118

the clock tower rings
chiming the merciless hours
we keep our heads down

fun stuff I may or may not get to: May 2017

the BART warning
Again we open with a warning about BART, our ineptly run but essential public transportation system: the tracks between Fruitvale and Lake Merritt Stations need to be rebuilt and therefore for several weekends into July trains will not run between the two stations; instead there will be a (free) bus bridge between them. Expect major delays throughout the system (and a ripple effect on traffic in general). And be sure to check the BART website for updates; just today* they announced that the semi-shutdown planned for 29 - 30 April was being moved to 6 - 7 May due to a possible Warriors playoff game this Sunday. In addition to 6 - 7 May, the current plan is for semi-shutdowns on 13 - 14 May and 27 - 29 May – yes, Memorial Day weekend, because why would anyone need public transportation then. BART! They're just so awful.

* Two days before the weekend in question.

Shotgun Players presents The Events, written by David Greig and directed by Susannah Martin, from 4 to 28 May.

At the San Francisco Playhouse, Noises Off continues until 13 May, and then The Roommate, written by Jen Silverman and directed by Wolff, runs from 23 May to 1 July.

The Oakland Symphony is presenting Frank Loesser's Guys & Dolls in concert at the Paramount Theater on 19 May.

Opera Parallèle presents Les Enfants Terrible, one of Philip Glass's Cocteau adaptations, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from 26 to 28 May. Brian Staufenbiel directs, Nicole Paiement conducts, and les enfants are sung by baritone Hadleigh Adams and soprano Rachel Schutz.

New Century Chamber Orchestra bids a fond farewell to departing Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg with a special three-concert festival: Concert #1, on 16 May, celebrates Salerno-Sonnenberg's Featured Composer Program by playing some of the new works produced during these residencies by an exciting line-up of composers including Derek Bermel, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Jennifer Higdon, William Bolcom, Clarice Assad, Mark O'Connor, Michael Daugherty, and Lera Auerbach; Concert #2, on 18 May, is a salute to Salerno-Sonnenberg, featuring her in Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Piazzolla's Seasons of Buenos Aires; and Concert #3, on 20 May, celebrates the 25th anniversary of NCCO with an all-Gershwin program, including pianist Anne Marie-McDermott as soloist in the theater orchestra version of Rhapsody in Blue and vocal selections by soprano Melody Moore and baritone Efraín Solís. All concerts are at Herbst Theater in San Francisco.

The two big draws at the San Francisco Symphony are at the beginning and the end of the month: the Berlioz Requiem conducted by Charles Dutoit with soloist Paul Groves on 4 - 6 May, and Matthias Goerne in the Shostakovich Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti, conducted by Manfred Honeck (along with the Tchaikovsky 5), from 25 - 27 May. But there's also some interesting stuff in between, like Dutoit conducting the Sibelius Karelia Suite, Falla's Three Dances from the Three-Cornered Hat, and Debussy's La Mer, along with Emanuel Ax in the Mozart Piano Concerto 22, from 10 - 13 May, and Roberto Abbado conducting the Schumann Violin Concerto with soloist Veronika Eberle, along with Busoni's Music from Turandot Suite (this is Busoni's Turandot, not Puccini's) and Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony, on 17 and 19 - 21 May.

The Berkeley Symphony closes its season with Shostakovich's Babi Yar Symphony, a setting of Yevtushenko's poem commemorating a massacre of Jews in Kiev during World War II, conducted by Christian Reif with bass soloist Denis Sedov, on 4 May in Zellerbach Hall.

The Golden Gate Symphony will be playing Mahler's Resurrection Symphony in Herbst Theater on 21 May.

Early / Baroque Music

Jeffrey Thomas leads the American Bach Soloists in Handel's glittering oratorio La Resurrezione, with soloists Nola Richardson (soprano), Mary Wilson (soprano), Meg Bragle (mezzo-soprano), Kyle Stegall (tenor), and Jesse Blumberg (baritone). Performances are 5 May at St Stephen's in Belvedere, 6 May at First Presbyterian in Berkeley, 7 May at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, and 8 May at the Davis Community Church in Davis.

Volti closes its current season with Wie ein Kind by Per Nørgård, Consent by Ted Hearne, From Ivory Depths by Tonia Ko, Like a Strange Sigh by Jack Hughes, and Santiago, another movement from Joby Talbot's Path of Miracles, which Volti is planning to present in its entirety next season. There are two performances: 20 May at First Presbyterian in Berkeley and 21 May at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.

The International Orange Chorale of San Francisco presents Freshly Squeezed: New Music by and for IOCSF, a free concert featuring works by David Avshalomov, Salvatore LoCascio, Bryan Lin, Elliott Encarnación, Elizabeth Kimble, Ivo Antognini, Joseph Gregorio, Frank LaRocca, and Josh Saulle; you can hear this abundance on 29 April at St Paul's Episcopal (114 Montecito in Oakland) and 13 May at St Matthew's Lutheran in San Francisco (3281 16th Street).

Lacuna Arts presents madrigals by Monteverdi, Orlando di Lasso, and Morten Lauridsen on 19 May at 544 Capp Street in San Francisco and 21 May at 1924 Cedar Street in Berkeley.

Paul Flight leads Chora Nova in sacred choral music by Rameau, Lully, and Delalande on 27 May at First Presbyterian in Berkeley.

Modern / New Music
Wild Rumpus presents a concert they're calling Four Kings for Lou Harrison, featuring works by Lou Harrison, John Luther Adams, Carolina Heredia, and Brian Baumbusch (with puppetry by Niki Ulehla). That's 5 May at St John's Episcopal in San Francisco. You can never have enough Lou Harrison in your musical life.

Earplay closes out its season with works by Kyle Bruckmann, Cindy Cox, John Liberatore, Eric Moe, and Toru Takemitsu; that's 15 May at the ODC Theater in San Francisco.

Other Minds continues its Lou Harrison centennial celebration with a concert on 20 May at Mission Dolores Basilica; Nicole Paiement will be leading La Koro Sutra and other gamelan-inspired works by Harrison.

The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble closes its season with Francophilia, a concert celebrating French music and its influence on (some) American music; the program includes works by Debussy, Copland, Kurt Rohde (a world premiere, based on texts from Michel Foucault), Ravel, Dutilleux, Ned Rorem, and André Caplet, and that's 30 May at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music or 1 June at the Berkeley Piano Club.

Check out the calendar at the Center for New Music as well; some things there that catch my eye are pianist Thomas Moore playing Morton Feldman's Triadic Memories on 3 May; Modern Composers Celebrating Shakespeare on 6 May; pianist Sarah Cahill playing Lou Harrison on 7 May; the Refuse Project on 13 May; and Lou Harrison's Cinna as a shadow play on 18 May.

San Francisco Performances presents soprano Carolyn Sampson and pianist Joseph Middleton in a flower-themed recital featuring works by Purcell, Britten, Schumann, Schubert, Poulenc, Hahn, Debussy, and others; that's 17 May at Herbst Theater.

Javier Perianes makes his Bay Area recital debut at Herbst Theater, presented by San Francisco Performances. He will be performing Schubert, Falla, Debussy, and Albéniz on 6 May.

Cal Performances presents RIOULT Dance NY in a Bach-inspired program in Zellerbach Playhouse; some of the performances are sold out but tickets are still available for the matinee on 6 May and the evening of 7 May. (I'm not sure why RIOULT is all caps in the company name, as it is the last name of company choreographer Pascal Rioult.)

Cal Performances presents the Scottish Ballet in A Streetcar Named Desire, with choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and music by Peter Salem. That's 10 - 12 May in Zellerbach Hall.

Friday photo 2017/17

California poppies (with bonus nasturtiums), San Leandro, March 2017

27 April 2017

26 April 2017

25 April 2017

24 April 2017

23 April 2017

Haiku 2017/113

the birds are singing
everything is blooming
so I guess it's spring

for Shakespeare's birthday

For Shakespeare's birthday: read a sonnet, or maybe go write one. This is one of my favorites. Since I have spent most of this month recovering from my second bout of flu this year, I don't have the time and energy to write an analysis, but I think it's pretty straightforward (insofar as these things can be straightforward; I guess I mean it's easy enough to get the gist of it). What's amazing is how clear and true the sentiments are, centuries after they were written.

Sonnet 29

When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

William Shakespeare

22 April 2017

20 April 2017

19 April 2017

18 April 2017

Haiku 2017/108

light wind through the leaves
shadows jump, shifting, dancing,
then resume stillness

17 April 2017

16 April 2017

15 April 2017

Haiku 2017/105

sun following rain:
the hills turn green and then glow
with golden poppies

13 April 2017

12 April 2017

11 April 2017

Haiku 2017/101

the gathering clouds
a skyward burst of black birds
a quick sweep of rain

10 April 2017

09 April 2017

08 April 2017

Haiku 2017/98

lying half awake
listening to the winds blow
restless through the night

06 April 2017

Haiku 2017/96

such foreboding skies,
such gloomy clouds, such darkness,
such a bright flower!

05 April 2017

04 April 2017

Haiku 2017/94

the sun is too bright
the sidewalk glares up at me
the leaves are too green

03 April 2017

Haiku 2017/93

I hear the waters
murmur, gurgle, glide, and splash . . .
what do the fish hear?

02 April 2017

01 April 2017

Haiku 2017/91

in the early hours
halfway in the land of dreams
a cry in the dark

a poem for #WhanthatAprilleDay17

The first day of April is Whan That Aprille Day, a day celebrating "alle langages that are yclept ‘old,’ or ‘middel,’ or ‘auncient,’ or ‘archaic,’ or, alas, even ‘dead’" in the words of the day's founder, Geoffrey Chaucer Himself. Ignore all other holidays alleged to take place on this day. You may find the 2014 poem here, which has some internal linkage to other Middle English posts; check here for 2015, and here for 2016. I've posted Middle English poems a few other times; you can click the poesy label and read through all the poems, and honestly there are worse ways you could be spending your time.

In a further tradition, the Google machine is apparently unable to cope with the sophisticated typesetting I had in mind, in which the lines of the original Middle English, set in green and roman, are interleaved with a crib, set in black and italic. Only the color thing didn't quite work out and my attempts to fix it disappear no matter how many times I save, so: apologies for the confusion, but the lines in italic are my version of the lines above in roman. If any scholar wishes to dispute my interpretation, I will accept the rebuke gratefully and gracefully, as a true student should.

When the nightegale singes,
When the nightingale sings,